UK

Scotland’s Justice Secretary accused Libya of breaking a promise not to give freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi a hero’s welcome on his return home, PA reports.

 ”It is a matter of great regret that Mr Megrahi was received in such an inappropriate manner,” Kenny MacAskill told an emergency session of the Scottish Parliament. “It showed no compassion or sensitivity to the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie.”

UPDATE

The Libyan was greeted by crowds, some waving Scottish flags, when he landed at Tripoli on Thursday after being released on compassionate grounds by Mr MacAskill because he is dying from prostate cancer, adds Andrew Bolger, the FT’s Scotland correspondent.

“It showed no compassion or sensitivity to the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie,” said Mr MacAskill. “Assurances had been given by the Libyan government that any return would be dealt with in a low-key and sensitive fashion.”

Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader at Holyrood, said the Scottish National party government made “a wrong decision, in the wrong way, with the wrong consequences”.

Mr Gray said: “Does he understand how much his decision has angered the silent majority in Scotland? Does he understand how ashamed we were to see our flag flying to welcome a convicted bomber home?”

Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Conservative leader, said: “I want to make clear that the decision to release Mr Megrahi was not done in the name of Scotland or in the name of this parliament or in my name.”

Ms Goldie asked why, if Mr Megrahi’s condition was so severe that keeping him in prison is inhumane, could he not have been released to a secure house or a hospice or a hospital in Scotland.

She said: “Is this SNP government seriously suggesting that our Scottish police who coped so admirably with security arrangements for G8 Leaders could not adequately protect Mr Megrahi?”

Gordon Brown kicked off the week by congratulating England’s cricket team for winning the Ashes while maintaining a dogged silence over the decision by the Scottish government to release the Lockerbie bomber.

The prime minister’s spokesman insisted it would be inappropriate for Mr Brown to comment on a matter that “was and remains a matter for the Scottish justice secretary”, in spite of a wave of anger over the decision in the US and UK.

That assertion has been greeted with scepticism in the media and Tory circles, where it has been noted that Mr Brown is usually free with his opinions on a range of less weighty issues, including cricket or reality television shows.

But Mr Brown’s reticence is unsurprising, given that the decision by Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s justice secretary, to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is perhaps the least worst outcome from the prime minister’s perspective.

Firstly the convicted Libyan bomber’s release on compassionate grounds will further warm relations between Tripoli and London (Colonel Gadaffi is unlikely to care a great deal about the constitutional niceties of Scottish devolution) and will improve trading links between the two countries.

Secondly the whole affair has backfired badly on Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, who now finds himself embroiled in a high-level dispute with Washington. Mr Brown cannot abide Mr Salmond, the SNP leader whose government is now under severe pressure.

If Mr Brown criticises the decision, he will annoy the Colonel; if he backs the SNP government in Scotland, he will infuriate the Americans. Silence is perhaps his best policy.

Nevertheless, he will face more tough questioning on his own personal view when he returns to Downing St on Tuesday for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.

Just when we thought the focus on Sir David Walker’s report would be pay, now the worry is about banks’ possibly making even more errors of judgment.

Richard Northedge questions whether there will be meddling by ‘amateur’ non-execs and investors, even if bankers can ‘get it wrong’ sometimes. Could they do more damage than Fred the Shred? But perhaps The Edge is right in questioning whether the Walker proposals might be made compulsory across all companies.  And he raises the issue of better training.

Channel 4′s John Snow has weighed into the debate as well, questioning whether banks can really change their greedy habits? Don’t hold your breath on getting more transparency, concludes the C4 news host.

Should London’s bankers be shaking in their boots – or watching their wallets – after the release of the Walker Review published this morning?

A large amount of attention has been paid to proposals on bankers’ remuneration, one of 39 recommendations in Sir David Walker’s report. Bonuses are once again in the headlines due to Goldman Sachs boosting the pay of its staff back to pre-boom levels.

Sir David, a former chairman of Morgan Stanley International, wants bank boards’ remuneration committees to take on far more work, scrutinising the pay of anyone who earns more than the average board-level executive.

The FT’s City editor Andrew Hill says that this move was a surprise with a tougher than expected constraint on bankers’ bonuses. The challenge, of course, remains whether any of these proposals will prevent another banking crisis.

Indeed, a push to disclose the pay and bonuses of City high-flyers dominated some discussion this morning on the FT’s Alphaville site, even before the report was published.

While hopes for greater transparency on the part of banks seems to be the gist of government and business reaction, the blogosphere needs convincing.

The BBC’s business editor Robert Peston questions whether banks can really change their habits. Indeed, some question whether a flurry of reports on banking will generate anything more than just comment.

Interestingly, another angle to be followed could be concerns that Sir David’s proposals will reduce the international competitiveness of the City. Sir David has tried to head this off already by saying ‘phooey‘ to such criticism.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown today held breakfast talks with Muammar Gaddafi, touching on oil price volatility, improving bilateral relations between Britain and Libya and the sensitive issue of the Lockerbie bombing.

In their first head-to-head meeting, the colonel asked Mr Brown for help in the case of the dying former Libyan agent who is appealing against a life sentence for the 1988 attack.

The Scottish Appeal Court said this week the case would not be concluded until next year, raising concerns that 57-year-old Abdel Basset al-Megrahi – who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer – will die before the appeal finishes.

Mr Brown deftly passed the buck to his old adversary Alex Salmond, the Scotland first minister, pointing out that the Scottish National party leader was responsible for dealing with the issue.

Silvio Berlusconi’s wise decision to avoid over-the-top banqueting arrangements at the G8 summit has been welcomed by summiteers in L’Aquila but the menus have not gone down well with everyone.

Sarah Brown, wife of the British prime minister, complains today that she is tiring of being presented with veal, a meat she refuses to eat on ethical grounds because of allegedly cruel production methods.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “Am hoping that no veal served at lunch again
today – have declined it twice this trip as just feel very strongly about it.”

But it hasn’t been all terrible for Mrs Brown. On Thursday she hooked up with George Clooney for a tour of the earthquake damage in L’Aquila.

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