No doubt it will be asked about in some of the GB polls to come in the last week of the month, but in the meantime the Sunday Times last weekend reported a Cello mruk poll of Scottish opinion on Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi last weekend. The poll was actually carried out way back in June, but “could not be reported for legal reasons” (presumably in case it influenced his appeal or any future retrial).

Firstly, 60% of people in Scotland said they thought that Megrahi was guilty, with 9% saying he was innocent and 31% unsure. 51% thought he received a fair trial, 10% thought he didn’t.

Asked what should be done with him, of those who expressed an opinion (meaning we don’t know how many people said they didn’t know), 49% said he should remain in gaol, 40% that he should be transferred to a Libyan gaol and 11% that he should be freed on compassionate grounds. So, releasing him was the preferred option for only a tiny minority of Scots…though a majority of those with an opinion did want him sent back to Libya one way or another.

120 Responses to “Scottish polling on Megrahi”

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  1. What concerns me most about this case is the way that certain politicians have confused the fact that he may be innocent with his release. The two should be separate. If he is innocent and found to be so in a court then he should of course be released, that is not open for question. The issue of compassion is separate. I for one and not too concerned at his release, although his heroes welcome is a concern. I am deeply concered by the difficulty that many, including the SNP have had at separating these two issues.

  2. Alasdair Cameron
    Your comment sounds sensible to me well said.

  3. @COLIN

    could you distinguish yourself from me please COLIN

  4. Megrahi was guilty. However the original conviction according to Lord Fraser was far from “stable” due to the crown reliance upon an unreliable core witness.

    But the SNP might just have descovered their Iraq moment.

    The next Scotland only opinon poll should make interesting reading.

  5. Alasdair Cameron

    While the numerous intangibles that surround the whole Lockerbie affair inevitably affect all our thinking on it, McAskill was quite clear in explaining his judgement.

    “My decisions are predicated on the fact that he was properly investigated, a lawful conviction passed and a life sentence imposed. “

  6. Interesting that 40% weren’t sure he was guilty. Must admit I’d include myself in that number. It’s an amazing figure for a court of law result. That’s why I dont think it’ll have any impact on the polls at all–too many people aren’t sure he was guilty. And I bet those that do have fixed politics in the main anyway.

    And I must admit whatever the decision we made, rightly or wrongly, I am very annoyed with the way the USA tried to interfere in our systems (as it’s Scotland). I wonder how they’d like it if we tried to tell them what to do in their court of law! I can guess.

  7. ‘his heroes welcome is a concern’

    There as actually a Youth Rally there BEFORE he was released and it was not for him. What you are seeing in the main is crowds who were there for another reason. I have seen no official ‘heroes’ aspect to this-just misreporting by western media.

  8. ‘The issue of compassion is separate. I for one and not too concerned at his release, ‘

    I agree and it’s what separates us from the American view where the criminal system there is not about compassion. I want my state to be comapssionate.

  9. ‘A former western diplomat once based in Tripoli, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed out that the Libyan government has been conspicuously silent about his return.

    The diplomat said that even the prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, had passed up an opportunity during a joint press conference yesterday with the Swiss president to comment on the Lockerbie bomber’s return.’

    from The Guardian.

  10. @ Jack

    “Interesting that 40% weren’t sure he was guilty.”

    Surely any case that merits so much media coverage will breed its own theories, e.g. millions of Americans are “unsure” where Obama was born.

    Also, whilst the youth rally was there before his release, so was Qaddafi’s private jet flying to Scotland. Perhaps the jet was unrelated too.

    “I want my state to be compassionate.”

    I’d rather the state ruled with their brain, not their heart.

  11. “And I must admit whatever the decision we made, rightly or wrongly, I am very annoyed with the way the USA tried to interfere in our systems (as it’s Scotland). I wonder how they’d like it if we tried to tell them what to do in their court of law! I can guess.”

    Yeah, because if 189 Scots were murdered in the USA and the Americans decided to let the murderer go free because he was Chinese and they wanted to improve their trade ties with China, then the people of Scotland would keep totally silent as it was none of their business.

    The “Scottishness” of the bombing is an accident of timing. It was an attack on the USA and to a lesser extent the UK as a whole. Al-Megrahi had no specific intention to kill people in Lockerbie. A detonation over the Atlantic would have been just fine for him.

  12. Richard,

    “I’d rather the state ruled with their brain, not their heart.”

    And just when do you propose to start getting rid of all those unproductive old people.

    If compassion isn’t about doing what’s right when it isn’t either expedient or cost effective, what does that make us other than animated calculating machines.

    I wish we hadn’t had to have any of this from the bombing to the release but we have had to go through it.

    Personally I think he was involved and guilty and as he was the only one we could find he got all the punishment going. That might be ideal or even fair, but it’s what we got.

    So for me he was the only one we could bring to book and he deserved his sentence.

    I am also okay with his release. Again it’s not ideal but given that he is about to die we should act as we would want others to act. We can either aspire to be better than those who would harm us and our way of like or sink to meet them.

    As Spencer Tracy said in “Man of the people”, we can appeal to the best in each of us or the worst in us all.

    Personally I thought the announcement was a bit ponderous and too geared to appeal to middle America that I would like but I can understand why he decided to go through the process and the choices ad nausea, rather than answer question for weeks.

    Given the choice between slow and comprehensive if a bit stilted like an official statement, or short slick and ambiguous like you’d get from Blair I know which I’d prefer.

    I can understand those who aren’t happy with it turning out as only just over 11 days per murder, but if he had served the full twenty seven years it would only have been thirty four days per death and I doubt anyone would have been any happier with that.

    I suppose the alternative would to go down the US route and to have given him 290 consecutive 30 years sentences and a nine thousand year sentence.

    Would nine thousand years have made us look tough or just stupid.

    If we had kept him in till he matched Harry Patch we could say he got off light because he had served less than 1% of his sentence.

    For better or worse that’s what we do in Scotland and not what many others would do. I don’t support the death penalty, because I think that even the evil have a right to life and must have at least the chance of remorse or repentance.

    By and large I’d say the route to resolution taken in South Africa is better than what we saw Rwanda. I remember a comment about Bosnia that said it had a logic about it, that having decided they couldn’t share it they agreed to destroy it together.

    As a nationalist i think our route to constitutional change is infinitely superior to the IRA’s and I have little doubt that the fight fire with fire attitude we have seen with the war on terror probably does more harm than good.

    It’s odd for me as a practising christian I find the christianity of the overtly god fearing America to be so different to my own.

    Both are clearly biblically based but theirs seems very old testament while mine is almost totally new.

    There attitude seems that of a vengeful god with an eye for an eye while mine is more turn the other cheek and go and sin no more. That might not be right or even best, but Its what i believe.

    So for better or worse I think we have done the right thing for the right reasons and leaving aside the semantics of the statement and the unfortunate and unnecessary swipe at Labour in London, it’s about the best we could hope for.

    Not perfect or ideal, but we didn’t cave in to keep people happy or do a deal to open the way for business. we just decided that he was a about to die man and as such there really was no dignity for us in holding him till he died so we could dance on his grave.

    I suspect if you asked most people which sentence they would have preferred, another decade in goal with the chance of an appeal ever few years or death by Christmas, I suspect most would see the long sentence as the lesser of two evils.

    I didn’t like the celebrations in Tripoli, but again we did what we though was right and we can hope that people do as we do but we can’t demand it let alone make them.

    I don’t remember Jesus saying to lepers, I’ll cure you but you need to repent first and beg me and if you sin again the boils will come back. They may well have begged him but he didn’t demand they did it and he didn’t return their leprosy when they didn’t thank him.

    High ideals aren’t easy to live up to but they are better than having none.



  13. This whole affair has so many unanswered questions and an uncomfortable whiff of cover ups. No doubt the iraq inquiry will be the same.

  14. Jack,

    The US government had both a right and a duty to state it’s position given the number of it’s people died.

    I for one don’t see that as inappropriate or wrong or even as undue or unfair pressure.

    They were asked their views as were the US relatives and they were listened too as was everyone else.

    That we decided against it is no more a deliberately snubbing, that agreeing to hold him would have been giving in to pressure.


  15. @Cllr Peter Cairns

    You seem to believe that ruling with your head necessitates slaughtering OAPs.

    Perhaps that says more about your thoughts than it does of mine, sir.

  16. I think there is a way of thinking which some people have which goes something like this:

    1. we want to show just how great our compassion is.
    2. let’s focus on someone who’s been found guilty of a very serious crime.
    3. let’s release them because the magnitude of their crime can be matched by the magnitude of our compassion.

    I personally think it’s a completely nonsensical way of rationalising such situations. I think if you’re going to show compassion it should be towards people convicted of relatively minor crimes not serious ones.

    Another example of the same sort of thinking might be Lord Longford’s obsession with trying to secure the release of Myra Hindley. It’s interesting that Lord Longford didn’t focus on someone found guilty of a minor crime such as tax evasion. That wouldn’t have been much of an example of his compassion. Instead he had to focus on a serial killer to prove just how compassionate he was.

  17. this could turn into the snp’s poll tax,but on a domestic and world stage.

  18. jamie smith

    Who knows?

    I don’t think it will matter at all on “the world stage”.

    We need to wait and see the reaction of Scottish voters, and whether their agreement or otherwise with McAskill’s decision affects their voting decision.

  19. I read that he was going to appeal, but that the appeal was dropped in the “negotiations” about his release.

    Given the doubts expressed about his conviction, I do hope that the Scottish Government hasn’t just tried to avoid any embarrasment from a re-trial.

  20. This issue, in the way that it is developing, could have the potency to finish off Alex Salmond and the Scottish Nationalist.

  21. Read a comment from the UN representative at the trial in today’s Independent which suggests that the trial evidence was seriously flawed. There have been rumours of CIA involvement with the bomb.
    As for Scottish voters it depends how much they like what the SNP have done.IMHO events such as the ‘vote of confidence ‘in the Edinburgh tram builders may count for a lot more than this event. I think a lot of voters will be impressed that there won’t be a very expensive appeal and that the Scottish Government have got this guy out of Scotland. He’ll soon be dead (allegedly) and forgotten.

  22. May I simply say that for anyone to believe that all decisions taken here are for the reasons stated at face value is forgetting that politicians inhabit a very dirty world.

    I do not see how these events and politicians actions and reactions to them have done anything to alter that perception whether in Edinburgh, London or Washington!

  23. I don’t think Alex Salmond will be getting any more red carpet treatment in USA.

    The Americans are talking about boycotting Scottish goods,that is not good for an economy on its knees.

    David cameron has come out of this best in my opinion,he has stated if the conviction is unsafe we should hear the facts & any release should only be done on that basis,as the release was on compassionate grounds then it should not have happened as 270 people had no compassion shown them,they were not allowed to die with their freinds & family around them.

    The bigger issue from a purely political point of view is the damage this has done the SNP,this decison was effectively the first international decison Scotland has made for over 300 yrs & it was a right cock-up.

  24. From what I understand, Megrahi was convicted on the evidence of one man who lived in Malta and claimed to remember Megrahi buying a shirt from him. That man now lives in Oz. The USA having relocated him and paid him some millions of dollars.

    That all sounds rather dubious.

    So I suspect that the release was known about by the US and that they are making noises as a public gesture.

    We will hear, soon, that Megrahi has died.

    I suspect he, like the chap in Oz, will have actually been retired out of the way some place. With full knowledge of ALL politicians concerned.

  25. There will be a blip, and little long-term change.

    Balance of calls on phone-ins has been understanding of the Scottish Government’s position, and the serious Scottish press – seldom supportive of the SNP – acknowledge that MacAskill got it right. Most of the heat generated (for example on the BBC message board) on this comes from under-informed Americans, and assorted others from elsewhere in the UK who grabbed it as an opportunity to Scotbash – and none of them have votes in Scotland. In two week’s time everyone’s political focus will be back onthe economy, jobs, schools and hospitals.

    The duplicity of the UK government’s position on this is breathtaking. It expresses outrage about the scenes in Tripoli; magnify those numbers 1000-fold if he had been returned to Libya in a coffin. And the truth is that that outcome was the last thing the UK government wanted; Downing Street and Whitehall are delighted that the flak for the decision it would also have taken (had it title, interest and jurisdiction to do so) can be directed north.

    Obama has grabbed the broken fusilage of the plane as a raft like a drowning man whose healthcare reform plan was swirling down the plughole. LCD rage buys him some breathing space.

    As someone who regularly travels on the rail line between Glasgow and Greenock (site of the prison) and as a Scot who has business with a network of offices in 32 countries around the world I feel a lot safer knowing that the worst possible outcome – the prisoner dying in a Scottish prison cell – has been averted. And as a Scots lawyer called more than 25 years ago I believe that MacAskill made the right decision. It’s good to see a politician eschewing the easy and expedient thing. Would that we saw it more often.

  26. I’m astonished that there is not more strength of feeling about this – I for one am seething about it.

    The reasoning behind his release is unfathomable. Even if the man is innocent (and those in the best position to know – 8 High Court judges – found him guilty unanimously) there is no case for releasing him on compassionate grounds. Compassionate release is for those who were never meant to die in prison and whose condition is such that they become likely to. Megrahi was always meant to die in prison.

    The fact Megrahi is dying should be irrelevant – everyone dies – those serving life sentences will die in prison – there will come a stage where they only have 3 months to live – should they all be released at that point? Of course not – if they were we would all be outraged – why should this man be any different.

    In the absence of capital punishment – the just way of dealing with murderers – a life in prison is the closest we can come to giving justice to murderers. Why should compassion be shown to those who show no compassion to their victims. Those on the plane were not allowed to die with their families – why should their murderer be allowed to?

    The real reasons for this decision were twofold – one was to curry favour with Libya (for this the SNP administration were undoubtedly leant on by Mandelson – a point they would never admit); the second was so that the SNP administration could shake their puny little fist at America to massage their pathetic collective ego. Both are completely unacceptable reasons for this travesty of justice.

  27. This from the BBC :-

    “It may be that we will never know exactly what happened in December 1988.

    Secret documents before the Appeal Court – which even the defence has not seen – might have provided new information.

    They will now remain undisclosed, after the foreign secretary issued a Public Information Immunity certificate stating that to publish them would be to the detriment of UK national security.

    Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.

    If he was involved, the Libyan government, once a sponsor of worldwide terrorism, including support for the IRA, must have been involved too.

    But with Britain and America doing big business with Libya now, perhaps it is in no-one’s political interests to have the truth emerge.

    Megrahi is now dying, but he may have been a convenient scapegoat for a much bigger conspiracy.”

    If this is anywhere near the truth there is a three way conspiracy between Westminster, Holyrood & Washington-with cynical posturing by Obama & Brown.

    Can this really be true?

  28. Political fallout could be bad for SNP in the long-run. I kind of hope not, it has been good to have Labour out of power. Not sure it will affect the SNP core base, who support independence, but may scare off the independence supporting right-wingers in Conservatives.

    I cannot really see what all the fuss is about. If you don’t want a guy making moral decisions, change the judicial system. Not sure how it has affected Scotland’s reputation, seems to be mixed emotions.

    If people in the USA blow this out of proportion, it could be just as beneficial to the SNP as damaging. I hope the SNP stops the moralistic nonsense though, the decision was made.

    On a side, I *remember* Lockerbie, it was just one in a series of terrorist acts that occurred throughout the 1990s that happened to affect rich people and bizarrely Scotland. All these crocodile tears for the victims, what a load of hogwash. We had British troops (our boys) arrested by the Iraqi government for rather suspiciously ‘attacking Iraqi police’ – our response – send in a tank to demolish the prison (a government structure) holding them.

  29. 1980s, sorry

  30. ‘NEIL
    I’m astonished that there is not more strength of feeling about this – I for one am seething about it.
    The reasoning behind his release is unfathomable’

    Reasons–1) Because we live in a state which believes that there is no reason to incarcerate a person who is about to die; we have a state which tries to act humanely, not like the USA.
    2) there are many doubts about his conviction anyway (not least shown by the poll where 40% think he might noy have done it.

    So ‘unfathomable’ requires you to to think a little deeper. You may not agree, which is fine, but ‘unfathomable suggests you have not thought through the issue.

  31. ‘RICH
    I don’t think Alex Salmond will be getting any more red carpet treatment in USA.
    The Americans are talking about boycotting Scottish goods,that is not good for an economy on its knees.’

    Oh rubbish- go and look at Scotalnd now in the year of homecoming; every 2nd accent is American. This is a storm in a teacake in the dead summer season. In a week it’s forgotten.

    (Not least because the USA would understand the reverse–we may not like the decision but it’s ours; where would we be if we tried to tell the USA how to run their legal process? let’s guess shall we? Starting with the USA bombing Pakistan with impunity…)

  32. Megrahi is reported as saying that he will produce evidence, through his Scottish lawyer ,of his innocence.

    All those pictures on the news of Brown with Gadaffi-the cosy chats with Mandelson…I dunno-it all has a bit of a smell about it.

  33. BEANS
    Political fallout could be bad for SNP in the long-run.’

    Nope. What resonance does this have in Scotland? I’d suggest none– the USA is trying to tell Scotland how to run their legal system- Cant see that having the slightest impact on the voters there, especially SNP voters and perhaps SNP voters.

    This is a storm in a tiny summer teacup. In a week it’s gone. (especially given so many doubts as to whether he was actually guilty.). (Mind you I expect the Tory high command here to think it”s important…

  34. @ JACK

    “2) there are many doubts about his conviction anyway ”

    That is NOT a reason to release him on “compassionate” grounds-that is a reason to grant him an appeal & re-try him.

    But of course the Scottish Government has avoided that now………………convenient?

  35. ‘NEIL

    ‘In the absence of capital punishment – the just way of dealing with murderers’

    TOTALLY wrong. Capital punishment makes the state as bad as the murderer; then the state loses its morality and deserves to be overthrown. Simple. As well as the amount of time s convictions for murder have been shown to be wrong. States have to have a moral right to exist–capital punishment takes away that moral right.

    There is NO excuse whatever for capital punishment. Then the state is worthy of being overthrown. This guy still had legitimate appeals to the legal system which he could have used but he would have died before it wa done.

  36. ‘COLIN
    @ JACK
    “2) there are many doubts about his conviction anyway ”
    That is NOT a reason to release him on “compassionate” grounds-that is a reason to grant him an appeal & re-try him.
    But of course the Scottish Government has avoided that now………………convenient?’

    wrong. Compassion can be shown at any time; especially if he’d be dead before the legal appeals would be through.

    And I’d like my state to make errors on the side of compassion rather than on the side of pointless punishemnt…

  37. Or would you prefer a state like the USA which is ground down by state retribution; to lead a country you must show the values you want your country to live by. USA penal code- harsh and violent ; GB / Scotland an awareness of humanity and compassion? I know which values I support…

  38. It’s a summer story beat up; forgotten in a week

  39. Jack

    You have this horrible tendency to assume that anyone who is at variance with you is “totally wrong”.

    “We live in a state that believes there is no reason to incarcerate people who are about to die … if you find it unfathomable you need to think a little deeper”

    I covered this – perhaps you should have had the courtesy to read my post before criticising it – although I accept it was rather long. We don’t live in a state that believes anything – only individuals believe things – I think I have already shown why the idea of releasing everyone beofre they die is misguided.

    Also, to say that Capital Punishment is “totally wrong” and “makes the state as bad as the murderer” is also very misguided. You may think that the legal system exists to show how woolly and compassionate we are to murderers – I happen to disagree. I know that the sociological models of penology are now accepted here which assert that treatment of criminals is all about helping the criminal and not about punishing him – having studied jurisprudence in some detail during the course of my law degree. This too is very dangerous. The point of the justice system should be to dispense justice (the clue is in the name) – in my view the key element of justice is retribution – and I don’t think I am alone there.

    In that respect the American model of justice is far superior to ours here in Scotland, and to the English system also. Despite my suspicion of giving any power to the state unnecessarily, the one power which is absolutely indispensable for any state is the power to execute justice.

  40. Rich
    “The Americans are talking about boycotting Scottish goods”

    Some do – the “Freedom Fries” brigade – that’s a very different thing from “The Americans”.

    The implication of your comments is that we should not take any decision which might annoy any group of Americans. Given the huge variation of opinion in that country that will always be impossible.

  41. Monday will be the day to watch as the Scottish parliament is being recalled to debate the issue.

    it could be one of the defining daysof the era since devolution, for better or worse, and the polls over the weekend could well set the tone.

    If the polls show the public are against the decision then the opposition may well go for it and what I would hope would be a day when we would see the best of what a legislator or assembly can be may well decend in to the worst petty party political mudslinging.

    Things that will be worth watching for in any polls are how the subsamples break down, the differences between the sexes and ages and the AB’s v the CD’s and how potential SNP voters will be effected, particularly if it makes SNP voters switch to Labour.

    If I had to second guess i’d say that women will be more supportive than men, that the old will be more critical of it than the yoiung and that even though they are less likely to vote SNP the AB’s will be more understanding than the CD’s.

    If that is the case then older working class males may well feel more inclined to tick with, go back to and or come out to vote for Labour, and the old are more likely to vote.

    So in electoral terms this could reverse much of our progress of the last few years, but if that’s the cost of doing the right thing then i suppose that’s what you have to do.

    if we end up with the opposition taking there lead for polls which show the SNP weakend then it could be more than just the SNP that is damaged and whether you believe it or not I am more worried about the damage to our democracy and parliament than the SNP.


  42. Has anyone else noticed that piece about a supposed agreement between Tony Blair and Libiya, some agreement about dropping an appeal means that a prisoner can be released to Libya (from what I read that’s what I understand anyway – don’t bite my head off).

    Whenever something causes outrage, Tony Blair’s name suspiciously pops up.

  43. JACK

    It seems some people should listen to other peoples points different than you’re own, as anybody who obvioulsy dosn’t agree with you is wrong i don’t think you are capable of doing this.

    To assume because i say that Scotland will suffer from a backlash from America in trade somehow means i believe no decision should be made that will upset America,some leap that.

    How pathetic & small minded,i thought twice about even responding to you.

  44. That comment should have been for OLDNAT,


    If you think this story will be forgotten in a week i say you are seriously wrong.

    If the SNP on here want to attack anybody who dosn’t agree with them ,that really does say a lot about them now dosn’t it,but there are places other than this forum where you can have a nationlist love-in,i don’t think is the place though.

  45. Peter

    I agree. We won’t know for a while whether this decision benefits, disadvantages, or makes no difference to the SNP.

    On a personal level, however, I am happy that a compassionate decision was taken. To have ignored common humanity for electoral advantage would have diminished Scotland.

  46. Rich

    Jack is right. Your comment was meant for me, but you clearly misunderstood my point.

    You were claiming that “the Americans” were considering boycotting Scottish goods, and I pointed out that this was a considerable exaggeration.

    However, even without that what was the point of your comment if you were not suggesting that we adjust policy to take account of American views?

  47. Rich,

    “If the SNP on here want to attack anybody who dosn’t agree with them”.

    Well as the most openly SNP person here I am not aware that I’ve attacked anybody.


  48. I think that, perhaps, this will play better for the SNP than others think.

    All this allowed the Minister for Justice in the Scottish Executive to reel out the word “Scottish” next to as many positive traits as possible to a world audience; maybe to stir latent nationalist passions in wavering voters?

  49. I think it’s too early to tell how this will play for the SNP. It all depends on how the US reacts.

    If, for example, the US decided to enact punitive penalties on imports of Scotch whisky, then opinions on the SNP’s actions could change rapidly. Anti-Americans might become more pro-SNP, people with ties to the whisky industry might become more anti-SNP …

    So far, the Americans has restricted their actions to words. But they do have a record of ’emphasising’ their words by deeds.

  50. MIdst the nauseating tidal wave of “compassion”, cynical political point scoring, and detached opinion poll analysis, the bereaved families must feel very very hurt and abandoned.

    This whole thing is sickening.

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