UK: Libya deal sparks constitutional clash with Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has accused UK Prime Minister Tony Blair of overriding the devolved powers of the Scottish parliament in negotiating a deal with Libya on prisoner transfer. In a statement to Scotland’s parliament, Salmond said that it was “unacceptable” that Blair had not consultated with the body prior to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Mommar Qadaffi during his tour of North Africa last week. “Any agreements which may flow from it are emphatically within the remit and authority of this parliament,” Salmond said.

The principal concern is over the possible release of Abdul-Baset Ali Mohamed al Megrahi, now serving a life sentence in Scotland for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988. Al Megrahi was convicted in 2001 under Scottish law at a special court at Camp Zeist, the Netherlands.

Blair’s office insists the deal with Libya does not cover the Lockerbie bomber. “There is a legal process currently underway in Scotland reviewing this case which is not expected to conclude until later this summer,” No. 10 said in a statement. “Given that, it is totally wrong to suggest that we have reached any agreement with the Libyan Government in this case. The MOU agreed with the Libyan Government last week does not cover this case.”

Scotland’s Conservative leader Annabel Goldie also accused Blair of treating Scotland’s legal system “with contempt.” The constitutional clash is the first since the Scottish Nationalists won elections to the Edinburgh-based parliament last month. (IRNA, June 8)

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