Majority of Scots now oppose Megrahi's release

A majority of Scots now oppose the release of the Lockerbie bomber, an exclusive poll for STV News has revealed.

The Ipsos/Mori poll of 1013 people showed 54% disgreed with the decision to allow Abdelbaset al Megrahi to return home to Libya to die, with 35% agreeing.

It reveals a shift in public opinion compared with a poll carried by the same company, asking the same question, in August last year. The results then were closer, with 46% disagreeing with the decision and 42% agreeing.

Megrahi is the only person convicted over the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie that claimed the lives of 270 people. It comes as Scotland's First Minister defended the doctor whose prognosis led to the release of the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi was freed from Greenock prison on August 20 last year after his diagnosis with terminal prostate cancer. The bomber returned to jubilant scenes in Libya where he remains alive, despite being given a prognosis of three months to live.

Alex Salmond said Andrew Fraser, director of health at the Scottish Prison Service, followed a process of "complete integrity".

He said that no one should "seriously doubt either his professional or personal integrity".

Mr Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that it was Dr Fraser's job to "compile and to present a prognosis based on the medical notes, that is the case records, from the range of people involved in Mr Megrahi's case".

He said: "The medical officer, in this case the head and director of medicine at the Scottish Prison Service, because of the importance of the case, is the person who gives the prognosis on the basis of all the available evidence that he or she can summon. That's the only way you can do it because if you did it in any other way you'd be reduced to having a contest between various doctors.

"The person responsible is the director of health for the Scottish Prison Service. This is a physician of great experience and I don't think anyone should seriously doubt either his professional or personal integrity."

Mr Salmond said the same procedure has been followed in all of the 40 cases reviewed in the last 17 years. During this time there have been four cases of people surviving beyond one year.

Mr Salmond said there was only one medical report on prognosis in existence - and that is the one produced by Dr Fraser.

He added: "Obviously people are going to have a range of views about the rights and wrongs of the decision that we made in the case of Mr Megrahi.

"All we ask people to do is to accept it was a decision that was made in good faith following the due procedures that we have under the legislation and under the tenants of Scots law."

The Scottish Government released the results of a poll it had commissioned on Thursday. It did not ask for the public's opinion on the decision but did reveal that most Scots believe it was correct that the decision to release the prisoner was made in Scotland and that the SNP administration was right to turn down American requests to attend a senate inquiry.

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