|Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi|
What has roused them to resort to this line of attack is a snippet from the newly-published biography, Megrahi: You Are My Jury, by writer, researcher and TV producer John Ashtonk which claims that MacAskill urged Megrahi to drop his appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing in return for favourable consideration of his application for release on licence on compassionate grounds. It turns out that this allegation is based on nothing more worthy or reliable than second- or third-hand hearsay. But that hasn't prevented the SNP's enemies pouncing on it as if it was gospel.
The fact that the story has absolutely no provenance worthy of the name should be sufficient grounds to dismiss it. And those without a political and/or personal agenda already have. But I would suggest that there are further grounds for giving the story no credence. Just ask yourself the questions, "Why would MacAskill do such a thing? What did he have to gain?".
It is not at all beyond the realms of possibility that MacAskill might wish to obviate the possibility of embarrassment to Scotland's legal establishment which would almost certainly result from a re-examination of the prosecution case against Megrahi in the appeal court. It is even easier to believe that senior figures in Scotland's legal establishment might have prevailed upon MacAskill to do whatever he could to get the appeal dropped.
What is not credible is that MacAskill would have gone along with this to the extent of offering inducements to Megrahi in a manner that might, at the very least, constitute serious impropriety. Such a thing is unbelievable in part because MacAskill is simply not that kind of person. His every action in office has shown him to be a man of honour and integrity. Behaving in the way that he is accused of would be way out of character.
Neither is MacAskill stupid. He would surely realise the near inevitability of such behaviour being exposed. This is a man who was aware that he was about to have the massive resources of the US and the UK ranged against him frantically scrabbling about looking for the slightest flaw or misstep in the way he handled the matter of Megrahi's two applications for release - compassionate release under Scots law and repatriation under the terms of the UK government's prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) with Libya.
Perhaps more importantly, MacAskill would have no reason to think that offering inducements would be either necessary or effective. We are being asked to believe that MacAskill took a not insignificant risk for no guaranteed reward. Even if he had been interested in the "reward" of having Megrahi abandon his appeal, the risk involved in acting improperly simply could not have been worth it. Had MacAskill truly been that desperate to have the appeal dropped then he could simply have resorted to the PTA which would have required that all active court proceedings be terminated before it could be implemented.
Furthermore, what good would it do to have the appeal dropped? In terms of the legal establishment's likely desire to avoid having the case re-examined it would have done no good at all. The clamour for the truth was not about to go away that easily.
All in all, the tales of MacAskill's alleged dodgy dealing must be dismissed as mere gossip. And the attacks on MacAskill founded on that gossip must be recognised as politically-motivated malicious smears.