The holidays of Scottish members of parliament have come to an abrupt end over a week early. The crisis? Lockerbie. This afternoon’s emergency session debates what some are calling the shambles, or fiasco over the Abdel Basset al-Megrahi release.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will give a statement, then probably stand well back for a 45-minute question and answer session. Already roasted publicly by the head of the FBI, the Scottish Labour party will be next. And they may not be alone. Releasing the only man found guilty of taking part in the worst terrorist attack on British soil on clemency grounds might be defendable; suspicion of freeing him on other grounds, or of allowing the release to happen the way it did are less so. The hero’s welcome in Tripoli was the final straw for the mostly American families of the victims. A boycott threat now hangs over Scotch whiskey, and tourists are being encouraged to visit Ireland instead, a near one-billion euro immediate threat to the economy. Who to blame for Lockerbie has been difficult to answer for over 20 years, the truth suffering from contaminated evidence, evidence withheld, and dealmaking to serve political goals. Al-Megrahi says now free he will prove his innocence. Today’s debate in Scotland may also be a revelatory occasion.