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Where next on Megrahi?

Brian Taylor | 17:07 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

The minister, Kenny MacAskill, sounded sporadically stressed. He stumbled over the odd word.

But then again it isn't every day that you have to defend a decision to release a man convicted of 270 murders.

Alongside the evident tension, though, a key note of assurance. Kenny MacAskill said the decision to free Abdelbaset al Megrahi was his - and he stood by it.

Opposition leaders thought several issues remained unanswered - not least the examination of alternatives to returning the prisoner to Libya and the question of whether Mr MacAskill was obliged to visit al Megrahi in person or whether written representations would have sufficed.

Utterly unscientific, I know, but Nationalist MSPs seemed, if anything, more content after the exchanges than in advance.

So where next? Following this emergency session, there will be a full-scale debate in the Scottish Parliament next week, with a vote.

SNP government ministers are pre-empting opposition attacks by tabling a motion of their own, supporting Mr MacAskill's decision.

It may prove a little difficult for the opposition parties to agree a single, common line - particularly with Labour keen to attack the SNP while the Conservatives want to widen the criticism to include the Prime Minister.

The Liberal Democrats stress that their focus is upon examining the decision itself, not pursuing Mr MacAskill in person.

More generally, a motion of no confidence seems unlikely at this stage. That might misfire as being too evidently partisan.

As so often, the verdict will rest, ultimately, with the voters.


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