Lockerbie Part 1

Dear FriendsAt the IFTTA congress in Brazil I promised to update members on the Lockerbie legal issues in Scotland. Below, I have summarised the political and constitutional background to the case and in the next few days I will provide the latest update and a clarification on some matters.Please be patient with me while I explain a little of the constitutional and political background. There was confusion in some of the foreign press about the role of the Scottish Government, UK Government, Scottish courts etc. Some thought that the Scottish Government had done some kind of deal with Libya: it was the UK Government. Some criticised the UK Prime Minister re the decision to repatriate al-Megrahi: it was a decision for the Scottish Government etc.It is important to understand at the outset the constitutional framework. In 1603, the Scottish King James VI inherited the English throne, following the death of Elizabeth I of England. He thereby became James I of the United Kingdom. Scotland and England remained separate countries but with the same monarch, in the same way that the UK and Canada share the same monarch today. On 1 May 1707, the Scottish and English Parliaments were abolished and replaced by a British Parliament. This was created under the Treaty of Union between the two countries. The provisions of the Treaty, amongst other things, guaranteed the independence of the separate Scottish legal system, including its courts. Hence there is no appeal from Scotland to the House of Lords in Criminal matters. The Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal is the highest court. Furthermore, Scots Law is very distinctive from that of England. The terminology (e.g. homicide not murder, fire raising not arson), juries (15 not 12) and procedures are all different.In 1999, the new Scottish Parliament was established, with control over most domestic matters, including justice. Matters such as trade, taxation, defence and foreign affairs are dealt with by the UK Parliament, to which Scotland also elects members. Indeed, the current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown represents a Scottish constituency.The Labour Party forms the UK Government. In 1999, the Labour Party was also in power as the Scottish Government. In 2003 they formed a coalition in Scotland with the Scottish Liberal Democrats. However, in 2007 the Scottish National Party formed the Scottish Government. The SNP is a social democratic party. It wants an independent Scotland within the EU. As it poses a direct challenge to Labour in areas where Labour were traditionally popular, there is great deal of animosity between the two parties. The SNP, supported by the Scottish Green Party, plan to put a referendum for total independence to the Scottish people in 2012. The Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives totally oppose this, though the Liberal Democrats are wavering.

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