Saturday, July 24, 2010

Holyrood's opposition politicians look like (even) smaller people tonight

The last 48 hours or so have provided yet another textbook example of a lack of imagination on the part of opposition politicians in Holyrood, and (to invert Andrew Marr's infamous phrase) they look like rather smaller people tonight as a result. A much more thoughtful response to the Scottish government's refusal to send ministers and officials to testify in person at the US Senate would have been to echo Jack Straw by noting how unusual - verging on the unheard-of - it would be for such testimony to occur before the legislature of another sovereign nation. That observation would not in any way have compromised the opposition parties' established stance that Megrahi should not have been released. Indeed they could have reiterated that point volubly, underlining that they only oppose the government where there's a principled disagreement, and not for opposition's sake. But it was always too much to hope for that the likes of Richard Baker would show that sort of class. For him, if a decision has got Alex Salmond's name on it, it's an outrage - end of story...

"It is quite extraordinary Kenny MacAskill has ruled out appearing before the US Senate inquiry. He and Salmond are the men responsible for the decision and they are now running scared."

A comment that now begs the obvious questions - is it "extraordinary" that Baker's senior party colleague Jack Straw has also ruled out attending the hearing in person, for near-identical reasons? Would Baker care to tell Straw to his face that he's a coward?

I dare say Labour's response to what I've just said (indeed as far as I can see it's the only conceivable defence they've got) would be that devolution offers the Scottish party scope to diverge in its views from its Westminster colleagues. Well, I'm all for that principle - but in reality, does anyone seriously believe that there would be so much as a cigarette-paper between Baker and Straw in any other circumstance than an opportunity to bash the SNP?

While Annabel Goldie might not have to worry about contradicting her London overlords, her own contribution to proceedings has been pretty poor as well -

"The SNP would be the first to complain if anybody refused to co-operate with them so they must comply with this request from the US Senate."

Come off it, Annabel. Alex Salmond is indeed noted for insisting upon proper respect for Scottish institutions, but the idea that he would be arrogant enough to demand that a senior member of the US government or the governor of a US state should appear before a committee of the Scottish parliament upon request (which would be the rough equivalent of what is being asked of him) is utterly risible.


Perhaps the most telling aspect of the Scotsman's report on Straw's snub to the Senate is the suggestion from his aides that he is effectively being invited to speak on behalf of the Scottish government, for their decision to release Megrahi. Whereas the Scottish government, for their part, are declining the invitation partly on the grounds that they are effectively being asked to answer for the UK government's collusion with BP over the Prisoner Transfer Agreement. Is there a contradiction here? No, because the Senate committee is indeed absurdly demanding that both administrations answer for the other by muddying the waters in the stated focus of its inquiry between two separate issues that aren't and can't possibly be linked. It seems to me Kerry and co have got to decide whether they're investigating a) the release of Megrahi on compassionate grounds, or b) BP's involvement in the 'deal in the desert'. If they persist with their boneheaded insistence that it's c) "the link between the two", then the least they should be expected to do is specify their grounds for reasonable suspicion that such a link might exist. "Megrahi is a bad guy, BP are bad guys and I've got an election to fight in November" does not constitute such grounds.


  1. The predictable response of Scottish unionist politicians is utterly contemptible. I’m sensing anger at the way Cameron has acted here in Scotland and admiration for the SNP Government, Alex and Kenny for their dignified and utterly reasonable response. I’m beginning to think that we may not enjoy a minority Labour or Labour/Lib Dem Government come May.

  2. Ah ken ah shouldnae expect onythin less than whit we're hearin fae oor Union-supportin politicians, they're a bunch o' wee opportunistic lightweights onyhow, an' Alex an' Kenny can handle them easy. But ah'm still beilin aboot Cameron gaun ower there an' shootin his mooth aff last week. It wis wrang oan sae mony levels, an' sae disrespectfu tae the Scots, an' their elected government. Ah take comfort fae it tho, fer it effectively became a big step oan oor road tae Independence, pittin the clearest blue water atween oor twa governments.

    Ah ken which o' the twa cam oot o' it wi dignity, an' it wisnae westminster.

  3. I suppose I’ve said this before but it is worth another airing.

    American Senators with electors to face are particularly vicious political animals. By highlighting the Lockerbie case, they are attracting attention away from their own indifferent efforts on behalf of the American people. And everyone likes an outrage; particularly one involving foreigners. It’s a shame that they use the victims of Lockerbie in their pathetic game. People should remember that it was a Scottish town that the plane fell on, and Scottish people were killed too!

    Cameron is new and green. The expression “salad days” comes to mind borrowed from a speech by the Queen on her Silver Jubilee, I think. He has been used royally by these senators and by a president who has little time for Britain and whom he is desperate to impress.

    Cameron’s trip has been rather lacklustre. He has shouted from the rooftops that we are a junior partner in the “special relationship (so junior that we were junior before the USA was even IN the special relationship!!; he has ‘dissed’ the Scottish government in contravention of tradition, for which his party is supposed to stand, and shown that despite the most expensive education money can buy, he has a slim grasp of history.

    The infinitely more experienced Jack Straw knew better than to be used by the Americans for electoral gain.

    So, of course, did Alex Salmond. Even people who are not known for being Salmond fans (Iain Hamilton, for example) have praised his statesmanlike attitude. I’ve been proud of the way he behaved. I have no problem with him representing Scotland on the international stage.

    America may push England and Britain about in a shameless manner, but it will not push Scotland about.

    Gray and Goldie have done their usual carping. I doubt they have bothered to think about the situation. It’s simple for them. If the SNP says ‘yes’, they say ‘no’; if the SNP says ‘white’, they say ‘black’. They seem to think that that is their job. It makes their lives easy, but one wonders why we have to pay them to do it.

  4. That wis an awfy guid reply tris, tae an awfy guid post. Awfy guid aw roon!

  5. Thanks Sophia! I wholeheartedly agree with everything Tris says as well. Although, as Kevin McKenna points out in the Observer, it's the US Senators that have had the lucky escape - if Alex Salmond had gone over there he'd have made them look rather foolish.