Responses to Megrahi release
There have been extraordinary images of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi boarding the plane at Glasgow airport this afternoon.
And the decision by the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, to release him has provoked a very strong response from David Cameron. He said:
"I think this is wrong and it's the product of some completely nonsensical thinking in my view. If there's a view that the conviction is in some way unsafe, then the proper process is an appeal and the presentation of new evidence. But if this is about genuine release on compassionate grounds I think it is wrong. This man was convicted of murdering 270 people. He showed no compassion to them. They weren't allowed to go home and die with their relatives in their own bed and I think this is a very bad decision."
Of course it's easier to speak in such terms in opposition, but it's fascinating that he's chosen to intervene in such an impassioned and public way, rather than allowing the Conservative leader in Scotland, Annabel Goldie, to lead on the issue.
On top of what is no doubt a genuine anger, it may also suit him to be seen standing alongside the United States rather than the SNP.
It's certainly a sharp contrast to Alistair Darling, who, stepping in for Gordon Brown while he continues his holiday in Scotland, pointedly resisted an invitation to comment on the merits of the decision.
He told the BBC:
"[Y]ou either devolve responsibility for criminal justice or you don't. And I bet you if I'd been saying to you what Kenny McAskill ought to do many people would have cried foul and said, you've devolved...why are you interfering."
But that doesn't mean there is no Labour view on the decision - quite the contrary. The Labour leader in Scotland, Iain Gray, has said that if he had been leading the Scottish administration, Megrahi would not be going back to Libya.
That chimes with the view of the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott, who described the SNP verdict as "disappointing". The Lib Dem's Cowley Street operation in Westminster left it to him to give their view.
PS One or two people questioned my assertion yesterday that before devolution this decision would have been taken by the UK government because the Scottish legal system has always been separate. But my understanding is that ultimately the decision would have still fallen to a politician, which pre-devolution would have been someone who was part of the same administration as the occupant of No 10.