David Cameron has been in Washington these past few days for his first meeting with President Barack Obama. He was in the White House for three hours and spent an entire hour alone in discussion with the President. In their joint press conference today, the “warmth” of their “truly special” relationship was emphasized and perhaps best seen in Cameron’s willingness to to succumb to American pressure to condemn the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
I appreciate the pain and grief suffered by the relatives of those who died in the attack. I can understand, to a degree, the anger that is felt over his early release. However, this was an act under Scottish law, a law of compassion which I believe to be valuable and important in our legal system. There was a prisoner transfer agreement brokered between the UK and Libya but the Scottish government have denied that this release was a part of that, or that BP’s role in Libya was in any way involved in their decision.
I suspect that the current outrage of US Senators is partly a consequence of the oil spill from a BP drilling well in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re looking for a way to punish the company even more severely. They’re also very annoyed that al-Megrahi is still alive, 11 months after returning to Libya, supposedly terminally ill. David Cameron today told the press that BP should not be blamed for al-Megrahi’s release.
However, he also said – and this is what really angered me – that the release was “completely wrong”. And, he and Obama were in “violent agreement” that freeing the bomber was an error. It seems to me that Cameron has forgotten he is Prime Minister of Scotland as well. Al-Megrahi was released in compliance with our law and I think Cameron has a duty to defend that. He may not agree with it personally, he may wish to call for an enquiry to ensure the law was followed accurately (though he has said he doesn’t think this is necessary because it will only confirm his belief it is wrong) but to pander to American pressure, in order to further his own reputation amongst politicians there, smacks of arrogance and a disregard for the 6 million people of Scotland whom he is representing before the American people and world media.
I am in no doubt that if an American citizen was in a similar situation within an english prison, their extradition would be expected and lobbied for.
The Scots weren’t enamoured with the Conservative (LibDem) government already and this certainly isn’t going to aid their relationship in becoming anywhere near as “special” as that of Cameron and Obama’s governments.