By Rory Reynolds
A SENIOR SNP politician is under fire over claims he rigged a website poll on the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie Bomber.
A senior staffer for Schools and Skills minister Keith Brown sent an email to SNP researchers and members of parliament, urging them to vote in favour of the decision to release the Libyan in an online survey for a local newspaper.
In the email, Ellen Forson, constituency manager for Ochil, said: “Keith’s column for the Stirling Observer next week is going to cover the Megrahi decision and we want to quote the poll on their website so would appreciate your vote!”
Opposition parties at Holyrood have called on Mr Brown to apologise for the alleged bid to sway the poll in the Government’s favour.
Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of Scottish Conservatives, said: “All the objective opinion polls show the Scots public believes the SNP made a bad decision and harmed Scotland’s reputation.“Sadly it comes as no surprise that they are resorting to manipulating an opinion poll to get the answer they want – and it’s not the first time they’ve tried such tactics.
“Many will suspect that Alex Salmond has sent out orders to his ministers telling them to use every means, fair and foul, to back up his decision.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Hugh O’Donnell said: “This cynical attempt to rig a poll is typical SNP spin and manipulation.
“Keith Brown owed his constituents and the editor of the newspaper an apology.
“If the SNP are prepared to rig a local poll, what on earth would they do to win a poll on independence?”
However a spokesman for Mr Brown called the debacle ‘trivia’ and blasted the opposition parties’ criticism over the affair as ‘desperate tactics’.
He said: “The opposition if focusing on trivia – every poll gives us a growing lead over Labour and that is why the opposition parties are panicking with desperate tactics like this.”
A recent poll showed that 43 per cent of people thought that releasing al-Megrahi was the right move, with 51 per cent against the decision/
It also showed that under one-third of Scots believe Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill should resign, while an overwhelming 69 per cent think that Scotland’s standing in the world has suffered because of the release of al-Megrahi.
In May Brown admitted that Scots schools had ‘not made the progress we might expect’ after figures showed that Scotland was lagging behind several countries, including England.
Last week Mr Brown hit the headlines when it emerged that £180,000 of public money had been spent on school trips to Culloden and Bannockburn.
Critics accused him of imposing a ‘blinkered Nationalist perspective’ on Scottish kids.