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. The Telegraph has asked 10 very good questions about the affair.

    I’m particularly interested in these three :-

    Why did Megrahi drop his appeal against conviction even though it was not a legal precondition for his release on ground of compassion under Scots law?

    Did the Scottish justice department fear the appeal, based on six separate grounds identified by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, would reveal embarrassing information about the handling of the trial?

    Does Megrahi really have evidence of his innocence and, if so, who are the real bombers?

    And remember-Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.
    If he truly was involved, then Gaddaffi-into whose welcoming arms he has now been despatched- must have been involved too.

  2. “can I take it your no fan of US politics then. ”

    Why am I not surprised that you make that observation Peter?

    You can take it that I mistrust any politician, in any country, whether they are called Kenny, George, Barak, Ahmed, Osama, Peter Paul & Mary-who starts justifying their actions by reference to a given religeous tract.

  3. Colin

    As a matter of interest (and in general I agree with you), if you are suggesting that MacAskill was justifying his actions by reference to a given religious tract, can you quote the words and the tract from which it comes?


  4. Colin,

    On the telegraphs questions;

    “Why did Megrahi drop his appeal against conviction even though it was not a legal precondition for his release on ground of compassion under Scots law?”

    Because he didn’t know if he was going to get compassionate release and his Libyan supporters were pushing for prisoner transfer. Like Libya he was pinning his hopes on tarnsfer to a vlla under house arrest.

    “Did the Scottish justice department fear the appeal, based on six separate grounds identified by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, would reveal embarrassing information about the handling of the trial?”

    I doubt it could be any more damaging that the shirlie Mckee finger print case and IHope they would be smart enough to know that they would do more damage to themselves if they were seen to be pressuring someone to drop an appeal.

    “Does Megrahi really have evidence of his innocence and, if so, who are the real bombers?”

    I am sure he and his lawyers think they have enough to establish reasonable doubt or they wouldn’t have appealed. whether it is enough to quash his conviction or will bring new light to bear on the case is another issue.

    As he was convicted as an member of Libyan intelegence there is little doubt that others in a regeme that we seem keen to say “Bygones are Bygones” too may well have been involved.

    But again that’s no reason not to show compassion to a dieing man and his family.


  5. Being “compassionate” to a mass murderer at the expense of those whose lives he has destroyed is not ethical, Peter. Moreover, the indifference to human life that it demonstrates has wider and dangerous social consequences.

    The Times is reporting that this may well bring down the Scottish government. I hope that it does.

  6. Peter Cairns

    Could you please just set out why your Justice Minister found it necessary to visit the Lockerbie bomber in jail?

  7. Nick Keene

    From MacAskill’s statement

    “Prior to ratification of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, it was scrutinised by the Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights, to which Jack Straw, UK Secretary of State for Justice, gave a commitment that in cases where applications were not submitted personally by the prisoner, the prisoner must be given the opportunity to make representations.

    “Mr Al Megrahi had the opportunity to make representations, and he chose to do so in person.

    “Therefore I was duty bound to receive his representations. I accordingly met him.

  8. Oldnat,

    That statement is contradictory. If the prisoner had the opportunity to make representations and chose not to then why was it necessary for Kenny to meet him in jail, purportedly to give him another such opportunity?

  9. Sorry, Oldnat, I misread. Thought that said he chose NOT to do so. My bad.

  10. So far, most of the commentary has been treating this as a purely Scottish matter. The Times is even suggesting that it could bring down the SNP government at Holyrood. I have to say I cannot see why (and the how looks complicated), but there is a risk of the affair spinning out of control. However, it is not at all clear what would be achieved by a collapse of the Scottish government.

    – Would there be new elections to Holyrood ? (**)
    – If so, when ?
    – Would the new Parliament run for four years or just until the scheduled election in May 2011 ?
    – Would the SNP suffer ? If so, which party would gain ?

    In all probability, while the actual numbers may change, the result would be for the order of the four parties, both in terms of votes and seats, to remain SNP; Lab; Con; LD, with no majority and no obvious coalition. Most likely outcome would be a second(possibly weaker) SNP minority administration.

    (**) If there are new elections to Holyrood, I would expect Lab to schedule Glasgow NE by-election for same day (and thus hold the Westminster seat)

    But, apart from the fall-out in Scotland, the affair is now beginning to have a wider impact. It seems that the party most likely to be damaged by this is the one whose leader has gone into hiding – and this could be felt in the polls on both sides of the border.

  11. Paul, here’s the rules as I understand them.

    New elections to the Scottish Parliament: there are two ways for early elections to happen.

    Firstly, if 2/3 of the Scottish Parliament vote for an early dissolution (the SNP alone have over a third of the seats, so some SNP MSPs would need to vote for this).

    Secondly, if the First Minister resigns and the Parliament fails to choose a new First Minister within 28 days, there is an early election (so if Salmond lost a vote of confidence, and no one can secure the consent of the Scottish Parliament to form a new administration, a new election would be called.

    In both cases, I think its the Presiding Officer (Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson) who proposes the actual date of the new election.

    If it did happen, the new Parliament would only run up until May 2011 (unless it was within 6 months of May 2011, in which case it would just replace the May 2011 election).

  12. Anthony,

    Thanks. That’s consistent with what Brian Taylor has set out on the BBC site (save that last bit about period for replacement parliament). Incidentally – would this be on old or new boundaries ?

    Leaving aside the rights / wrongs of the affair, I still can’t see who would gain from a new election.

    Unless there were a massive groundswell in support of the SNP, they will still be in a minority, and would need at least one of the Unionist parties to provide tacit support for Salmond to remain First Minister. If they see their tally of MSPs decline this would bode badly for both 2010 (Westminster) and 2011 (Holyrood) elections.

    Labour are unlikely to come out with net gains. Clearly overtaking SNP in terms of MSPs would be a prize worth having, but is it likely ? Surely there is a greater risk of falling further behind. While they may be able to recover some ground against the SNP in Lab/SNP contests (big IF), they are also (more) likely to lose other seats to Con and LD.

    For LDs, the risk of further losses must be at least as high as the prospect of recovering some of the ground lost in 2007. Moreover, their influence in any new Parliament will be determined far more by what happens to Lab and SNP than to their own numbers. Plus, even if the numbers worked – could they seriously contemplate a new coalition with either SNP or Labour ?

    Conservatives could conceivably have best chance of increasing their MSPs. But what difference would it make ? They will not go into coalition with either SNP or Labour, and the present set-up is working well. A new election would help to consolidate on the Euro results in key targets – especially if the SNP is visibly damaged. The latter would seem the only reasonable rationale for precipitating an early election, but it is far too soon to tell if this is indeed so. If forcing an early election gives succour to the SNP (standing up for Scotland against London / foreign bullying) then that is definitely not in Unionist interests.

    In summary, forcing an early election is a high risk strategy for all four parties. While there may be some tactical advantages in relation to a Westminster GE, these are more than offset by possible damage to Scotland / Scottish interests and the Holyrood parliament.

  13. @OLDNAT 9.09pm

    When I heard first watched/heard his statement, it sounded a bit sermon like, and I gained an impression which is not born out by a further reading of the text.

    No McKaskill didn’t make reference to a specific religious tract.

    I thought he handled things pretty well today-though I am left wondering why Megrahi couldn’t have been released into suitable accomodation in Scotland rather than being bundled off so hastily to Libya.

    That would probably have assuaged the hurt & bad feelings engendered for the bereaved families, and it would have avoided the dreadfull scenes in Libya & the exploitation that Gaddaffi seems intent upon.

    One is left with the constant feel that there was pressure on him to get this man out of the country pronto.

  14. Coiln,

    Kenny was told in no uncertain terms by the police that they couldn’t guarentee Megrahi’s safety or that of his family outwith prison, so he ruled it out as an option.

    Just as an aside and in no way to mitigate the mans guilt I heard from someone today that apparently for eight years he had been a model prisoner including training to teach other inmates basic adult literacy in the prison.

    That doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty or deserved his sentence, but he didn’t seem to be a miltant islamist or a dirty protestor.


  15. @ Peter – “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty or deserved his sentence, but he didn’t seem to be a miltant islamist or a dirty protestor.”

    I don’t think anyone ever did think he was a “militant Islamist”. Gadaffy’s philosophy – as set out in his Green Book – is a profoundly idiosyncratic collection of ideas that have very little to do with any Islam that most Muslims would recognise. Libyan belligerence variously expresses itself (according to Gadaffy’s choice of costume) as pan-Arabism, pan-Africanism and a rather vague variety of Third World liberationism.

  16. @ Peter-James’ response to you is correct. Gadaffi himself has been under threat by militant muslims .

    Scotland’s actions in releasing Megrahi will therefore have no influence on “Islamists” & Megrahi wasn’t one anyway.

  17. The chattering classes in Edinburgh have found a new topic – is someone close to the SNP going to buy the Scotsman and how much money is there to be made?

  18. Maybe Ghaddafi is in the market?

  19. ICM Guardian poll was conducted in the weekend following MacAskill’s announcement. It doesn’t give a Scottish sample, but the combined SNP/PC support was 5% (up 2% from July).

    What the hell was pushing the PC vote so high if the SNP had antagonised the Scots?

  20. James/colin,

    I don’t disagree in the least for AQ Gaddafi is just another corrupt leader selling the arab peoples wealth off cheap to the corrupt west.

    Like Saddam they would happily see him dead and replaced with a Taleban style regime.

    Like I said it was an aside, I just thought people might be interested. It probably won’t be till he dies but it will be interesting when we start to get accounts from people who knew them.


    As to the Scotsman, I’d like to think anyone who supports the SNP with that kind of money would no not to buy a dieing newspaper.


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