Canadian pollsters AngusReid have conducted a UK poll (on what appears to be a nascent UK panel) on Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s release. The poll was conducted between the 20th and 23rd of August, so presumably almost all after the announcement that he was to be released.

Given the choice of whether to release him on compassionate grounds, transfer him to a Libyan prison, or make him serve his full sentence in Scotland, 15% said they wanted him to be released, 31% transferred to Libya and 48% kept in a Scottish gaol.

There was a cross-break for Scotland, which suggested 22% of Scots supported his release, though given that there would have been very few Scots in a representative UK sample of 1,133 the crossbreak should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. The most interesting polling on the release will probably come when someone gets round to commissioning a proper Scottish poll addressing it.

33 Responses to “Angus Reid poll on al-Megrahi”

  1. Pedant Warning!

    Intrusive apostrophe in word 2!

  2. Gone now. Don’t tell anyone.

  3. Maybe it’s time for the BBC to stop reporting that opinion in Britain and Scotland is split (by which they imply that around half of people support what has actually happened) when we’ve had two polls showing an overwhelming majority of people don’t support his release (without transfer). The figure was 11% previously, now it’s 15% and 22% for Britain and Scotland respectively.

  4. Good point, Andy. Another reporting issue that’s really been bugging me was the way the BBC kept reporting that “the families of British victims” wanted Megrahi released while “the families of US victims” wanted him to remain in prison. The implication was that all the British (and indeed all the American families) were of their one designated Group Mind opinion, which is very hard to believe.

  5. Andy Stidwill and James Ludlow

    We can all agree that the coverage has been rather shoddy. However, the polls so far don’t tell us much. In electoral terms, the crucial question is not what people would have done, but whether the Megrahi case makes them more or less likely to vote SNP.

  6. I think you are entirely wrong Andy. People do not make the distinction between being transfered or compassionately released to Lybia.

    Either they wanted him out or not and the result from both polls thus far (one conducted in June!) is almost exactly 50-50.

    The Scotsman usually a totally rubbish paper these days carried an interesting editorial today asking what would world reaction have been if Megrahi had died in a Scottish prison on 1 December. Worth thinking about for those who so easily condemn a wise and just decision .

  7. I am with Anthony on this one.

    I doubt we will really see what people think until we get a Scottish poll on this and then it will be interesting to see what we get. So far going by the phone in’s and letters pages it’s about 50/50, with the SNP probably coming off slightly worse.

    But it’s certainly not the disaster the opposition were claiming, although that is in part because although they all atttcked it they weren’t united with the different parties making different points and even on tonights Newsnicht (Newsnight Scotland) debate spending as much time attacking each other as the SNP.

    I have to admit I thoght today went well with the parliament showing both legitimate concern but also maturity, although in part I think that was because without a clear steer from the press or polls the opposition were unsure as how to pitch their attacks to capitalise on the public mood.

    What indications they are seem to say Scotland is divided on this and although they have their doubts and don’t like the damage it’s done, they think that it is a grave and serious matter that it should be exploited for party gain.

    A difficult one for many to call, particularly the LibDems who seem to be taking a line at odds with much of their core support.

    If or when we see a full Scottish poll I suspect that the majority will probably back him staying rather than release but it won’t be two to one and women and the young will probably be more sympathetic to release.

    I really can’t make a call what the class breakdown will be.

    As with what we have seen from the only UK poll show on PB, The tories will be the most anti and the LibDems the most pro ( other than SNP who will probably be the most supportive through loyalty as much as anything else).

    I wonder what that could mean for the borders seats.


  8. @ OldNat – actually I think it’s Labour, rather than the SNP, that will pay the highest price for this decision. As Labour is already sliding down the bank of a deep dark ditch, it’s not going to radically alter the election outcome – though it may mean that Labour’s vote share congeals at around 25 instead of the high 20s. But – despite Labour’s protestations that it had nothing to do with this shameful decision – it’s a stain on the party that will be very hard to shift anytime soon.

    @ Peter – at least we now know what the term “getting off Scot-free” means. You can kill 40 Britons – most of them Scots – and 203 people of other nationalities and the Scots will just detain you for a while then pat you on the back and send you home on a chartered flight.

  9. James,

    If he had been in a US prison he would still be on death row awaiting his fifteenth appeal and would probably die of cancer before they executed him.

    The only difference is his lawyers would be a lot richer….


  10. An interesting piece in The Times today.

    British residents in LIbya have been “warned” for sometime about the reprisals which would come their way if Megrahi died in a Scottish prison.
    The Times quotes the case of a Swiss national who was hounded to the sanctuary of the Swiss Embassy in Tripoli after Ghaddafi’s son was arrested in Switzerland.

    I believe that McCaskill has said that Megrahi had not honoured an agreement made with him, not to celebrate his release in Libya.

    I think this demonstrates the huge gulf between a naive Scottish administration, and the wily & cynical LIbyan Dictator who has the West just where he wants it-panting for trade deals.

    Compassion was wasted on this man & his erstwhile boss & I think most of the bereaved families will now realise that. To compound their anguish-they don’t even know for sure if he killed their loved ones-and it looks like they will never know now.

  11. @ Peter – “If he had been in a US prison he would still be on death row awaiting his fifteenth appeal and would probably die of cancer before they executed him.”

    It would only be what he deserves.

    Allowing someone to slaughter hundreds of people and walk free after serving less than 8 years shows how degraded our ethics have become and how little we value human life.

    This needs to change, and fast.

  12. While the immediate fall-out has been in Scotland, I think that it is simplistic to view this case as something that matters in Scotland but not UK as a whole.

    The main impact of the Scottish dimension is in showing the limits of Scotland’s ability to engage in foreign affairs and the possible naivety of the SNP in this area. That may reaffirm the view of some nationalists that Scotland needs to be independent, but it is more likely to weaken the waverers. On balance I do not think this will help the SNP, which could cost them a few seats where Tories are main / other challenger at the GE.

    But there is another, wider dimension, which is the shameful way the government in London has tried to wash its hands of the affair and shift all the blame on to Kenny Macaskill.

    We have seen in this affair three different (negative) aspects of this government:
    – Macavity – PM who goes into hiding until forced to make a comment;
    – The Prince of darkness – who does secret deals behind closed doors in the (holiday) homes of plutocrats;
    – Bananaman – a foreign secretary who is slippery, but too soft to stand up for Britain on the word stage;
    the whole underpinned by the legacy of the cavalier approach of that grinning chap who used to be our PM.

    I suspect that by October, it will be Labour which has seen the greater loss of vote-share and not the SNP.

  13. How many votes will there be in this? Very few, I’d say. It might help the Tories a little next summer out on the stump, but things will surely have moved on by then. Labour’s partisan opposition at Holyrood is unlikely to help them given their obvious connection to deals with Libya, though I suppose it might be a factor in the Glasgow by-election.

  14. @ steve – the long-term impact of these sorts of one-off disaster doesn’t work in the way you suggest. It’s about the narrative around particular parties as it builds up over time. Currently – and I don’t think it’s partisan to say this, because it’s obvious from the polls and other indicators – the narrative around the Labour government is dominated by blunders, cynicism, lack of direction, authoritarianism, and (to some extent) betrayal of the country. The Megrahi mess adds another fairly substantial chapter to than ongoing narrative. In many (most) people’s eyes, it’s further confirmation that Labour isn’t fit to govern. For a party that desperately needs to win back voters, it makes that task even more difficult than it was before.

  15. What really matters is what the UK relatives of those killed in the Locklerbie air crash think. As I understand it, at least some of them think that the truth has not yet come out and that there should be a new inquiry.

  16. A couple of points for people in no particular order.

    On letting out after only eight years, well short of hooking up to a life support machine for another nineteen their wasn’t much we could do to make him serve much more. This isn’t about eight years v twenty seven years, it’s about eight v eight years and three months.

    It depends whether when someone is dying from a painful disease you should make him serve those extra three months or not. So far it seems Scots are split about 50/50 as to whether that would be just or vengeful.

    Secondly Megrahi made no agreement about celebrations, Kenny was given assurances from Libyan officals, they may have been verbal or written, deliberate lies what those at the level who gave them genuinely believed would happen.

    That I suppose is the danger of dealing with dodgy regemes. Having said that as the Scottish government made it clear that we are responsible for what we do not what Gaddafi does.

    Of the arguments that people give for not allowing release I think “No clemency for a mass murderers” is far stronger than “Those who think he is innocent might celebrate on the Telly”.

    I didn’t like the scenes from Tripoli but I don’t think the man we showed mercy too had anything to with organising them.

    I am uncomfortable with the notion that we shouldn’t show clemency to a dying man because a third rate tin pot dictator might use it for propoganda.

    Finally this idea of the damage this has done to Scotlands image internationally is interesting. We are all aware of the US reaction but I am not sure what the global impact has been.

    Maybe that is one to ask yougov to look at as the Poll way beyond the UK. I can see it going dow badly in those countries that have backed the US or have suffered at the hands of terrorists or who have similiar views to the US, so I’d say badly in Canada, Israel and Australia.

    As to France and Germany or even Italy, Japan or India or even China well I just don’t know. It really wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of countries took the view that if it was bullying well at least when he was in prison we weren’t threatening him with Black & Deckers.

    just to make it clear I am not trying to take a cheap kick at the US, a country I like and admire, but I suspect that in many countries they will view this through the prisim of what they think of the US and how it conducts itself on the world stage.

    Like I say it’s one for YouGov if they could interest clients beyond the Uk in asking it but I’d like to know what Europe or the far east thought before I made a judgement on “In the eyes of the world”.


  17. Frederic,

    Yes, it matters to them. But they probably number no more than a couple of hundred people in all, of whom perhaps half are electors in a single constituency.

    Also, yes, they are undoubtedly right in thinking that the truth is far from being out in the open, and a new inquiry would have shed more light on those events.

    But, leaving aside the interests of those directly affected by the event itself, both they and the wider public have a legitimate interest in knowing who was really responsible, and what lies behind the extraordinary way in which this affair has been (mis)handled by the authorities in Britain.

    As keen psephologists, we also have a macabre interest in what effect this will have on the voting public, and which unfortunate MP/candidate will thus be deprived of their livelihood, and who gets to reap the rewards of ministerial office.

  18. Peter,

    In general I agree with you. However, the airport welcome scenes were entirely predictable and could have been avoided by careful diplomacy. For example, Megrahi could have been delivered to Tripoli on a British aircraft in the middle of the night and before any announcement of his release were made.

    Handing him over to the Libyans for transport on a Libyan aircraft was bound to give Qadaffi his desired propaganda coup – but presumably MacAskill was aware of that ?

  19. Paul.

    As I understand it the Libyans sent the plane on spec before they knew he would be released. We could have taken him home, but the I would have expected the headlines to have been ” Salmond hires Luxury Jet for mass murderer”.

    That might have avoided the celebrations but I doubt if the relatives would have liked to see him getting what the media would have portrayed as film star treatment. I can just see the tabloid centre spreads of the insides of Lear Jets showing all the luxury fittings.

    Now its true that might have been more embarrassing for the SNP but I am not sure it would have been any less hurtful for the relatives.

    As far as I am aware if you grant compassionate release you do what you do with a normal release; you open the door and say “Off you go then, Oh and please don’t come back” ( probably without the “Don’t come back” if they are dying).

    That we went beyond that to take him to the airport is probably due to the fact that once release we had the same duty to protect him, murder or not.

    I doubt it would have been safe just to let him walk through Greenock to get the bus.

    To be honest its actually not the safe to let anyone walk through Greenock ( I’ll get into trouble for that one).


  20. @ Peter – “On letting out after only eight years, well short of hooking up to a life support machine for another nineteen their wasn’t much we could do to make him serve much more. This isn’t about eight years v twenty seven years, it’s about eight v eight years and three months.”

    Actually it’s the difference between dying a free man and dying in the prison where he deserved to be by virtue of having murdered some 270 people, maimed even more, and devastated the lives of their many hundreds of relatives.

    You’re spinning like Peter Mandelson on a carousel.

  21. Peter,

    a) Why a Lear jet ? Why not an RAF Hercules ? (Oh, I forgot, they are all overworked over in Afghanistan)

    b) Do we owe convicted felons the same duty of care as innocent civilians ? Surely this is taking compassion a step too far and is what brings the soi-disant bien-pensant liberal / PC brigade into such dis-repute. If he were just discharged with no fuss, how would any potential vigilante know when / where to lie in wait ?

    c) You are being unfair to the good people of Greenock – but would there have been a bus even if he made it to the bus-stop ?

  22. James,

    It isn’t spin, I just don’t believe that we would have achieved any more justice for the or succour for the beriethed by demanding our pound of flesh.

    I ve never been part of the lock them up and throw away the key school of justice. Apart from anything else in the long term it doesn’t seem to give any better results.


  23. Paul,

    a) I think any commercial aircraft would have been viewed as a Private jet in the press and as we would need to ask the UK government for a RAF one, well we’d probably still be waiting for Gordons answer.

    b) Yes, everyone who has served their sentence, full, partial, deferred or curtailed, is a free member of society entitled to the same protection as anyone else. In cases where they may face retribution that may mean greater protection than the average person but in th eyes of the law they are entitled to safety.

    If you don’t like that along with compassionate release then change the law. Maybe we could introduce armbands or for really serious offenses that shouldn’t be forgotten ofr forgiven twe could alway go back to branding.

    c) Believe me the good people of Greenock are big enough to take it and can give as good as they get. you should see what they say about Paisley;

    ” Aye, a Paisley pattern is whit a glass leaves on yur face”.


  24. Peter,

    a) Too true !

    b) Pardon me, but I thought that compassionate release is more akin to parole than a pardon.

    c) Well, given that the traditional Paisley pattern is shaped like a tear-drop, I can see why they would say that !


  25. @ Peter – “It isn’t spin, I just don’t believe that we would have achieved any more justice for the or succour for the beriethed by demanding our pound of flesh.”

    He was in prison, not having lumps of flesh sheared from his body. As things stand, your party’s actions have added to the suffering and hurt of the victims’ relatives while giving succour to a mass murderer. No amount of twisting will weasel you out of that reality.

    “I ve never been part of the lock them up and throw away the key school of justice. Apart from anything else in the long term it doesn’t seem to give any better results.”

    Well, keep treating murder like it’s not very important and you’ll soon find out what the “results” are.

  26. James-they know what the “results” are in Scotland-they just have to look at their murder rates, and prison population increases.

  27. No one is happy with the Murder rate in scotland although much of the excess compared to the Uk average is centred around gang and drugs violence in Glasgow. that’s no something I like or want to see but before i advocate longer sentences and less parole as the answer I’d want some evidence that it works.

    The life long sentences for drug related crime and murder is the rate the US has taken and their inner city statistics don’t make great reading. Glasgow has a murder rate of almost 6 per 100,000, about the same as the US average.

    Oddly enough the highest murder rate in England isn’t far off that at 5 per 100,000 in Nottingham, hardly viewed as a bad place to live.

    The fact is that with a population of five million nearly 20% live in or around Glasgow and as big cities have high crime we don’t come out that well. It is in part a statistical quirk.

    Scotland has less than 10% of the UK population in 30% of the area, but within that 30% more than 75% live in the urban central belt which makes up only 15% of the country. Overall Scotland is far less densely populated than the UK but most scots live in a reletively small densely populated part of it.

    On prison population scotland has under 8,000 of the Uk’s 85,000 so it’s roughly on a parr.

    The US has 2.3m behind bars at a combined cost to states and the federal government of close to $60bn a year, and it still has a far higher crime rate longer sentences and the death penalty.

    Like I say I just can’t see the evidence that showing a dying man clemency in his last monthes of life rather than keeping him behind bars will in any way effect the countries murder rate.

    I can’t see many teenage knife carriers calling from the dock; “Up your judge I’ll no be in long cause am gonnie get cancer ”



  28. Anthony,

    just out of interest even if no polling has been done, has there been any interest in a Megrahi question from clients beyond the UK or US?


  29. @Peter,

    Have you seen recent statistical work on crime rates in the US and UK? I haven’t seen any comparison for a few years but the last time I saw some it was actually the UK that had higher crime rates across large sectors of offending (assaults, robberies, burglaries and car crime included). The US has a massive murder rate but I don’t think they have a particularly high crime rate. The murders reflect easy access to firearms and (more particularly, given that some low-murder countries, such as Canada, outgun the Yanks) a unique propensity for turning their guns on one another. High rates of non-fatal violence generally hinge on a country’s propensity for binge-drinking which is why England and particularly Scotland perform badly. You seldom see groups of tanked up yobs staggering around the streets of US cities (the police would take them to pieces, frankly).

    I am always uneasy about comparing crime rates with sentencing policy in any event. It smacks of confusing cause and effect to me. If you have 10,000 people going to prison a year and 1,000,000 crimes committed a year it doesn’t follow at all that sending 9,000 or 11,000 people to prison a year is going to budge that crime figure. It seems particularly unlikely that it will be reduce it. I think we should decide what punishment people deserve for a specific crime and then learn to live with whatever prison population that produces. There is no “right” number of prisoners.

  30. Peter @11.38pm

    “and as big cities have high crime we don’t come out that well. It is in part a statistical quirk.”

    Ah-I see-so that’s OK then.

    Well your post is a pretty good expression of the sort of views about crime & it’s “punishment”, which make me want to scream. ….but that’s what politics is about & maybe something closer to my beliefs will appear soon-south of the Border anyway!

  31. Colin,

    Oh grow up. I started my post with “No one is happy with the Murder rate in Scotland”.

    Saying that the nature of settlement has an effect on the crime rate is not the same as being indiferent to the crime rate. Factors like population density, drug use or deprevation have an effect on crime rates.

    If the crime rate is higher in Glasgow than Gloster ino more ‘t mean that Scots are more violet than it being higher in Shefield than Skye makes the English thugs.

    Neil is quite right straight comparisons between countries crime and incarceration rates are notoriously difficult to make and easily missinterpreted.

    However my point was simply that I can see no evidence that a harsh penal system reduces crime. Many of the countries with the harshest prison regimes and even brutal police and strict judicial systems still have very high crime.

    My issue with the “Come down on them hard and they’ll soon learn to stop” is that they don’t seem too. hell in Paets of latin America the police have been aleged to have used what amounts to death squads and crime and murder are still high after decades.


  32. As a Buddy, not happy about this nonsense about Paisley.

  33. @ Peter

    “Oh grow up. I started my post with “No one is happy with the Murder rate in Scotland”.”

    Try to be a little less patronising to people who disagree with you Peter.It might help you avoid the frequent use of non-sequiturs-and evasive statements of the obvious like the one above.

    “If the crime rate is higher in Glasgow than Gloster ino more ‘t mean that Scots are more violet than it being higher in Shefield than Skye makes the English thugs.”….is a fairly typical contribution from you :-

    It imputes to the person addressed an opinion he did not give-in this case ” Scots are more violent than…” and “The English are thugs”, whilst carefully avoiding the issue at hand-the reason for & solutions to violent crime in Glasgow & Sheffield.

    All in all a lovely example of the dissembling politician’s art.