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Kenny MacAskill

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Title: Kenny MacAskill  
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Subject: Lothians (Scottish Parliament electoral region), Edinburgh Eastern (Scottish Parliament constituency), Lothian (Scottish Parliament electoral region), Michael Matheson (politician), Nicola Sturgeon
Collection: 1958 Births, Alumni of the University of Edinburgh, Justice Ministers of Scotland, Living People, Members of the Scottish Parliament 1999–2003, Members of the Scottish Parliament 2003–07, Members of the Scottish Parliament 2007–11, Members of the Scottish Parliament 2011–, Members of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Constituencies, People Educated at Linlithgow Academy, People from West Lothian, Scottish National Party Msps, Scottish Solicitors
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Kenny MacAskill

Kenny MacAskill
Cabinet Secretary for Justice
In office
17 May 2007 – 21 November 2014
First Minister Alex Salmond
Preceded by Cathy Jamieson
Succeeded by Michael Matheson
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Edinburgh Eastern
Edinburgh East and Musselburgh 2007–2011
Assumed office
3 May 2007
Preceded by Susan Deacon
Majority 2233 (7.3%)
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Lothians
In office
6 May 1999 – 3 May 2007
Personal details
Born (1958-04-28) 28 April 1958
Edinburgh, Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Political party Scottish National Party
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Profession Solicitor

Kenneth "Kenny" Wright MacAskill (born 28 April 1958) is a Scottish National Party (SNP) politician, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Eastern, and former Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish Government.

MacAskill studied law at the University of Edinburgh and worked as a solicitor and was a senior partner in an Edinburgh law firm, before being elected as an MSP in 1999. He was a long-standing member of the SNP's National Executive Committee and has served as National Treasurer and Vice Convener of Policy. He was convener of the Scottish Parliament Subordinate Legislation Committee (1999-2001), and served in the SNP Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning (2001-2003), Shadow Minister for Transport and Telecommunications (2003-2004) and Shadow Minister for Justice (2004-2007).

Following the SNP's victory in the 2007 Scottish Parliament Election, MacAskill was appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Justice. He left office in November 2014 in the Cabinet reshuffle which followed the appointment of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister of Scotland.


  • Background, early life and career 1
  • Member of the Scottish Parliament (1999 - ) 2
    • Cabinet Secretary for Justice (2007 - 2014) 2.1
      • Pan Am Flight 103 2.1.1
        • Reaction
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Background, early life and career

MacAskill was born in Edinburgh and was educated at Linlithgow Academy before studying law at the University of Edinburgh. After completing his training at a firm in Glasgow, he set up Erskine MacAskill.

He came to prominence inside the SNP through his activities in the left wing 79 Group and became a party office bearer. In the 1980s he led the "Can't Pay, Won't Pay" campaign in opposition to the Poll Tax. It was widely known that he often disagreed politically with Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP through the 1990s, and he was at one stage viewed as belonging to the SNP Fundamentalist camp, being perceived to be allied to figures such as Jim Sillars and Alex Neil within the party.

Member of the Scottish Parliament (1999 - )

After MacAskill became on MSP in 1999 upon the establishment of the Scottish Parliament as a regional list member for the Lothians he moderated his political position, seeing the development of the Scottish Parliament as the most achievable route for Scotland to become an independent nation state. In this respect he was regarded as having adopted a gradualist approach to Scottish independence in place of his previous fundamentalist position. He was one of former SNP leader John Swinney's closest supporters.

In 1999 MacAskill was detained in London before the Euro 2000 second leg play-off match between Scotland and England on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly.[1] As he was not charged with any crime the incident did not affect his position within the SNP and he won re-election at the 2003 election.

In 2004, after John Swinney stood down as SNP party leader, Kenny MacAskill backed the joint leadership ticket of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. He had initially intended to stand for deputy leader himself on a joint ticket with Nicola Sturgeon, who would have sought the leadership. He gave way when Salmond reconsidered his earlier decision not to seek re-election to the leadership. Upon their election as leader and deputy leader respectively MacAskill was selected to be the SNP's deputy leader in the Scottish Parliament, making him the shadow Deputy First Minister.

MacAskill authored a book, 'Building a Nation - Post Devolution Nationalism in Scotland', which was launched at the SNP's 2004 annual conference in Inverness. He has since edited another book 'Agenda for a New Scotland - Visions of Scotland 2020' and has co-authored 'Global Scots - Voices From Afar' with former First Minister Henry McLeish.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice (2007 - 2014)

For the 2007 Scottish Parliament election MacAskill was top of the SNP's party list for the Lothians region. He stood in the Edinburgh East and Musselburgh constituency, winning that seat from the Scottish Labour Party with a 13.3% swing to give a majority of 1,382. This was the first time the SNP had ever won a parliamentary seat in Edinburgh. After the SNP's victory at the 2007 Scottish Parliament Election, MacAskill became the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

One of MacAskill's first acts as a cabinet secretary was to lift the ban on alcohol sales at international rugby union games held at Murrayfield Stadium.[2]

MacAskill also said that the 2007 terror attack on Glasgow Airport was not committed by 'home-grown' terrorists in that the suspects were not "born or bred" in Scotland but had merely lived in the country for a "period of time".[3]

MacAskill won election to a redrawn constituency of Edinburgh Eastern in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election.[4] Despite notionally facing a deficit of 550 votes,[5] MacAskill won by over 2000 votes.[4]

Pan Am Flight 103

On 19 August 2009, MacAskill rejected an application by Libya to transfer to their custody Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the Pan Am Flight 103 bomb that killed 270 people, acknowledging that "the American families and Government had an expectation or were led to believe that there would be no prisoner transfer."[6] MacAskill authorised al-Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds. Megrahi had served 8½ years of a life sentence, but had developed terminal prostate cancer.[7][8] The Justice Secretary has discretionary authority to order such a release, and MacAskill took sole responsibility for the decision.[9][10] Megrahi died on 20 May 2012.


In the United States, where 180 of the 270 victims came from, the decision met with broad hostility. Political figures including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against it,[11][12] and families of the victims expressed indignation over the decision.[13] FBI director Robert Mueller, who had been a lead investigator in the 1988 bombing, wrote a highly critical open letter to MacAskill.[14] Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish was critical of Mueller's attack on the decision.[15]

In Britain, reaction was divided. Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray, former First Minister Jack McConnell, and former Scottish Office minister Brian Wilson criticised the decision,[16][17] while Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, former Labour MP Tam Dalyell and former British ambassador to Libya Richard Dalton publicly supported it.[18][19] Ian Galloway and Mario Conti, representatives of the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church respectively, also spoke in favour of the release.[20]

John Mosey, a priest who lost a daughter on Pan Am Flight 103, expressed his disappointment that halting Megrahi’s appeal before it went to court meant that the public would never hear "this important evidence — the six separate grounds for appeal that the SCCRC felt were important enough to put forward, that could show that there’s been a miscarriage of justice."[21] Saif al-Islam Gaddafi reiterated his belief in Megrahi's innocence commenting that the Justice Secretary had "made the right decision" and that history would prove this to be the case.[22] A letter in support of MacAskill's decision was sent to the Scottish Government on behalf of former South African President Nelson Mandela.[23]

The Scottish Parliament was recalled from its summer break, for the third time since its creation, to receive a statement from and question MacAskill.[24] The opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament passed amendments criticising the decision and the way it was made, but no motions of confidence in MacAskill or the Scottish Government were tabled.[25]

After MacAskill won re-election to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, a Scottish National Party supporter said that the decision had been mentioned by very few voters during the election campaign.[26]

See also


  1. ^ "Arrest incident 'closed', insists SNP".  
  2. ^ Murrayfield toasts lifting of drinks ban, The Times 9 June 2007
  3. ^ "'"Terrorists not 'home-grown.  
  4. ^ a b "Scottish election: SNP changes Edinburgh political map". BBC News. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Dinwoodie, Robbie (30 March 2011). "Key Holyrood election battles".  
  6. ^ UK Cabinet Office, Cabinet Secretary's Review of Papers Relating to the Release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi 11 ¶ 31 (Feb. 7, 2011) available at
  7. ^ [3] Archived March 21, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Cancer expert says Megrahi is not responding to treatment". The Herald. 2009-08-20. 
  9. ^ "Transcript: Scotland official talks of Lockerbie release". Cable News Network. 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  10. ^ "Lockerbie bomber debate - as it happened". Scotsman. 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  11. ^ Adam, Karla (21 August 2009). "Man Convicted in Lockerbie Bombing Is Released From Scottish Prison". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Carrell, Severin (21 August 2009). "Barack Obama attacks decision to free Lockerbie bomber". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  13. ^ See, e.g.,
  14. ^ "The full letter from the FBI Director on the Lockerbie bomber release". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 August 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  15. ^ FBI chief's attack 'out of order' - McLeish.
  16. ^ See Brian Wilson (2009-08-21). "Lockerbie bomber: The SNP's Libya stunt has shamed my nation". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Alex Salmond defends release of Lockerbie bomber". The Daily Telegraph (London). 23 August 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  19. ^ [4], BBC News.
  20. ^ FBI chief's attack 'out of order' - Conti, BBC News, 24 August 2009.
  21. ^ Mackey, Robert (21 August 2009). "Lockerbie, the Unanswered Questions". New York Times. 
  22. ^ Carrell, Severin (28 August 2009). "Efforts to release Lockerbie bomber linked with trade, says Gaddafi's son". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  23. ^ "Mandela backs Lockerbie decision". BBC. 30 August 2009. 
  24. ^ "Holyrood recall over freed bomber". BBC News. 2009-08-20. 
  25. ^ SNP defeated over bomber release, BBC News, 2 September 2009.
  26. ^ Hannan, Martin (6 May 2011). "Martin Hannan: The battle for independence starts now".  

External links

  • Kenny MacAskill MSP official site
  • Kenny MacAskill MSP Scottish Parliament webpage
  • Kenny MacAskill MSP biography at SNP website
  • An independent Scotland hinges on its economy Kenny MacAskill's article in The Scotsman 2 June 2005
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gordon Wilson
Scottish National Party Vice Chairman (Local Government)
Succeeded by
Gil Paterson
Preceded by
Tom Chalmers
Treasurer of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by
Ian Blackford
Scottish Parliament
Preceded by
Constituency created
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Eastern
Preceded by
Susan Deacon
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Cathy Jamieson
Cabinet Secretary for Justice
Succeeded by
Michael Matheson
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