Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Scottish Affairs Committee

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The First Minister of Scotland and his Justice Secretary have defended the release of the Lockerbie bomber, during an evidence session on 12 January 2010 with the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee.

Alex Salmond told the committee that there had been no direct discussions with the Prime Minister over the release of Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, as it was a matter purely for the Scottish Government.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the decision to release Mr Al-Megrahi was "mine and mine alone", and denied a claim from Conservative MP David Mundell that Holyrood could have communicated more effectively with counterparts in Westminster.

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael questioned why Mr MacAskill had gone to speak to Mr Al-Megrahi directly, rather than through his legal team, and wondered if he would do this every time that there was the possiblity of an early release or transfer agreement.

Mr McAskill responded that these were exceptional circumstances and that the request had come from a government, rather than an individual prisoner.

Earlier in the session, Alex Salmond and Sir John Elvidge, Scotland's top civil servant, gave evidence into civil service co-operation and communication.

In November 2009, the Westminster government published a White Paper as a response to the Calman Commission's enquiry into the development of devolution.

A chapter of the White Paper was devoted to improving co-operation between the two governments, in particular by recommending better use of the Joint Ministerial Council, which brings together ministers and officials from Holyrood and Westminster.

The Calman Commission recommended that the Secretary of State for Scotland should appear annually before a specially convened Scottish Parliament Committee, comprised of the convenors (chairs) of the all the Holyrood committees, similar to Westminster's Liaison Committee.

Mr Salmond said he would be keen for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to reciprocate his appearance in front of a Westminster by addressing committees of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish affairs committee membership

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