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Showing posts with label Kenny MacAskill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kenny MacAskill. Show all posts

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Iraq, The Chilcot Report – and Scottish Labour’s attempts to airbrush them out of GE2015 campaign

James Kelly demonstrates all the abysmal levels of debating skills, and rhetoric, plus lack of focus and absence of logical rigour for which Scottish Labour are justly notorious.

He doesn't want to be debating The Chilcot Report at all. Neither does his leader, Blairite Jim Murphy, nor his strategist, John McTernan, nor his party, Scottish Labour. The Peace Envoy wouldn't like it ...


Labour would dearly love to airbrush the Iraq War, The Chilcot Report, Blair and the Blair/Brown Government out of the general election debate, as Mary Fee's closing remarks show - but they can't - they have inconvenient evidence of them incarnate in Jim Murphy and his chief  strategist, John McTernan on their doorstep - and in the 'big beast' summoned to bale out Murphy's failing leadership, Gordon Brown - the banker of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, fully supportive of, and fully complicit in both.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Coda – the NATO debate, SNP Conference 2012

The full debate is up on other clip. I selected these end clips to give my personal impression - and it is only that - of the quality of the speakers and the delegate reaction.

It leaves me with the question I posed elsewhere - given the calibre of the anti-NATO speakers and the audience reaction to them - how did Conference end up endorsing the motion? Some branches had pre-mandated their delegates, some had not. Some delegates came with their minds made up, some didn't. Some changed their minds, some didn't.

The anti-NATO speakers all gave cogent arguments why Conference should reject this misconceived motion and think again. The pro-NATO speakers opted in the main for strident assertions of their anti-nuclear credentials while advocating joining a first-strike nuclear alliance for expedient and, for me, highly questionable reasons.
In Kenny MacAskills's case, it was a piece of shameless rabble-rousing populism, eschewing argument for pushing easy anti-nuclear buttons in the audience, while calmly dumping a lifetime of principled opposition to nuclear and NATO for realpolitik and a place in the sinister NATO corridors of power.

Sadly, his approach probably consolidated the pre-debate pressures on some delegates and swung the vote with the unmandated, undecided remainder.

The fatal die was cast ...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Great Scot! – great Scots …


You will instantly recognise the man in the middle in the picture above – the rail-splitter from Illinois, President Abraham Lincoln. Unless you are a student of the American Civil War, you won’t recognise the military man on the right – Major General John McLernand.

But who’s the wee man on the left, at the right hand of the President, with one hand suspiciously inside his coat – not a Napoleonic pose, more like readiness for a fast draw with a derringer?

If I told you he was from the Gorbals, was a cooper by trade,a power loom dresser, had been a violent left-wing activist, and was the son of a Glasgow police sergeant who exited Glesca hastily to avoid prosecution, you would understandably say Aye, right

If I said he married a singer called Joan Carfrae some thirty years before you could get a car frae anywhere in Glesca, you might say Gie’s a brek, Peter – huv ye been at the electric soup?

But it’s all true, because there he is - Allan Pinkerton, founder of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, familiar often as villains to anyone who who is addicted to the Western movie genre, the Wild Bunch, the Molly Maguires, Jesse James, train robberies – and he or his agents were involved in all of them and more besides.

American history tends to gloss over the circumstances of Allan’s hasty departure from Glasgow. He would have given a wry Glesca grin at this sanitised little extract from  About - American history

“Born in Scotland, August 25, 1819, Allan Pinkerton was a cooper or barrel-maker in his native land. He immigrated to the United States in 1842 and settled near Chicago, Illinois. He was an industrious man and quickly realized that working for himself would be a much better proposition for himself and family”

In a short speech – always the best kind – last night at my Edinburgh Western SNP branch St. Andrew’s Night event, Kenny MacAskill spoke on a ‘My Scotland’ theme, about how struck he was in his travels abroad by the reputation of emigrant Scots in their adopted land who were virtually unknown back in Scotland. One of them was Allan Pinkerton, and Kenny said that although history had tended to give him a bad press, most of the bad things happened after he died, when the agency figured in anti-labour activities against the nascent trade union movement in the United States. (I was able to tell our Justice Minister later in the evening that the wee cooper frae the Gorbals had been the son of a Glesca polis, something Kenny didn’t know about Allan Pinkerton …)

The Pinkerton Detective Agency is still very much around, part of Securitas - History of Pinkerton Detective Agency

I have an image of Allan Pinkerton shouting at Jesse James “Jist haud oan a minute, pal - Ah widnae dae that if ah were you. An’ by the way, watch yer back when ye’re hangin’ pictures …”

He’s buried in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, but I have no evidence that Elvis had Pinkerton in mind when he built his home. Nice thought, though …

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Megrahi Release decision and questions of guilt or innocence

The comments that followed my blog yesterday on Megrahi attempted to focus on his guilt or innocence. As always when the Megrahi Release is discussed, those who are passionately committed to either supporting or challenging the Megrahi verdict and hold strong views on his guilt or innocence want to have their say. Nothing of what I have said about Megrahi's release focuses on this aspect, other than incidentally.

I therefore must make it clear that if you have something to say on his guilt or innocence, you must do it elsewhere – however important the issue of his guilt, it is off topic and irrelevant to the release decision.

I have therefore re-stated my position on Megrahi below, as already expressed to a regular, welcome and respected contributor to my blog.


I don't want to discuss Megrahi's guilt or innocence because I have nothing useful to contribute to the torrent of 'facts', opinions and conspiracy theories that abound. I want to believe that justice was done, and if it wasn't, or there are other guilty men, I want to see them brought to justice. I support Dr. Jim Swire in his clear-eyed search for that truth, but I can add nothing useful to his detailed arguments or research.

But whatever Megrahi's guilt or innocence, I hold no brief for the man - he was a member of the intelligence services of a brutal murderous regime for decades, a regime that, given his position, he must have known the exact nature of, yet remained with and profited from.

No one can be a member of the intelligence services of such a regime and not commit appalling acts that offend against humanity.

In spite of all that, I supported the decision to release him on compassionate grounds. In conflating the argument over his guilt or innocence with that decision, we blur the essence of the debate on the release decision, when it fact it is starkly simple - he was released under Scots law on compassionate grounds in the firm belief that he was guilty.

It is that single act of humanity and compassion, expressed through Scots law by a Scottish Justice Minister that above all else distinguished us, our civilisation and our values from the regimes that we abhor. It is a source of sadness and regret to me that Scottish politicians representing the unionist parties in the Scottish Parliament were, and still are, unable to make that vital distinction, any more than their masters in the UK parties at Westminster are, and the Scottish Press and media.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Megrahi, The Scotsman and the Unionists.

The Scotsman is in no doubt what the big story is today – Megrahi’s death bed ‘confession’. It puts confession in quotes, but it’s a nod and a wink – we know what they really believe. The justification for this is in the sub header – Lockerbie bomber: ‘My name was exaggerated’. The Unionist logic on Megrahi – and the Scotsman is a unionist paper, whatever its pretensions to objectivity and its token inclusion of nationalist commentators – goes something like this -

The SNP Government, in their first term, made a damaging political error in releasing Megrahi, an error that had to be ruthlessly exploited by Scottish and Unionist UK politicians. The fundamental political error lay in releasing him on compassionate grounds, even if he was dying, since Unionist realpolitik would never have let compassion - or indeed the facts of Scottish Law on compassionate release - get in the way of political expediency.

But just in case the Scottish public - who have an unhappy tendency to be more humane and compassionate than the Labour and Tory hegemonies that have hitherto ruled them - shared the humanity of Kenny MacAskill and the SNP Government, the question had to be raised if Megrahi was really dying or not, and here they had the advantage that estimates of life expectancy in terminal illness often prove to be too short, and many terminally ill patients live for much longer than forecast. This bet was promptly hedged. If he died as forecast in three months, they could still argue bad judgement: if he lived longer, they could argue that it was a fix.

There were also a few other inconvenient factors for the Unionist parties to consider in the exploitation of a dying man for political purposes.

A significant number of Scots did not believe Megrahi was guilty, and some believed that he was involved but did not act alone. This was compounded by the fact that Doctor Jim Swire, who had lost his daughter in the Lockerbie atrocity - and was a prominent voice among the bereaved - did not believe that Megrahi was guilty.

Tony Blair had muddied the water by the abortive attempt to secure the deal in the desert with Gadaffi to release Megrahi for cynical political gain over oil, a deal that he had no power to make constitutionally, given the devolved settlement. This meant that a potential fault line lay between the Tories and LibDems on one side and UK Labour on the other. This was compounded by the fact that the American critics of the release believed that UK Labour had stitched up a deal with the SNP Government, a proposition that was utterly ludicrous to all who knew the total hostility of the Labour Party, at both UK and Scottish levels to the elected Government of the people of Scotland, and was more than a little inconvenient for Labour, less so for Cameron.

The most inconvenient factor of all was that Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Government took the decision in the firm belief that Megrahi was guilty under the verdict reached at the trial. (This, for the record, is also my belief – I support the compassionate release decision although I believe Megrahi was guilty, although I do not believe that he acted alone.)

The pristine clarity of Kenny MacAskill’s decision rested on the fact that he believed Megrahi was guilty, had been properly found guilty as charged under Scots Law, but nevertheless was eligible for compassionate release. The Scottish Justice Minster, in the full knowledge that he would unleash a volley of critical fire, nonetheless did what was right, rather than what was expedient. No Scottish unionist politician  had either the political or moral courage to take such a decision, and Scottish Labour were clearly kept out of the Machiavellian Blair/UK Labour loop and their machinations.

As the Gadaffi regime began its bloody collapse and Libya moved towards freedom from a brutal dictatorship, the unionist camp lived in hope of new disclosures that would confirm Megrahi’s guilt and somehow implicate the Scottish Government, still consumed by their faulty analysis of the dynamics of the situation.

They seized upon every panic-stricken defector who was prepared to say whatever was necessary to the US and UK governments to gain asylum and immunity from prosecution.

What emerged was in fact embarrassing revelations of just how close Blair, the Labour Government and now the Coalition had been to Gadaffi till the eleventh hour, when Cameron grasped his Maggie moment and found his war by joining France in supporting the rebels.

And so to yesterday at Megrahi’s sick bed and today at The Scotsman and elsewhere

What conclusions may we draw from Megrahi’s statement, and what does it signal for the future? The possibilities are easy to set out -

Megrahi is either feigning illness – the unstated sub-text of much unionist media comment – or he is dying. If the first is true, why would a man feted by the regime as a hero not be with Gadaffi in his final bunker in Sirte, instead a lying in a bed without any protection other than unarmed immediate family? To secure asylum to the West or the US by trading information? Such an explanation has zero credibility. He is pretty clearly seriously ill, has been abandoned by the regime, and does not have the drugs or medical care to alleviate his pain or prolong his life.

What would a guilty man do in such circumstances? He would admit his guilt, as other senior figures have done, and try to trade information for immunity.

What would an innocent man do in such circumstances? He would try and clear his name.

Since I believe Megrahi is guilty at least of complicity in the Lockerbie bombing, my conclusion is that he is terminally ill, has been abandoned by the regime, expects to die, expects nothing of the West, but wants to make the exact nature of his role in the atrocity clear before he dies.

Can we conclude anything from his statement, accurately reported in The Scotsman’s sub-header – “My name was exaggerated”. If this strange formulation is accurate, nothing can be concluded from it – it could mean anything. But The Scotsman, the unionist media and the bandwagon jumpers such as Johann Lamont have rapidly translated Megrahi’s gnomic statement into – “My role was exaggerated”.

Megrahi could have meant that – he equally could have meant that his name and identity, as an acknowledged senior member of the Libyan security apparatus, were seized upon by the media, even though he had no direct involvement in the plot.

But none of the this changes the analysis vis a vis Kenny MacAskill’s release decision. The situation is now as it has always been, crystal clear.

1. If conclusive evidence is found of Megrahi’s guilt, even if it confirmed him as the sole architect of the Lockerbie bombing atrocity, that would simply confirm the belief in which the Scottish Justice Minister made his decision, namely that Megrahi was guilty as charged.

2. If conclusive evidence is found that Megrahi was completely innocent of the charge, or complicit and not the prime mover, or that he was guilty but did not act alone, then the world must recognise that a compassionate decision, made in the belief that he was guilty, in fact had averted a grave miscarriage of justice.

3. If conclusive evidence was found that, in the face of all rationality and all that we know, that the Labour Government and the British intelligence services somehow conspired with Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill to find a spurious rational for releasing Megrahi, then the American Republican Right would be ecstatic, Labour's already deeply damaged reputation would be dealt a terminal blow, and the UK would be seriously damaged because of the continuity of exactly the same people in the shadowy world of intelligence across both the Brown and Cameron/Clegg regimes, a conspiracy to defeat the legitimate wishes of the American people and the families of the American victims to see justice done to the murder of their loved ones.

But we have conclusive evidence – evidence of  Blair’s Deal (a non-deal) in the Desert, of the Brown Government’s complicity and of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition’s close, intimate relations with a brutal, probably insane dictator up to the eleventh hour, while human rights were being brutally violated with the UK’s full knowledge in Gadaffi’s torture chambers and dungeons, all in the name of realpolitik and oil.

The Megrahi Affair teaches us a lot about the Scottish Government and its Justice Minister - who acted unselfishly and upheld the highest principle of law, justice and human compassion - and successive UK Governments and the three Unionist parties that comprised them at various times – who acted in the most despicable traditions of  a brutal, expedient and values-free colonial imperialism.

Saor Alba!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Baron of Aikwood – man of steel …

The Scottish Government and the First Minister have to be polite to David Steel, as a former Presiding Officer of the Parliament – but I don’t

Scotland’s two dying ‘quality’ dailies, The Scotsman and The Herald are in a state of high excitement over Lord Steel’s belated statement on the reason’s for his resignation from his role as one of the two independent advisors who consider complaints on alleged breaches of the ministerial code. No doubt some lazy television producers will also pick up this non-story to save them the trouble of sending someone out of the studio to find some real stories that haven’t already been trailed by the press.

David Steel professed himself “appalled” at Alex Salmond's and Kenny MacAskill’s remarks on the judiciary in the Supreme Court debacle, and rather discourteously described the First Minister’s letter of thanks for his services as polite and “effusive”. He could have said fulsome, because that is what he clearly meant, but the chances of the partially-literate gentlemen of the Scottish Press understanding this word in its proper meaning of cloying and excessive were small, so effusive had to serve.

OED: Effusive: gushing, demonstrative, exuberant.

The Baron of Aikwood is an elder statesman of a party that has regularly betrayed the voters – he kept Labour in power in 1977 in the infamous LibLab pact, for which the Liberals got zilch; when he was elected as leader of the Liberals in 1979, their fortunes took a nose dive, then in 1981 came the farce of the SDP-Liberal alliance, and after the 1983 general election, the country laughed at farce that was the Two Davids – David Steel and David Owen, with Steel being treated with barely concealed contempt by Owen, a relationship memorably sent up in Spitting Image.

At last he got out of UK politics (unless you count the House of Lords!) in 1997, retiring from the Commons and becoming a life peer. He was elected to the Holyrood Parliament in 1999 and became the first Presiding Officer in the same year.

David Steele is a member of a party totally opposed to Scotland’s independence, a party that is now a sad, small group within the Scottish Parliament, after the LibDems' betrayal at UK level of every principle they ever had by entering the Coalition with the Tories, one that effectively destroyed Tavish Scott and his party in Scotland, and a betrayal that would destroy the LibDem UK party if they had to go to the electorate right now.

The LibDems in Scotland eagerly went into coalition with Labour in the Scottish Parliament, but refused, on anti-independence grounds to go into coalition with Alex Salmond’s minority administration of 1997/2011.

Two Scottish LibDem MPs in this benighted incompetent Coalition at Westminster, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore have been busy doing their worse for the UK and Scotland respectively.

Baron Steel of Aikwood is solidly embedded in the UK Establishment, in the Union, in the unelected and undemocratic House of Lords and has a vested interest in the continuation of both of these unelected power groupings. He is unsurprisingly hostile to the referendum and the independence of his native land.

I do not regret his resignation from the offices he held at Holyrood, and I would not regret his passing from Scottish politics entirely to retirement in his Borders home, and a cosy seat in the House of Lords - while it lasts. He has as little to offer Scotland as his party has – he is a highly typical representative of what I see as being wrong with Scottish and UK politics.

What I do value is politicians such as Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, and I especially value their vigour of expression in defending the interests of Scotland. The electorate clearly agreed with me in May 2011, and neither they nor I will shed any tears for the Borders Baron Aikwood.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Racial profiling and Hamira Khan

Yesterday’s Herald online carried a piece by Hamira Khan with the title - I’m a Glasgow-based Muslim and ethnic minorities should stop moaning about extra airport checks.

For once, the Herald has carried a headline that exactly reflects the content below it - it encapsulates Hamira Khan’s message to all ethnic minorities, not just her own Asian ethnic minority, namely, accept racial profiling by the police and security authorities.

(Hamira gets the term ethnic minority right in the headline, but gets confused in her penultimate paragraph, saying that “Scotland has a large ethnic population”. Scotland’s entire population is ethnic, Hamira - what you presumably meant to say was that Scotland has a large number of ethnic minorities who form a significant part of the population.)

Before I address her position on racial profiling, it is important to know a bit more about Hamira, because she is in some respects a public figure, and her words therefore have a resonance beyond that of an ordinary citizen. Because of this, one would expect her to consider carefully the impact of what she has chosen to say publicly.

Here’s what she says about herself on her website Hamira Khan - Profile

She is a prominent Scottish Tory, and was chosen to fight Glasgow East at the 2010 general election. She is also the chief officer of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Hamira opens her piece with a simplistic and inaccurate generalisation -

“Until Saturday 30 June 2007, al-Qaeda threats, extremists and war on terror were simply words to us in Scotland.

We all did - and still do have - our own interpretation of what these words mean, however the mutual factor which historically brought us together was that these problems were elsewhere and didn’t really affect us in Scotland.”

I don’t know where Hamira was on the 9th of September 2001, or when the US and the UK  occupied Afghanistan  0r when the illegal Iraq invasion commenced in 2003, but to a helluva lot of people in Scotland, including me, these problems, and the reality of Al Quaeda were not “elsewhere and didn’t really affect us” - they were a deeply disturbing political development that threatened world peace and was sucking the UK - and Scotland with it - into the cycle of death and destruction that it produced, including the inevitable consequence of terrorism being brought to our doorstep, as it was with 7/7 and our own incident in Glasgow Airport.

Hamira Khan homes in on Kenny MacAskill, who has little experience of the world of motivational consultancy in Dubai, but a deep knowledge of Scottish law, derived from practice as a senior partner in a law firm, and as Scotland’s Justice Minister, about the justice system, the police, and their impact on crime and intelligence gathering in Scotland.

But to Hamira, when the Justice Minister tells an audience in Pollokshields Burgh Hall with concerns about apparent racial profiling by the police, that he will attempt to find out exactly how much counter intelligence has been delivered by such methods, he is not investigating a notoriously unreliable technique of policing - illegal in some countries - but trying to make pleasing comments to a possibly hostile audience.

Hamira is entirely happy with racial profiling, however, and uses her credentials as a member of an ethnic minority to give credibility to her support. In essence, she says that she and her husband are Asians, and are happy to be singled out from the mass of travellers in Glasgow Airport because of that fact and that fact alone. Ergo, it must be OK, and other ethnic minorities should just stop moaning and accept it.

She asks a question that deserves an answer - “However you tell me which country in the world does not practise racial profiling?”

A definition: Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement.

In the US, racial profiling is an infringement of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the bedrock of civil rights in America. President George W. Bush - not everyone’s idea of a prominent defender of human rights said to Congress in 2001 that racial profiling was “ … wrong, and we will end it in America. In so doing, we will not hinder the work of our nation's brave police officers. They protect us every day -- often at great risk. But by stopping the abuses of a few, we will add to the public confidence our police officers earn and deserve."

In 2002, well after 9/11 and after the invasion of Afghanistan, the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft said "This administration... has been opposed to racial profiling and has done more to indicate its opposition than ever in history. The President said it’s wrong and we’ll end it in America, and I subscribe to that. Using race… as a proxy for potential criminal behavior is unconstitutional, and it undermines law enforcement undermining the confidence that people can have in law enforcement."

In 2003, months after the invasion of Iraq, the US Department of Justice forbade the use of racial profiling by Federal law enforcement agencies. Many US states require special statistics to be gathered on all stop and search procedures to monitor the possibility of racial profiling being applied.

American television drama series, such as the acclaimed Law and Order series, have dramatised the dangers of racial profiling.

The ACLU, the American Council for Civil Liberties is opposed to racial profiling, drawing from their deep and painful experience of racial discrimination against American blacks.

But Hamira might find some support for her position in Canada, where there is a growing concern among ethnic minorities over apparent racial profiling of black aboriginals.

In Europe in 1992, one Rosalind Williams, an African-American by ethnic group and a naturalised Spanish citizen had her identity document demanded of her by a police officer, who when challenged, said he was following orders - he has stopped her solely because of the colour of her skin. It took Roslalind 18 years to get a landmark ruling from the United Nations Human rights committee Open Society Justice Initiative in 2009, but she still has not received an apology from the Spanish Government.


If witnesses to a crime attested that it had been committed by a red-haired man who had fled the scene, police conducting a search in the vicinity might have reasonable grounds for stopping red-haired men and questioning them. However, if a series of crimes had been committed by red-haired men at different times and in different place (as doubtless happens every day, together with crimes committed by red-haired women, blondes brunettes, albinos and totally bald persons), it would be extraordinary if police were legally empowered to stop, question and search all red-haired men wherever they were to found - in airports, lurking near public buildings, using cameras near power stations or near military installations, etc.

Hamira’s reasoning, which seems to run something like “terrorists were involved in a single incident in Glasgow Airport were Muslims and Asians, so all Asians or those of Asian appearance must be assumed to be Muslims and therefore potential terrorists” is deeply flawed, and her defence of racial profiling on that basis is, bluntly, dangerous and demeaning not only to her own ethnic group and to a religious affiliation that is not bounded by race of ethnic grouping or nationality, but to all ethnic minorities, and let’s face it, to any ethnic minority who may be pigeonholed and stereotyped by the colour of their skin and/or their mode of dress.

Hamira Khan is a motivational consultant, a PR consultant and “a communications specialist”. Her communication in this instance has motivated me to an extended blog, and frankly, a feeling of revulsion at her views, which, of course she has a right to hold and express.

She is also a prominent Scottish Tory. Although such views have always represented a segment of Tory opinion, I had hoped Scottish Tories might be free of them. If their electoral fortunes are to revive in Scotland, they must repudiate them. And for the record, I think the Scottish Youth Parliament should express a view on them, coming as they do, albeit in a private capacity, from its Chief Operating Officer.

I took Hamira Khan's version of event at Pollokshields Burgh Hall as accurate - I shouldn't have. Here is Aamer Anwar's version of events, as quoted in the Herald online comment on Hamira's piece -

Aamer Anwar: "It would help if Hamira had her facts right, firstly Kenny Mackaskill did no such thing but said we needed the terror laws for a reason and it was unfortunate if there were instances of people being abused, but we had to strike the right balance.It was in fact myself that robustly challenged the police to produce statistics. "

Sunday, 3 April 2011

MacAskill and Baker - Law and Order - Who would you prefer as Justice Minister of Scotland?

Who would you prefer as Scotland's Justice Minister?

A qualified lawyer, former senior partner in a law firm, principled, and with a proven record of reducing crime - including knife crime - and putting more policemen on the streets - a man who is hard on crime, but recognises the vital need to reduce the re-offending rate - a man who doesn't reach for simplistic, knee-jerk solutions - a man committed to tackling the alcohol problem, which is a prime cause of crime in Scotland - Kenny MacAskill.

Or would you prefer Richard Baker, a traditional, lock-em-up, flog-'em, bring-back-the-birch-type Tory - although he's LABOUR, with no track record, except that of opposing minimum pricing for alcohol, thus blocking something demanded and endorsed by every expert in Scotland, including the NHS and the police?
Watch these clips and decide ...

You've already guessed who I would choose? I'm astonished!

Vote SNP - vote for a crime free Scotland

Vote for your ain folk.

And lest we forget Labour's double-dealing and hypocrisy over the Megrahi issue, watch this again ...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Sunday Times deliberately distorts the latest Megrahi story

The Wikileak about the last Labour Government’s lies and hypocrisy over their shameful involvement with Libya and Gadaffi over the potential release of the Lockerbie bomber in return for commercial deals was, in one sense, God’s gift to the beleagured Cameron ConLib Coalition, giving them an opportunity to attack the Labour Party.

However, they and their press backers realised that it was potentially a double-edged sword as far as the Union and the United Kingdom was concerned, since it placed the Scottish Nationalist government’s refusal to have any truck with the Prisoner Transfer Agreement under Blair’s sleazy Deal in the Desert, and their refusal to release Megrahi at that time in a good light. That, together with the SNP Government’s decision to release Megrahi - who by a much later date had been diagnosed as being terminally ill - looked even more like the humane, principled decision that it was, taken in the full belief, by the Scottish Justice Minister and the Scottish government, that Megrahi was guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, and that the sentence of the Scottish Court was a valid one.

Despite the clear political advantage to be gained over Labour, this could not be allowed to happen so close to a pivotal Scottish election, because it showed up the disgraceful hypocrisy and ineptitude of Holyrood Labour’s stance after the Megrahi release. The circle had to be squared - a way to muddy the water, distort the facts and smear the Scottish Government had to found - and quick.

A blatant lie was hastily constructed, that the Scottish Government had been complicit with the Westminster Labour Government of the day in trying to negotiate Megrahi’s release under the PTA in return for concessions on the prisoners’ slopping out case - a proposition and a scenario so ludicrous that Scottish Nationalists would have fallen about laughing, had it not been for the seriousness of the lie.

This lie has, knowingly or unwittingly, been repeated so often now by every unionist newspaper and superficial commentator - including at a point in time the BBC and Channel Four News - that it runs the risk of becoming a factoid - something that everybody knows to be true, except that it ain’t, to quote Norman Mailer, the originator of the term.

And now The Sunday Times are at it today -

Lockerbie Bomber ‘won his release by blackmail’

Note the quotes, achieving the dual feat of giving it spurious credibility while retaining the ability to repudiate it as something somebody else said, if the need arise.

This non-story uses a methodology now widely practised in the Scottish press as well, that of hoping that the headline will be the story, and that the casual reader will not examine the flimsy and inaccurate foundation upon which it is constructed.

The story rest upon the statement by Mustapha Abdel Jali, Libya’s former Justice Minister. I invite you to consider that title - Libya’s Justice Minister - a personal friend of Gadaffi, servant to a brutal, repressive, dictatorial regime, responsible for the suppression of its citizens for forty years by torture and murder, an international pariah state. This man, apparently expert at playing both ends against the middle, and now faced with the collapse of the regime he helped to sustain - with a few well-judged liberal gestures just in case - is desperate to curry favour with the US and British governments, and he knows exactly what they want to hear. A little caution is advisable when considering anything he has to say …

But I believe him - that Gadaffi did order the Lockerbie bombings, that Megrahi was involved, probably with others, and was therefore guilty. I also believe that Gadaffi was actively negotiating with Blair and the former Labour Government for his release.

This is in fact the only story, but the Sunday Times, a News International paper, solidly Tory and right-wing in its sympathies, has to find room for the Scottish smear in their cobbled-together little piece. So they included this paragraph - which is factually accurate - in the hope of beginning the mud-slinging -

“Megrahi, who has always publicly maintained his innocence, was given compassionate release by the Scottish authorities in August 2009 after being diagnosed with  cancer. He remains alive, despite being given only three months to live.”

That last sentence is the ST’s hook - the implication being that Megrahi was not terminally ill.

A rent-a-mouth Tory MP, Ben Wallace, is quoted, and in his statement, a justifiable attack on Brown and his Labour Government’s disgraceful politicking over Megrahi for economic advantages, Wallace also says, referring to alleged bugging of Libyan intelligence services by the British Secret Service -

“The Scottish Government  must now come forward and the Labour government tell us whether they were aware of these conversations, and if not, why not.”

Given that Alex Salmond quoted in last Thursday’s FMQs that the Scottish Government was excluded by Westminster from the COBRA talks over the Libyan crisis, the idea the the British Secret Service would be falling over itself to tell them about bugged conversations involving Libya is risible.

And that is the sum total of this shabby little report - it tells us nothing new, but implies a great deal.

God preserve Scotland and the Scots from the lies of the Union and its PRAVDA-style press ..

Saor Alba!

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Shereen Show - sports writers give their views on the Megrahi Release

cynicalHighlander, a correspondent (see comments on my last blog on Portillo) called my attention to a radio show that I had not come across before - Shereen on BBC Radio Scotland - and its treatment of the Megrahi release issue yesterday, Sunday  13th February.

(I don’t listen to radio politics as much as I should, and I remind myself that Scottish radio has almost certainly a much bigger influence on the political thinking of the Scottish voter than I give it credit for, especially because of a highly significant media audience, those who listen in the car, an audience of which I am no longer a part.)

My first reaction was delight that Shereen Nanjiani, a broadcaster who I always liked in her long career stint (from 1987) as news anchor on STV and the first Asian/Scottish presenter in Scotland, was back. I hadn’t realised that she had re-invented herself as a radio talk show host in 2006. (I met her fleetingly in 1990 in the foyer when I was running a negotiating skills course for STV in Glasgow in 1990, but she most certainly won’t remember me.)

Unfortunately, this show in Sunday 13th was a deeply disappointing introduction to Shereen for me.

Shereen is no media airhead female selected for eye-candy reasons: she graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Philosophy, and her long news anchor experience has left her with a wide experience of the Scottish political scene and beyond.

Her guests on Sunday’s show included three people who had something to say about the Megrahi release affair, reactivated by the Wikileaks disclosures about the UK and Libya and David Cameron’s bandwagon-jumping to discredit the Labour Party nationally. They were a peculiar mix -

Sarah Oates is Professor of Political Communications at Glasgow University, a graduate of Yale and Emory (Atlanta) universities, specialising in the study of media and democracy - a highly relevant heavyweight by any standards, and well-equipped to offer a considered view on the complex web of geo-politics that the Megrahi Affair is embedded in. But she didn’t …

Bill Leckie is a Scottish sport journalist and broadcaster who writes for The Sun. As a non-sporting person, my only knowledge of him, apart from this programme, is that he seems to excite the ire of Celtic in the Wild West of Scotland over allegations of bigotry in the game and beyond, and a sturdy response that he made to Kelvin MacKenzie’s attack on Scotland from an English nationalist standpoint. This rather contrived little spat had the feel of a gimmick to sell newspapers to me, however, I rejoice in Kelvin MacKenzie, who is exactly the kind of strident English nationalist who brings Scottish independence that bit closer every time he opens his mouth. And I fully support his wish to see an independent England again without all this British rubbish.

Bill Leckie, in his juxtaposed reply to Kelvin, Sun staff argue for UK break-up expresses the following admirable sentiments -

So here's the bottom line. We either make a fresh start as a proper, united land or admit it's over, air-kiss and go our own separate ways. There's nothing to be gained in us continually moaning that England treats us like the poo on their shoe. There's no point in the English giving themselves coronaries because we get free eye tests and bus passes.  Now that Scotland has a nationalist government, it's time we let the voters decide our destiny once and for all.

One might hope from that quote that Bill Leckie might have something useful and objective to say about the Megrahi affair. One would have been wrong …

The third guest in the discussion was Tom English, an Irishman working in Scotland as a sports journalist for Scotland on Sunday, and Scottish Sports Feature writer of the Year. (Tom English is doubtless bored rigid by jokey reference to his surname, and might well adopt the tactic of Lee Bum Suk - the Foreign Minister of Korea until his death in the  Rangoon bombing in 1983, and a distinguished UN diplomat, who used to introduce himself at conference by saying “My name is Lee Bum Suk. Please laugh now, then we can move on to serious business.”)

Exactly what a sports journalist’s views were supposed to contribute to the Megrahi discussion I am not certain, but there he was anyway.

What did we actually get from this odd mix?

Shereen Nanjiani gave a brief introduction, then played Cameron’s comment on the UK Labour Government’s involvement “facilitation of an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish Government”, itself a simplistic distortion of what actually happened without regard to the critical time frame. This was followed by an emotional quote from Stephanie Bernstein, an American relative of a Lockerbie victim, understandably hostile to the UK government’s position.

Shereen could  have quoted Dr. Jim Swire as a balancing view, but she didn’t. Instead, she followed with an Alex Salmond broadcast quote, in which the First Minister made the critical time distinction - that Megrahi was actually released a year later - a distinction that, however, doesn’t fit well with the shabby consensus between Cameron, the unionist press and the Labour Party, that the Scottish government was somehow complicit in the UK government’s double dealing and hypocrisy. Shereen could have had a representative of the Scottish government on her panel of guests - but she didn’t …

I suppose that up to that point, some kind of balance was maintained by Shereen and the programme’s production team. But then the discussion and the motley guests -

Prof. Sarah Oates, an American, jumped straight in with both feet.  “I mean, the more and more you hear about this story, the less and less likely it seems that this was a just a disinterested release due to humanitarian concerns.

The more and more I play that remark, Prof. Oates, the less and less likely it seems to me that this was a disinterested assessment of a complex political situation from an American academic, but more a superficial assessment - an opinion rather than a considered academic analysis, and one that has been formed without looking closely enough at the timescales, the documents, the complex nature of devolved government, the Scottish legal system and the fraught relationship between the Scottish Nationalist Government and the Unionist Labour Government of the UK at that time. But I could be wrong, Professor Oates …

Bill Leckie, sport journalist in the tabloid Sun newspaper, jewel of the News International, part of the Murdoch empire that includes the appalling Fox News in America, illegal buggers of everyone’s phone from Princes to commoners, currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations by the Metropolitan Police, has an opinion too, despite his apparent sympathies for Scottish nationalist aspirations in his Kelvin MacKenzie rebuttal.

A “bugbear”  of his, Bill Leckie confidently asserts, is that he never has believed that it was about compassionate release - “I have written from day one that I didn’t think it was anything to do with compassionate release - I’ve always thought it was business.”

This carefully formed opinion was obviously the product of deep journalistic research and reflection while on the terracing, fending off the outrageous attacks of Celtic supporters over chanting from the fans, and engaging in contrived spats with Kelvin MacKenzie.

Leckie then goes on to a quite contemptible attack on Kenny MacAskill’s integrity in his speech in August 2009 explaining and defending his decision to release Megrahi. Leckie then predictably repeats the distorted interpretation of the Justice Minister’s remark about a ‘higher power’ as suggesting that Megrahi would be judged by the Almighty, rather than what it patently was, a qualifying statement that his life span would be determined by a higher power, not by the medical forecast.

Tom English was then invited by Shereen to offer an opinion, from his deep sports expertise, on whether this was a compassionate release or not. Drawing on deep reserves of sporting journalistic experience and analysis, he reveals that he used to believe it, but no longer does, because “this week has absolutely changed my opinion.” He now believes that political expedience and not compassion drove the Scottish governments distinction.

He then goes on to accuse Alex Salmond of hypocrisy, quoting Sir Augustine Thomas "Gus" O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary for the lying, expedient Brown Labour government and now for the appalling ConLib coalition, that “the SNP were open to negotiations in the release of Megrahi.” He parrots the UK line that the Scottish Government was linking the issue of the Megrahi release to legislation on prisoner compensation on slopping out.

In so doing, Tom English unwittingly repeats and gives credence to a British Government lie - a blatant distortion and conflation of events, timescales and facts which a sports journalist, however distinguished in his field, has clearly not examined in any detail.

A Southern Irishman, even a sports journalist, should have a least some passing acquaintance with British government lies in the bloody history of his native land. The only excuse I can offer for Tom English is that, in his well-founded distaste for the UK and BP machinations over Libya and Megrahi, he has swallowed whole and entire the desperate attempts of a failing UK political culture to embroil the Scottish Government in their shameful realpolitik and deep hypocrisy.

In so doing, he and the other guests casually, and without a shred of evidence, or even apparently any real consideration of the evidence that exists, have impugned the integrity of two leading members of the Government of Scotland - the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill.

Shereen Nanjiani and her producer have failed to provide a balanced debate on a critical issue to the future of Scotland - and the UK - when a Holyrood election is imminent.

In so doing, they have also done a disservice to the Lockerbie dead and to their living, grieving relatives, who want above all, closure and justice based on the rule of law and objective facts, not on the glib and superficial opinions of sports journalists.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Holyrood day that will live in infamy

Or as Kenneth Williams once said “Infamy, infamy! – they’ve got it in for me!”

Not quite Pearl Harbour, but the rejection of minimum pricing for alcohol by the Holyrood opposition parties is truly shameful. Holyrood's health committee backed a Tory amendment to strike from the Alcohol Bill plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 45p.

Brian Taylor, the BBC’s highly respected political correspondent expressed the view that the decision would probably not influence voting at the Holyrood elections in May 2011. I’m not so sure …

Every time a health professional finds themselves deflected from vital professional care duties by violent drunks, abusive and shouting in A&E, they will remember who opposed the measure, in spite of the support of the BMA and the almost universal support of health professionals and doctors.

I say almost universal support - I exclude, of course, Doctor Richard Simpson, Labour’s health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament, a medical doctor and former GP, who knows better than his professional body, the BMA, knows better than his church, the Church of Scotland, knows better than the police, better than most health professionals and addiction counsellors – in fact, knows better than almost every professional voice in the Scottish Nation.

Every time a police officer deals with rioting, drunk teenagers in a town centre, they will remember who opposed this measure – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a minister of religion finds that his or her church has had its environs vandalised, and picks up a litter of empty cans of cheap lager and bottle of cider in the churchyard, they will remember who opposed this eminently sensible provision – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a couple of retired, law-abiding citizens look outside their window late on a Friday or Saturday night because a violent disturbance is taking place in the normally quiet street, they will remember who opposed a measure that might have reduced such incidents – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a drunk teenager or young adult crashes a car while under the influence of cheap supermarket alcohol, killing their passenger and the occupants of the vehicle they collided with, the families of the victims will remember who opposed provisions to limit the consumption of cheap booze – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

As young mothers with young children pick their way in disgust through the broken bottle, empty beer cans, cider bottles and vomit in their local park, they will remember who opposed the sensible, moderate measure that would have limited this revolting pollution of our public places – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

And perhaps they will then remember Nicola Sturgeon, the health minister who championed minimum pricing for alcohol, the justice minister who supported it and the First Minister and the party – the SNP – that tried to do something real, for the first time, about the plague that afflicts our Scottish Nation.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

More Megrahi nonsense from Menendez

Nobody came to Senator Menendez's kangaroo court in the US - a publicity stunt masquerading as a Congressional enquiry - so he had to make things up. His representative who came to Scotland - and failed to take notes at a meeting with Scottish Government officials - has total recall of a load of nonsense.

Fortunately our government officials did take notes. Of course, Holyrood's ****hole in residence, Richard Baker, predictably aligned himself with the US and Menendez. Perhaps he should have consulted his new boss, Ed Miliband, who if he has any sense will rapidly distance himself and the Labour Party from the Deal in the Desert/BP conspiracy theory - Jack Straw certainly did.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Megrahi’s life expectancy

The controversy rumbles on, fuelled in significant part by indignation (in reality, secret delight) that Megrahi has not died within the three month prognosis.

The arguments that follow from this fact, from the critics of the Scottish Justice Minister’s decision, usually include one or more of the following statements -

1. This proves the medical evidence was flawed.

It doesn’t – what it demonstrates is that offering a prognosis of death from a terminal illness is not an exact science, as abundant examples from medical statistics demonstrate. A rudimentary knowledge of statistics and probability show that forecasts based on probability include percentage confidence levels and confidence limits. In other words, doctors don’t have crystal balls, even though some of their critics have wooden heads and hearts of stone – they offer the best forecast they can, based on the evidence they have and their best clinical judgement.

2. This proves that Kenny MacAskill was selective in the medical evidence he chose to act on, in pursuit of some unknown political agenda of his own – or the Scottish Government’s - to release Megrahi.

This is patently nonsense. Kenny MacAskill took the decision in the full knowledge that, if he released Megrahi, he would be subjected to a wave of hostility that could well be electorally damaging to the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party and to relationships with some sectors of American political and public opinion. The First Minister was fully aware of these implications and of the price that would have to be paid for a legal and principled stand, but rightly allowed his Justice Minister to do his job, free from interference or political pressure.

3. The decision was a dirty deal cooked up with the Scottish Government by Jack Straw, BP, Tony Blair and the Libyan Government after their abortive attempt to secure release under the PTA (Prisoner Transfer Agreement).

The idea that the SNP Government, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would be part of such a deal is nothing short of risible to anyone with even the most superficial understanding of the relationship between the Scottish Government and the UK Labour Government, especially with these particular representatives of it.

Not even the promise of immediate independence for Scotland, the refund of all stolen oil revenues,  full restitution for the havoc wreaked in Scotland by Thatcher and the Blair/Brown/Mandelson gang, and a full apology to William Wallace would have bought such a deal.

4. The decision was taken because the Justice Minister secretly knows that Megrahi was innocent of the Lockerbie bombing, and is defending the Scottish Justice system, the Scottish police and the shadowy US interests who perverted the course of justice.

Kenny MacAskill has indeed said that he took the decision in the belief that Megrahi was guilty – he could not have done otherwise and remained Scottish Justice Minister. If he ever entertained such doubts, he could have, should have and would have thrown his considerable authority behind calls for an enquiry into the Megrahi conviction. He certainly would not have chosen such a ludicrous and risky route to righting a judicial wrong and overturning an unsafe conviction.

(For the record, I believe that Megrahi did not act alone, and that the US bought, and may thus have compromised evidence advanced at the trial. I believe on balance that Megrahi was guilty, but allow for some possibility that he is innocent.)

However, it would appear that the only solution that might satisfy some of the more extreme critics of compassionate release based on medical prognostications of death in terminal illness would run as follows -

The dying man must sign a document saying that, if he does not die within three calendar months of the medical judgement and subsequent release, he will either return voluntarily to be executed by the releasing authority or alternatively have all medical care withdrawn. The doctors who made the initial prognosis should be struck off the medical register and the law officer who ordered the compassionate release should publicly resign in disgrace, wearing a sack and scattering ashes over his head, with full media coverage.

Any leading cleric who supported the release decision should be reduced to the lowest rank of their denomination and sent to a remote, and ideally dangerous and unhealthy part of the world.  All who contested the release decision in the UK should be given a lifetime subscription to the Daily Mail. The leading opponent of the decision in the UK should be given a life peerage (Lord X of Vengeful) and the leading opponent in the US should be given a position as a Fox News presenter, thus ensuring that he or she will be a Republican Presidential candidate for the next election.

Provisions such as the above would provide conclusive proof that the United Kingdom and the USA were still Christian countries, and that their Christian/Judaic values were still intact.



The quality of mercy is not strain'd - it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice ---

William Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bob Crow, RMT, talks hard sense on Megrahi Release on Question Time

My respect for Bob Crow grows by the week, and I find I have much more in common with this man than most of the Scots who comprise the opposition in Holyrood. He is one of the very few Question Time panellists on whom I can rely to say the things I wish the panellists would say – even when I don’t agree with them – rather than the obfuscations, evasions and establishment cant that often characterises the usual contributions.

Among the select few who do say what has to be said, in addition to Bob Crow, I include George Galloway, Ken Clarke, Shami Chakrabarti and Salma Yaqoob, not to mention Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Bob Crow is the kind of Englishman I would like to see in government once England rediscovers itself as a great nation after it abandons its faded dreams of Empire, i.e. after Scotland secures its independence, closely followed by Wales and Northern Ireland.

I was most struck by the point he made when asked if Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would present themselves in response to the ‘invitation’, i.e. peremptory summons to appear before a Senate Committee and account for their decision to release Megrahi.

I quote Bob Crow -

But however, I want to say this --- the American Government has got some cheek to talk about some of the things that has happened over here, when it has got itself involved illegal wars all over the world, dropped chemical on people, tortured people and the scenario in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba – and five Cubans languish in jail in America at this moment in time who went to America to tell the American government – previous government, I would accept – about terrorist attacks that was taking place. So, there’s to be a fair playing field, let’s just not talk about Lockerbie, let’s talk about what America does throughout the world as well.”

The Hartlepool audience greeted this with enthusiastic and prolonged applause, and so did I from my sofa. This – the authentic voice of the people - used to be the voice of the people and the People’s Party before New Labour and the deadly trio of Blair, Brown and Mandelson got their hands around its throat.

But why lament? We have the authentic voice of the Scottish people in government in Holyrood at the moment, and I hope that the people recognise it and reinforce it by returning a Scottish Nationalist Government with an increased majority in May 2011.