Malcolm's thoughts on the al-Megrahi decision
The decision to return Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to Libya Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I regret the politicisation of what is a quasi-judicial matter and, for my part, commend the justice secretary for a courageous decision that is entirely consistent with the principles of Scots law and Christian morality, as evidenced by the widespread support for it of churches across Scotland.

Does he share my revulsion at what happened when al-Megrahi returned to Libya, but does he accept that there is nothing that anyone in this Parliament could have done to stop it, and does he agree that it is entirely irrelevant to the rights or wrongs of the original decision?

Kenny MacAskill (The Cabinet Secretary for Justice):

I am very grateful to Malcolm Chisholm. I am glad that we share the same beliefs and values, and that they transcend our political affiliations. He is quite right—what took place was deeply regrettable. Mr al-Megrahi acted without compassion and showed no sensitivity, but as I said, our values are deeper and different.
August 24th 2009, (Column 19014-5)

The Cabinet Secretary's statement to the Scottish Parliament and the questions to him in full >>> Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I acknowledge the strongly held and sincere views on both sides of the debate and I believe that genuine respect should determine the tone of our proceedings today.

This is unlike any other debate in the past 10 years, not least because we are dealing with a quasi-judicial decision by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice rather than with a Government decision. As such, it was a decision that should not have been influenced by political considerations or indeed by what might or might not happen to al-Megrahi when he returned to Tripoli.

People have speculated on the cabinet secretary's motivation and we have heard a lot of nonsense about the UK Government influencing the decision. For my part, I take the cabinet secretary at his word and can see no other credible explanation for his decision, which was entirely consistent with sound Scottish legal principles and with compassion, which is a fundamental part of the Scottish legal system.

Some people have been shocked by my praise of the cabinet secretary last week. However, I think that 99 per cent of the public and more would be shocked and bewildered by a political culture that ruled out such praise. I am certainly not ashamed of holding the same views as Nelson Mandela on this or any other matter.

Whatever anyone thinks about the cabinet secretary's motivation, his decision was certainly not based on populism, given that widespread opposition could be anticipated. What has taken me aback and surprised many others is the strength of support for the decision, as I have seen for myself in scores of e-mails, letters and comments from constituents and others during the past week. Opinion is far more evenly divided on the issue than some people think is the case. It is divided internationally and it is even divided among the victims' families.

Ted Brocklebank:

I am very grateful to Malcolm Chisholm. I am glad that we share the same beliefs and values, and that they transcend our political affiliations. He is quite right - what took place was deeply regrettable. Mr al-Megrahi acted without compassion and showed no sensitivity, but as I said, our values are deeper and different.

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I hope that Mr Brocklebank will have the opportunity to develop in a speech that point, which bears out my point about divided opinion among all sections of the population: at home, abroad and among the victims' families. As members said - Elaine Murray most eloquently - we all feel sympathy with the victims' families, but we must acknowledge that there is division even among the families. We all know the sincerely held and eloquently expressed views of Jim Swire on the matter.

In the decision-making process today, we ought to recognise that there is division among all the groups that I mentioned and among political parties. There have been many polls, of which the most recent said that 39 per cent of Labour voters approve of the decision. I know for a fact that many ordinary members of the Labour Party support the cabinet secretary's decision, and some of my party members have communicated directly with the cabinet secretary, without any intervention from me, to make that clear.

In recognising that the decision was different from other Government decisions, and indeed was not a Government decision at all, it is entirely appropriate that there should be a free vote today, but irrespective of whether there is a free vote, I will be voting with the Government.

September 2nd 2009, (Column 19069-70)

The full debate of the Scottish Parliament on the al-Megrahi decision >>>