Public support for the SNP’s decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing – has waned in recent months, according to research by Ipsos MORI.
Analysts have also said that the decision by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in August 2009 was the most high-profile justice issue of the last Scottish Parliament.
Writing in an article that will appear in Holyrood’s upcoming manifesto series, Vickie Chamberlain, Associate Director at Ipsos MORI, said: “The release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the most controversial decision made by the Scottish Government during the Parliament, and one which continues to have international ramifications.
“Our data, first collected shortly after his release in August 2009 and then again around a year later, illustrates that Scots have tended to lose support in the decision over time.
“In the most recent survey, just over a third (36 per cent) said they agreed with the decision, compared with more than two in five (42 per cent) the previous year.” She added: “Conversely, just over half of respondents (54 per cent) in 2010 disagreed with the Scottish Government’s decision to release him, compared with 45 per cent a year before.
“Criticism of the decision is most strongly expressed by Scottish Conservative supporters. However, backing of the decision has waned among supporters of all parties.” On justice matters generally, Chamberlain added it was one of the most controversial areas in the last Scottish Parliament.
She added: “Issues relating to crime and justice have been enduring concerns for the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government and Scottish society. Although recorded crime has fallen in recent years, it remains one of the primary issues of importance for Scots and has provided some of the most hotly debated issues during the current Parliament.”