Lockerbie bomber's release is a Scottish decision
The affair offered an opportunity for Scottish nationalists to assert their nation's independence.
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Away from the partisan debate, others such as Jonathan Hearn, director of nationalism studies at the University of Edinburgh, were struck by how the SNP’s handling of the issue had echoes of the party’s strategy of opposing the Iraq war, which paid off for it in public support.Skip to next paragraph
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“While accepting that people have principles, and that Mr. MacAskill made his decision on that basis, I think there was also an opportunity to assert the degree of autonomy that exists here,” added Dr. Hearn, an expert in Scottish nationalism and its politics of devolution in the 1990s.
On Thursday, anyone watching McAskill announcing Megrahi’s release heard him frame the decision in the context of supposedly specific Scottish values, which he named as mercy and compassion.
Beside him was a large screen carrying the slogan “The Scottish Government” – a reminder perhaps about just who was running the show.
Not a Union flag was in sight. Not a mention of Britain made.
By the time Megrahi’s plane touched down in Tripoli however, Scottish flags were also being waved among the Libyan crowds. This was the hero’s welcome many, including the SNP, had feared.
David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary, told Radio 4 today that this was a “Scottish decision.”
“Obviously the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero’s welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing, above all for the 270 families who grieve every day for the loss of their loved ones 21 years ago and also for anyone who has an ounce of humanity in them. I think that is the overriding emotion that people will be feeling today," said Milband.
Will Qaddafi meet Megrahi personally and publicly? Will he be released?
The US has requested that he be placed under house arrest.