Westminster criticised over Megrahi release

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The Labour government at Westminster has been savaged by a committee of MPs over its ‘disjointed’ response in the run up to the compassionate release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, was released from a Greenock prison in December after medical reports asserted that an estimated life expectancy of three months was reasonable.

Westminster’s Scottish Affairs committee has attacked the UK government over it’s planning and initial reaction to the release.

It noted that once Edinburgh took the decision, there was close co-operation with officials and ministers in London but criticised the fact that Gordon Brown did not respond to the release for an incredible ten days.

The committee also criticised the UK government for earlier failing to advise Scottish ministers of plans to include the Lockerbie bomber in the controversial prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.  The ‘Deal in the Desert’ was brokered by the then Labour leader and PM Tony Blair; Labour initially denied that Megrahi had been included in the deal but were later forced to concede that he had.

First Minister Alex Salmond gave evidence to the committee in January and said that Blair’s deal was a “mistake” that had cut across Scots law.  Mr Salmond also reminded the committee that the ‘deal’ had gone against the concordat on international relations that existed between Edinburgh and Westminster.

In its report, the committee agreed that the concordat clearly showed that the UK government should have provided Scottish ministers with information on the desert meeting at the time.

Kenny MacAskill refused to release al-Megrahi as part of the Labour deal and instead made the decision to release him on compassionate grounds.