Chisholm turns on party over al-Megrahi


By Rory Reynolds

VETERAN Scottish Labour politician Malcolm Chisholm MSP shocked spectators at Holyrood yesterday by turning on his own party during a live debate on the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber.

Chisholm commended Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s actions in freeing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – saying he appreciated the level of pressure the Cabinet Secretary has been put under.

Along with the political parties he focused on the “shameful and insensitive” welcome that al-Megrahi received on arriving in Tripoli on Thursday night.

But he excused the Government for scenes at airport in which thousands of Libyans cheered on the return of al-Megrahi – some of them waving Saltire flags.He added: “There is no one in this parliament that could have done anything to stop the embarrassment of that scene in Tripoli.”

Scottish Labour party leader Iain Gray took a soft line on Chisholm’s actions, saying that it was a divisive issue and a “matter of conscience”.

He said: “This is a very difficult decision and people are bound to take different views on it.

“I’ve made clear that I would have struck a different balance from the one that Mr MacAskill took.

“I believe compassion for the families of the victims of the Lockerbie disaster.

“Malcolm has taken a different view and it’s one of these matters that’s really of conscience – I don’t have a problem with it at all.”

Chisholm was alone in his support of the SNP administration – with the main parties launching vicious attacks on the actions of the Justice Secretary.

Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott slammed MacAskill’s move to announce the release during parliamentary recess – demanding to know “why did the Government make this decision in the basement of St Andrews House?”

The most acidic attack of the debate came from Justice Committee Convenor Bill Aitken, who blasted the SNP Government as being “stitched up and used as pawns” because of their “political naivety and inexperience.”


  1. The agenda for the 2005G8 was derived from a UN report submission, which related to amongst other things compassion. Scotland welcomed the G8 agenda of climate change and Africa based on that. How can it not now apply the same to Mr Al Megrahi

    Foundation source of 2005 G8 agenda. UN Environment and Development report to the UK Government.

    Subject: re: re: Changing Futures
    Date posted: 19/12/02 16:13:00
    Author: Roger Thomas
    This forum is supposedly directed at UK domestic policy, unfortunately domestic policy now seems international policy. The news last night was war on terrorism and war on Iraq.

    Even the DEFRA website itself considers SD about UK and the world outside as a “WHOLE”.

    Recently I was invited to look at Guidence for Policy Makers and Regulatory Impact Assessment by the Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit.

    This document is available at the Cabinet Office RIU website.

    Now in the consultation draft Annex 4 under Sustainable Development it says “One purpose of cost-benefit analysis is to ensure that in pursuing any single objective, we should not impose disproportionate costs elsewhere….the needs of the present may also result in costs to the environment or social welfare”.

    Now I understand it is widely acknowledged that CO2 emmisions from industrialised economic growth cause climatic change.

    The principle stated in the Cabinet Office draft also being applicable to the global dynamic. Probably why there was a worldwide response to the US decision not to co-operate on Kyoto.

    National economic policy not integrated with sustainable development analysis and goals imposes costs on the social and environmental systems of the planet.

    A country such as the US as the biggest emitter of greenhouse costs presumably imposes the biggest individual costs on the social and environmental systems of the global dynamic.

    Now a building could be destroyed and 3000 people lose their lives. A nuclear bomb has the the potential to kill a few million in a city.

    Unfortunately these are insignificant compared to the most awesome tool of mass destruction. Economic growth not integrated with its cost burden on social and environmental systems at all levels of its implementation, local, national and international.

    Its effects are indiscriminate drought, famine, flood, destruction of crops, fire. Itis not millions, but 10’s and 100’s of millions who pay the price.

    It has just been announced that we have had the 2nd hottest year on record globally, the hottest being 1998.

    Coincidently we now have reports of the impending famine in Ethiopia due to drought. Millions of men, woman, children, families and animals just waiting to die.

    Are these paying the cost of air conditioning in Houston, £158 billion of UK consumer credit, 12 lane interstate highways and congestion on the M6.

    The UN wants US$340 million to deal with this disaster, I am sure somebody will supply the correct figure.

    Now I have the draft UNEP IPCC Third Assessmet Report Summary for Policy Makers Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaption and Vulnerability (19 Feb 2001). Why it is the draft is another story.

    Now table SPM-2 page 16 on Regional Adaptive Capacity and Key Concerns : Africa.

    1) Adaptive capacity of human systems in Africa is low due to lack of economic resources and technology, and vulnerability high as a result of heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture, frequent droughts and floods and poverty.

    6) Increases in droughts, floods and other extreme events would add to stresses on water resources, food security, human health and infrastructures, and would constrain development in Africa.

    Now off the coast of Africa in the ocean we have one of the biggest deployments of people and resources building up.

    These resources might be going to be used to invade somewhere and kill people. These resources have been paid for out of economic growth which not being related or integrated with its cost burden on social and envirnonmental systems, from the literature I have read, has also killed people or will kill people. Probably those people waiting to die in nearby Ethiopia.

    This is a sytem which appears to be going out of control with self feeding positive feedback mechanisms.

    Now if we are talking war, and the governments want to do this for the reasons they are telling us. What is the best way of dealing with the situation.

    As not many of us are top military strategists, we need to look at the situation how the probably the greatest military strategist in entire human history would have approached it, Alexander the Great.

    Gordon Brown has a “war chest” of £1000 million ring fenced for war. If this situation was presented to Alexander what he probably would do is take 20% of this. £200 million and give it to the relief of Ethiopia.

    Coincidently this is in the ball park of the figure the UN needs. This would be important in his overall strategy for the war on all fronts.

    Tony Blair has also said he wants to do something about the open sore of Africa so this is the chance.

    Use these resources to sort out the Ethiopian situation, start taking the tensions out of the global dynamic.

    Personally I think it is a bit scummy that millions are people are waitng to die as a consequence of western economic policy. We have the resources to do something about the situation. As individuals we cannot have pride or respect for our country or society that lets this happen.

    So what is the perception of the rest of the world to a situation where millions are waitng to die and nearby resources are being brought together to kill more. It just adds to global hatered, tension and escalation and detracts from the crucial fundamental central challenge that we must address, a sustainable future for all people and life on this planet.

    What the greatest military strategist who ever lived earned was respect. Earn that respect give Ethiopia the money and the first battle of the war is won.

    It all comes down to people are dying we can do something about it, so we should. The true message of Christmas is forgiveness, peace on earth and goodwill to ALL. War and killing play no part of the Christain faith, listen to the sermon on the mount. Neither do they play any part of Sustainable Development.

    Roger Thomas

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