Lockerbie bomber debate - as it happened

SCOTTISH justice secretary Kenny MacAskill will today make a statement to the Scottish Parliament over the decision to free Lockerbie bomber.

Amid a deepening international backlash over the move, Mr MacAskill will face his political opponents in the chamber at Holyrood when members gather for an emergency debate at 2.30pm.

• Kenny MacAskill stuck to the line of his initial statement last Thursday, stressing that his decision was made under 'due process', and was his alone

• Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said that the cabinet secretary "has mishandled this whole affair"

• Under questioning from Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie, Mr McAskill dismissed the suggestion that Megrahi could be housed in a Scottish hospice as "ludicrous".

• Mr McAskill said he was grateful for the support he had received from Alex Salmond and certain religious leaders in Scotland since last week

• When asked whether there would be an inquiry into leaks to the media, Mr McAskill dismissed the media reports as 'speculation'

15:43: Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson closes the meeting of Parliament.

15:42: KMc: "I was not willing to foist Mr Megrahi upon any hospice in Scotland. I am a great supporter of our police."

15:40: Karen Gillon: "As a Christian myself I do not share your position. Which other compassionate release options did you consider?"

15:36: KMc: "The laws I followed are the laws laid down by previous administrations.. I felt it was due process... I hope all who follow me will make decisions without recourse to diplomatic or political grounds."

15:33: KMc: "There has been a variety of speculation in the papers. The Sunday Post speculated that they knew all this four weeks ago."

15:32: KMc: "My ruling out of the PTA was on the basis that is was highly inappropriate."

15:30: KMc: "I don't seek to impose my views or beliefs on anyone. I am heartened by the support that I have received from many people in Scotland."

15:29: KMc: "The appeal would have been competent to continue whether Mr Megrahi was abroad or deceased."

15:28: KMc: "Costs are not a factor which we take into account with our justice system. We would have been prepared to meet those costs. I have to consider the consequences of forcing Mr Megrahi on a hospice in Scotland."

15:25: KMc: "I believe that hospices in Scotland should not be encumbered with police officers and media."

15:25: Margaret Curran: "The suggestion that those who disagree with the cabinet secretary lack compassion is deeply offensive."

15:24: KMc: "The medical report has been provided to the US Government. It's quite clear from the evidence that he is teminally ill. That is a matter of record. A three-month timescale had been reached."

15:23: KMc: "His appeal was a matter for him and the courts."

15:23: Margo McDonald: "Will KMc say what he said to Megrahi?"

15:22: KMc: "We will do nothing as a Government to damage Scotland's interests, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere."

15:21: KMc: "The Scottish Government will fully cooperate in any way with questions that may be asked, but our jurisdiction is limited to our land."

15:20: Christine Grahame: "Will he support my call for full publication?"

15:19: KMc: "That will be a matter for others. The laws of Scotland are restricted to our jurisdiction."

15:19: Patrick Harvie: "The decision with far longer term consequences, is the decision to publish all information relevant, not only to Megrahi's release, but to the whole case of Lockerbie."

15:18: KMc: "Assurances were given to me by the Libyan Government (over Megrahi's return], and I regret that they were not kept."

15:15: Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson has to warn the public gallery not to applaud.

15:14: KMc: "I do believe that when you take the oath and the mace comes in, that you take some consideration of that. I stand by my definition of compassion. I've been extremely grateful for the First Minister's position, but it was my decision and my decision alone."

15:14: Nicol Stephen: "How much support did KMc receive from the First Minister?"

15:13: KMc reiterates, for the third time, that the PTA between the UK and Libya was "highly regrettable."

15:12: KMc: "We offered the victims' families every courtesy. The hurt for them started in 1988. I can do nothing to take away or assuage that pain, but I had to stand up to the values and law of Scotland."

15:10: KMc: To send Megrahi to a Scottish hospice would "have turned it into a media circus". "It would be inappropriate.

15:06: KMc: "We had a video conference link with families in New York and Washington. In terms of any leak inquiries, there has been a huge amount of speculation. I made my decision on Wednesday 19 August 2009, and I made it public on Thursday 20 August 2009."

15:04: The questions now open out beyond the party leaders.

15:03: KMc: "I did look back at those who had been given compassionate release before. A child killer was released, thanks to a Liberal Democrat decision."

15:02: KMc: "The decisions for timetabling for this Parliament are for the bureau and the Presiding Officer. It would have been wrong and contrary of me to meet with the Crown."

15:02: TS: "How many prisoners can elect for a minister to visit them in their cell, even if they have a team of lawyers?"

15:01: Tavish Scott: "Scotland finds itself on the wrong side of the change, with its reputation falling. Why did the Government decide to announce such a statement in the basement of St Andrews House and not to this Parliament?"

15:00: KMc quotes Mario Conti on compassion: "The showing of mercy in any situation is not a sign of weakness, but in this case it was manifest strength. A source of pride for many Scots."

14:59: KMc: "The suggestion that he went to a hospice is ludicrous. That would degrade the other patients."

14:58: AG: The silence of Gordon Brown is "extraordinary".

14:58: AG: "Why could he not be released to a secure house or hospital in Scotland? 48 police officers for a few weeks seems a small price to pay to protect Scotland's reputation."

14:57: Annabel Goldie: "I shall never forget my disbelief or horror over Lockerbie."

14:55: KMc: "I believed that due process had been followed by the laws of Scotland. Megrahi failed to show us compassion, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't."

14:54: KMc: "I will only reiterate what I said in my statement. I stand by the values that we have. I did not put any pressure upon Megrahi to drop his appeal. It was his decision and his alone."

14:52: IG: "The cabinet secretary has mishandled this whole affair."

14:52: IG: "KMc had no obligation to meet with Megrahi"

14:51: IG: "Does he understand how ashamed we were to see our flag flying at the bomber's return?"

14:51: IG: "Compassion is at every point tempered by justice."

14:50: Iain Gray: "Last week the Scottish Government made a wrong decision, in the wrong way."

14:49: KMc: "I will now answer questions." Applause.

14:47: KMc repeating his "he is going to die", "higher power" statement.

14:46: KMc: "Megrahi's return showed no respect to the victims' families. The Libyan authorities had promised to keep the return low key"

14:45: KMc: "It was not based on diplomatic or economic considerations."

14:45: KMc: "I could only base my decision on the medical advice I had before me."

14:43: KMc: Prison authorities, doctors, parole board "all recommended compassionate release".

14:42: KMc explains the meaning of 'compassionate grounds for release'. "All prisoners, regardless of sentence length, are eligible to be considered for compassionate release."

14:41: KMc: "The American families were led to believe that there would be no PTA."

14:38: Again, KMc is stressing the UK role in the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA), and the Scottish Goverment's opposition to it. "The UK Government declined to offer a full explanation. I found that highly regrettable."

14:33: KMc is repeating his statement from last Thursday almost verbatim. "My decision alone", "due process", this is a global issue" etc.

14:31: KMc: "I will now repeat the substance of my initial statement."

14:30: Alex Fergusson opens proceedings on the 20-minute statement

14:30: The debating chamber is full as we await the statement from Kenny MacAskill.

14:26: Gordon Brown offered a small measure of support for the Scottish Government today when his spokesman denied that freeing the Lockerbie bomber would encourage terrorism.


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