[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]
Jack Straw said Holyrood was “not gratuitously kept in the dark” about the UK Government’s dealings with Libya over the Prisoner Transfer Agreement in relation to the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
Giving evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, the UK Justice Secretary was asked by the SNP’s Pete Wishart if it would not have been helpful for London to have kept Edinburgh informed about the agreement being drawn up with Tripoli.
Mr Straw said: “Where you are involved in complicated negotiations with a country like Libya, they have to be handled with great confidentiality.”
However, he went on: “We had no interest whatever in keeping the Scottish Executive gratuitously in the dark about this.” Mr Straw pointed out that no PTA gave the Libyan government or Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi a right to transfer, only a right to make an application.
“The Libyans absolutely understood that the discretion in respect... of any PTA application rested with the Scottish Executive.”
Ben Wallace, the deputy shadow Scottish Secretary, pressed Mr Straw on why he was “blocking” the release of the note about two phone calls he took from Sir Mark Allen, a BP consultant.
“It’s odd a man from BP rings you up, the position changes, an oil deal is signed and nowhere in the process is the victim included.”
Mr Straw replied that no promise or hint was given to Libya that in return for an bilateral arrangement, Mr Megrahi would be released.
[According to Jack Straw "the Libyans understood that the discretion in respect of any PTA application rested with the Scottish Executive." This is not so. In meetings that I had with Libyan officials at the highest level shortly after the "deal in the desert" it was abundantly clear that the Libyans believed that the UK Government could order the transfer of Mr Megrahi and that they were prepared to do so. When I told them that the relevant powers rested with the Scottish -- not the UK -- Government, they simply did not believe me. When they eventually realised that I had been correct, their anger and disgust with the UK Government was palpable. As I have said elsewhere:
"The memorandum of understanding regarding prisoner transfer that Tony Blair entered into in the course of the "deal in the desert" in May 2007, and which paved the way for the formal prisoner transfer agreement, was intended by both sides to lead to the rapid return of Mr Megrahi to his homeland. This was the clear understanding of Libyan officials involved in the negotiations and to whom I have spoken.
"It was only after the memorandum of understanding was concluded that [it belatedly sunk in] that the decision on repatriation of this particular prisoner was a matter not for Westminster and Whitehall but for the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh, and that government had just come into the hands of the Scottish National Party and so could no longer be expected supinely to follow the UK Labour Government's wishes. That was when the understanding between the UK Government and the Libyan Government started to unravel, to the considerable annoyance and distress of the Libyans, who had been led to believe that repatriation under the PTA was only months away."]