There’s been no post on here about the various rows surrounding Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber now living out his days in Tripoli, because I don’t have much to say about it. The constitutional position is utterly straightforward, and pretty clearly set out in pieces by Gerry Hassan here, Hamish Macdonell here and Alex Massie here. They all say pretty much the same thing – which is striking to anyone who follows the Scottish press at all, and knows how different the views of those three are. And there’s a report from the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee published in February, available here, which reveals significant party-political divisions in considering the issue. But of course this was the Scottish Parliament considering a devolved matter which had been dealt with by a Scottish Minister.
The most puzzling thing about this to me is the way Americans have responded to a straightforward division-of-powers issue. I’m often struck by the way US scholars, politicians and the public more generally expect other countries to have federal systems more or less like theirs. (Most federal systems aren’t, which causes a huge amount of confusion.) This is one of few respects in which the Scotland-UK relationship does pretty much resemble that between federal and state jurisdictions in the US, and yet has been misunderstood from the US Senate downward.