Published Date: 22 August 2009
By Tom Peterkin
A FURIOUS anti-Scottish backlash over the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber erupted last night as Americans threatened to cancel trips across the Atlantic and were urged to stop doing business with Scotland.
The Scottish tourism agency VisitScotland confirmed it had received e-mails from Americans saying they no longer wanted to holiday in Scotland in the aftermath of Kenny MacAskill's decision to free Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
The anti-Scottish feeling was fuelled by a new website called Boycott Scotland, which published Mr MacAskill's e-mail address and called on Americans to contact him directly to register their anger.
The website said: "Unless the Scottish Government rescinds this decision to release al-Megrahi, and if the British parliament continues to avoid intervening in the matter, we urge all Americans to protest this action by boycotting the United Kingdom and Scotland in full.
"Don't travel to Scotland or do business there (or in the United Kingdom in general) and don't buy any British or Scottish products."
VisitScotland suggested the website's creation was insignificant when compared with the number of Americans who regularly come to Scotland to spend their dollars.
But the agency admitted it had already had messages from the United States asking if Scottish holidays could be cancelled.
A spokeswoman said: "The strong and enduring relationship between Scotland and the United States will continue, as will the friendship between the American and Scottish people.
"Our priority is ensuring that American visitors and tourists are extended a very warm welcome to Scotland. One unattributed website is not a significant factor, when compared to the thousands of US citizens who visit and will continue to visit Scotland."
But just a few hours after Megrahi was seen stepping on to Libyan soil after being freed from HMP Greenock, the tourism agency revealed Americans had already started contacting them to indicate their displeasure at the decision.
"We have had several e-mails from people saying they may cancel," the spokeswoman said.
Iain Herbert, chief executive of the independent trade body the Scottish Tourism Forum, said: "This certainly means that we are going to have to work much harder than normal to attract Americans over here."
Americans are the biggest contributors to Scotland's £980 million overseas tourism market, accounting for 14 per cent of foreign visitors.
First Minister Alex Salmond insisted: "The relationship between Scotland and the United States is deep and enduring and will continue to be deep and enduring. We can't have a relationship based on always agreeing with each other. We have to have the ability to disagree where our system takes us in a different direction."
CBI Scotland director Iain MacMillan was hopeful that the economic damage would not be too severe. He said: "We came to America's side on 9-11, we have fought at the side of America in Iraq, we are close allies and I hope that this parting of company over Megrahi will be seen in the context of a much bigger alliance with America."
Despite the First Minister's confidence that Scottish/American relations would not be soured in the long term, a different story was emerging in cyberspace.
The Scotsman was bombarded by members of the public, who added their fury to the anger already expressed by US relatives and politicians by posting their views on our scotsman.com website.
"For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my Scottish heritage," said Richard Gordon from Florida.
Jim Yanacek, from Maryland, said Megrahi did not display any "compassion or conscience" when he "slaughtered the men, women and children on the aircraft".
But Mr MacAskill had some supporters. Carol Hamilton, of Pittsburgh, said that the release of a dying man was "high-minded, noble and eminently civilised. What he (MacAskill] said speaks well for Scotland and Scottish values."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "Mr MacAskill made it clear in his statement that he expected that there would be opposition to his decision and that he understood the hurt and pain that the families would be feeling. But a decision had to be made and he has taken that decision."
Americans are not going to punish Scotland for this by staying away in my opinion. I certainly do not hold this against the Scots although it makes me deeply sad. What has occurred to me is how the politicians of both our nations are much too cozy with oil companies and multinational corporations. Most of us in the US are shocked and disappointed by the release of Megrahi because now no one will ever know the truth about Pan Am Flight 103 and there will be no justice for the 270 souls lost over Lockerby. Sadly this move by Mr.Salmond reminds me of something Bush would do for a lucrative oil contract. President Obama is struggling with Israel and the Palestinians and with Iraq and Afghanistan and I do not think he will want to start any rows with old allies. While relations may cool some between Washington and Scotland I do not think it will be a long lasting freeze. What no one seems to understand in the UK press about all this schmoozing in the past by Mr. Salmond with American politicians is that Mr.Salmond was courting the conservatives and racist right wing in the USA. He was not courting respectable politicians who value human rights. Mr. Salmond's friend Trent Lott is one of the most despicable politicians ever to emerge from the deep South here in America. I know Lott started Tartan Day which I love but he is still a despicable person who left office under a cloud. Lott is a segregationist and hails from the poorest state in the USA, Mississippi where racism is an enormous social problem. For this reason I do not respect Mr. Alex Salmond. There is a sinister white-supremacy movement in the American South that has long been nurtured by Trent Lott and the likes of the now deceased Strom Thurmond his long time good friend. These people Mr. Salmond is friends with here are people who would like to see America segregated as it was before the civil rights movement took hold. They are also mostly fundamentalist Christians who think any form of socialism is the same as hard line communism. I am very surprised I have not heard anyone in the UK mention the fact Salmond courts racists and fundamentalists in the USA. I truly would like to see the SNP find a leader without this baggage. Salmond does not have the power to arrange trade deals but he certainly gave this exchange the OK. Gordon Brown and Blair most likely gave the nod to trading oil contracts in exchange for freeing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. Had Alex Salmond stood up and said something strongly against this he could have stopped this whole train. His silence is deafening.
-Beth Maxwell Boyle