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Rumblings of discontent

Brian Taylor | 17:05 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

It may not last. It may fade. But, right now, people in Scotland seem decidedly hostile to the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Opposition to the particular decision taken by Kenny MacAskill is nearly two to one. Even offered options, a majority say that the Libyan should never have been released from jail.

Intriguingly, glancing at the figures in more detail, opinion against release appears particularly strong among younger people with the elderly more inclined towards compassionate release.

But, in all age groups, more oppose the decision than support it. Plus folk feel Scotland's reputation and that of the Scottish Government has been damaged.

They also feel that the Prime Minister has taken a hit while believing that he should not have intervened. He is adamant that he did not.

Overall, a range of factors could be combining here. In street interviews, some mentioned their disgust at the sight of Saltires in the crowd greeting al-Megrahi in Libya.

Like Gordon Brown, it seems they were repulsed.

Further, the reaction from the United States, including the anger of victims' relatives, may be influential.

Further still, the scale of the atrocity. Al-Megrahi protests his innocence but he was found guilty of causing the deaths of 270 people when Pan Am 103 exploded in the skies over Lockerbie.

Most simply, people may feel that this was essentially the wrong call by Mr MacAskill who will now defend his decision again in a Holyrood debate next week.

They don't seem to like the fact that the minister visited al Megrahi in jail despite his insistence that this was required under the rules of the Prisoner Transfer request. (Others dispute that).

However, they don't feel that Mr MacAskill should quit. And, certainly, there's no sign of that following his public statement, his Holyrood version of same and with the debate in sight next week.

Again, things may change. Mr MacAskill may be able to convince more people that his decision was based on mercy to a dying man - and was right.

As things stand, though, Scotland is not happy.


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