Salmond attacks 'deal in the desert'

Alex Salmond has criticised the British Government for attempting to include the convicted Lockerbie bomber in a controversial prisoner-transfer agreement with Libya.

The First Minister claimed that the agreement, forged under the Blair administration and agreed by Gordon Brown in December 2007, sought to allow Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to be transferred from a Scottish prison to serve out his life sentence in Libya.

Mr Salmond said Tony Blair's controversial "deal in the desert", which was vehemently opposed by the Scottish Government, had raised false expectations on the part of the Libyan government, and also cut across the due process of law in Scotland. "It was a mistake because it raised an expectation by the Libyan government that Mr Megrahi would be included in such a prisoner transfer," Mr Salmond said.

The deal "cut across the due process of Scots law, because one of the provisions of prisoner transfer is that legal proceedings would have to come to an end," he added.

It also contravened "what we believe to be prior agreements with the United States government and the relatives" of victims of the Lockerbie bombing, Mr Salmond said. He was testifying before a committee of MPs investigating relations between Holyrood and Westminster in the run-up to Mr Megrahi's release last August.

Mr Megrahi eventually had his prisoner-transfer application rejected by the Scottish Government, but was released to his home country on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He received a hero's welcome in Tripoli and remains outside hospital, despite having been diagnosed at the time of his release as having less than three months to live.