Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 28 July 2010

US Senate forced to accept its writ does not extend outside the US

So the US Senate has postponed its hearing on whether BP influenced the release of Megrahi from a Scottish prison. I wrote about this last week here.

As I have written at length, I disagreed strongly and fundamentally with the decision of the Scottish Executive (aka 'Scottish Government') to release Megrahi, a convicted criminal, on grounds of 'compassion'. However, I have always accepted that it had the right to make that decision in accordance with its interpretation of Scots Law, even though that decision was entirely discretionary and wrong in my view.

Scots Law, and I am no 'Scottish nationalist' (that hardly needs saying - Ed), is not subordinate to the English 'Common Law' any more than it is to US law. Scotland has always had its own legal system, prior to and since the Act of Union with England and the fact that since 1999 there has been a devolved Scottish Parliament has not fundamentally changed anything, except that many domestic Scottish matters are now dealt with by the Scottish Executive (aka 'Scottish Government') rather than the Secretary of State for Scotland within the UK government.

What is really laughable, though, is that a few US Senators seem to think that their writ extends beyond US borders and that they can effectively coerce governments of foreign countries to appear before their committees. The posturing of a few US Senators ahead of their mid-term elections this November is of no moment to me or anyone outside the US, however interesting and indeed important (in some respects) US domestic politics may be in the wider world. I think Senator Menendez of New Jersey is playing to an audience in his home State ahead of elections, and good luck to him - but it is of absolutely no consequence to our Scottish devolved administration, nor indeed to the UK government, which has, as politely as they can, told he and his colleagues to 'get knotted'. I do not agree with the decision to release Megrahi, but I agree completely with the decision of the Scottish Executive to decline Senator Menendez's 'summons' as completely outrageous. The US Senate can of course hold whatever hearings it cares to, and Senator Menendez can verbally 'stamp his feet' in frustration all he likes, it really is none of my business, but neither he nor the US Senate can compel or coerce the government of a foreign country to submit to its authority; it really is that simple.


  1. Ah, yes. Good old American values: if it affects us, we will try to pursue you to the ends of the Earth. We should have jurisdiction everywhere on the planet, but heaven forbid that any foreign government insist upon prosecuting "one of us".

    Yes, I am an American; I love my country but true patriotism requires honest criticism rather than knee-jerk jingoism.

  2. Hi Jay

    It's great to see you here :) I often visit your blog to learn how you are getting on - much better, of late it seems, I am thankful to say.

    Yes, much as I love America, it sometimes tests one's patience. Our Parliament recently held an inquiry (the 'Chilcott Inquiry') into the reasons for our participation in the Iraq war - I supported that in fact - and a number of US officials (of the last US Administration) were invited to attend. All refused. Quite rightly of course.

    As for BP and Mr Hayward I think a good man has been hounded out of a job by US politics (from President Obama down to that awful Senate committee) and whilst as a commercial company there may have been some justification for his attendance, if not the dreadful treatment he was met with before the Senate committee, there is of course absolutely no way any British or Scottish elected official should submit to a foreign power, even one of our greatest allies such as the US.

    I totally agree with your final paragraph of course - and that applies equally of course to the UK and any other country which professes to stand by decent values. I had hoped things would be slightly better under Obama than they were under Bush II, but raw politics and upcoming elections mean that baser interests tend to take over. Oh well, that's life I suppose.

  3. neither he nor the US Senate can compel or coerce the government of a foreign country to submit to its authority

    But they can had a damn good try, as they have recently done in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

  4. Hi Steve

    Welcome! Yeah well, the UK ain't really comparable with any of the three countries you mention in terms of "push-aroundability", I'd venture ;)


Welcome to my comment area. Whilst all comment is welcome you are requested to respect the views of others. To read full terms for use of this facility, please visit my 'Terms of Use' section, linked to under the 'About this Blog' heading at top right of the blog. Note added 12JUL2010 - All comments will now be pre-moderated before they appear in this blog; this is a measure to prevent 'spam' commenting, which has become frequent of late. Thank you.