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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 17:37 GMT
Hardie defends decision to go
Lord Hardie has defended his shock decision to resign as Lord Advocate saying it was now time to do something different.
He denied he was going before the Lockerbie trial in May because he did not want to be associated with a "dead-duck" prosecution against the two Libyans accused of the atrocity.
The QC said: "The Crown does not prosecute anyone unless there is a prima facie case, a sufficiency of evidence. If ever I thought there was insufficient evidence to proceed with this case I would have pulled the plug.
"To suggest any Lord Advocate would initiate a prosecution of any sort, far less one abroad costing a substantial sum of money, for the sake of appearances is outrageous."
Lord Hardie, who will be installed shortly as a judge in the High Court and Court of Session, said he would like to be remembered as a friend of the bereaved families of Lockerbie.
"I am certainly not abandoning the Lockerbie relatives, that would be the last thing that I would ever want anyone to think I had done," said Lord Hardie.
He also denied he had been forced from office as Lord Advocate because of criticism of the government's handling of problems in the Scottish legal system.
Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar and the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond have had a bitter exchange over the unexpected resignation.
The present Solicitor General Colin Boyd QC, who has been heavily involved in the Lockerbie prosecution case, is set to become Lord Advocate.
His position is to be taken by leading commercial lawyer Neil Davidson QC.
Mr Dewar and Mr Salmond clashed during first minister's questions in the Scottish Parliament.
Donald Dewar: "The present Solicitor General Colin Boyd has been involved in the preparations for the Lockerbie trial from the beginning.
"He has chaired the core group which meets every week to plan the prosecution policy and to check on progress.
"He has in fact made many appearances in preliminary diets both in the courts of this country and in Camp Zeist and has had oversight of preparations for the trial. I have every confidence in him."
Mr Salmond: "Is it not the case that it is Lord Hardie who has had the key responsibility who has taken the key tactical decisions since 1997 in the approach to this trial.
"A few weeks before this trial starts, arguably in international terms, one of the most important in Scottish legal history, he does a bunk because he appoints himself a judge.
"Isn't that a matter not just of letting Scotland down, but letting Scotland down in the eyes of the world?".
Mr Dewar: "I think Mr Salmond is protesting too much, largely to be fair to him because he doesn't know a great deal about the preparations for the trial or the dynamics of it.
"There is of course a team, there is a team with Mr Alastair Campbell and Mr Alan Turnbull, two senior counsel who will be leading and taking much of the heat of the trial.
"There was, as I say, an oversight, which was in the hands of Colin Boyd, the solicitor general.
"He again, I repeat, has been totally in charge of the meetings of the core group and of the preparations.
"He will, I've no doubt at all as Lord Advocate, be taking a very proper lead role in the actual event when it starts in Camp Zeist.
"But it is very much a matter of getting it right, it is very much a matter of making sure the trial is properly conducted and I hope that Mr Salmond will not try and spread the idea that in some sort of way those who have been in fact inextricably entwined with the preparations, in charge of the preparations, are somehow not competent to carry on with the trial."
Mr Salmond: "The first minister is surely not claiming that the disappearance of the Lord Advocate a few weeks before the Lockerbie trial was a masterpiece of planning.
"The first minister tells us that Mr Neil Davidson, I'm sure he is a very excellent person, the proposed new solicitor general, is he the same Neil Davidson who advised the Labour Party when they were getting rid of Tommy Graham, what fee was paid for that advice and does the first minister not understand that it's actions such as this that leave the first minister open to the accusation that his administration is little more than a revolving door of jobs for the boys?"
Donald Dewar: Well I hope Alex Salmond doesn't think that kind of rather unpleasant and offensive attack raises standards in Scottish politics because he certainly is not.
"The Lockerbie trial has been well prepared, properly prepared and will be well conducted.
"It is a matter for the judges who take the decision at the end of the day what the outcome is but I can assure you that the conduct of the trial will be pursued effectively, efficiently and with diligence."
Links to other Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.
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