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Scottish lawmakers vote against Lockerbie decision

The governing Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) had asked Parliament to endorse the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Megrahi as "consistent with the principles of Scottish justice," but the lawmakers rejected the bid Tuesday.

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Could Lockerbie decision hurt the SNP?

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Despite losing today's vote by 73 votes to 50, which is not a full no-confidence motion, the SNP has appeared at ease with the result.

Perhaps much more worrying for the party, which will tomorrow announce a bill for a full referendum on outright Scottish independence, is the reaction of voters to the Megrahi release.

A survey of more than 1,000 Scots last week by the polling firm ICM showed a clear majority disagreed with the decision, with 60 percent opposed and just 32 percent in favor.

A separate poll earlier in the week by YouGov also suggested that the Megrahi decision may have impacted the SNP's standing, with support for independence at a low of 28 percent.

Brown defends Scotland's decision

Hours earlier, Mr. Brown said that he "respected" the decision of Scotland's justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, and denied that the worst mass murderer in British history had been allowed to return to Libya as part of efforts by Britain to secure oil and gas rights in Libya.

"On our part there was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to influence Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to Colonel Gaddafi," he said during a speech in Birmingham which was originally scheduled to be about jobs.

But Brown's former home secretary, Jacqui Smith, broke ranks to criticize the decision, telling the BBC: "It does not feel right to me that someone who has been convicted for an extremely serious offence be able to return, in a way in which his victims were not able to, back to Libya."

"Of course we have to be compassionate with people who are in prison and coming to the end of their, lives but I am not sure I would have made the same decision," said Ms. Smith.

Brown's rejection of a conspiracy behind Megrahi's release came after the release by the Scottish nationalists of documents showing that the British government had told Tripoli that Brown did not want to see the bomber die in prison.

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Has this hurt the 'special relationship' between the US and Britain?

Check out our blog on how British Foreign Minister David Miliband's confirmation that the British government did not want Megrahi to die in prison rankles across the Atlantic.

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