Until very recently, British Petroleum chief executive Tony Hayward could hardly be described as “outgoing”. Candour and transparency were unfortunately absent when he was dragged by the smart lapel to appear before a US congressional hearing trying to bottom out the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, however, he is definitely “outgoing” as the back of his immaculate BP hard hat heads for the door with an annual pension of £600,000, a years salary of £1million and a package of benefits and share options worth an estimated £11million secured in the back pocket of his gleaming boiler suit.
Having lost the main candidate for blame, the congressional committee need to find another scapegoat to appease their oil industry masters. Step forward one Kenny MacAskill, MSP. Quite how the Scottish National Party cabinet secretary for justice in the Scottish Parliament is implicated in the nasty stuff currently coating Louisiana pelicans is a fishy tale that will be a mystery to most marine wildlife. However, it gives an insight into the way that multi-national oil companies, and others, manipulate national governments and, of course, the other way round. Someone, anyone, must take the blame.
In 1988, MacAskill was an Edinburgh lawyer harbouring an interest in Scottish independence and Tony Hayward was working for BP as a geologist on an oil rig somewhere off Aberdeen. At that time, those occupying the corridors of power in Whitehall and Westminster referred to Scotland as Disneyland because: “It dis nae work, it dis nae vote Tory and it dis nae f*****g matter”.
The events of the night of 21 December 1988, when the bits, pieces and contents of Pan Am flight 103 fell from the skies over Lockerbie, changed all that.
Years and years and years went by until the world decided that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines, was the guy who planted the bomb. Tried and convicted in the Netherlands under Scottish law, Al Megrahi was and, more importantly, is, something of a genius to concoct such an elaborate and complex plot to kill 270 people on his own. Twelve years after the Clipper Maid of the Seas became forever a part of Dumfries and Galloway, Al Magrahi was packed off to Barlinnie prison for a life sentence.
Fast forward to 2007 when “Oor Kenny” is now in the Scottish Parliament dealing with a “home-grown” terrorist attack on Glasgow airport and Tony Hayward, now CEO at BP is looking at some lucrative deep-water off-shore oil deposits in the Gulf of Sirte which is, err, in Libyan territorial waters. A year later Al Megrahi is given weeks to live after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and is released on compassionate grounds after serving eight and a half years. A prisoner transfer agreement was considered inappropriate. He received a heroes welcome when he arrived back in Tripoli where hundreds of delighted locals waved The Saltire in recognition of Scottish largess.
The congressional committee, denied the scalp of Haywood, now want to give MacAskill a good talking too because the release of the convicted bomber has been linked to suggestions that his freedom was a condition of the deal between Libya and BP. Kenny and the Scottish Parliament have, quite rightly, declined the invitation stating that a democratically elected sovereign government is not answerable to a panel of American congressmen. David Cameron, new to power, wasted no time in distancing the Westminster government from any involvement and basically slagged off the Scottish executive for the benefit of the US media. Strange that the committee have not requested the attendance of Colonel “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” Muammar al-Gaddafi or his charming son regarding the alleged oil deal.
Libya accepted “responsibility for the actions of it officials” regarding the Lockerbie bombing two years after Al Megrahi was convicted and paid about US$10million to each of the families of the 270 victims.
BP have announced losses of £11billion partly as a result of the Deepwater Horizon clean-up and Hayward, clutching his £11million Sterling pension pot, has been symbolically sent to Siberia as a non-executive director of TNK-BP, a joint venture between Russia and BP. Tony needs to be careful though. A few tough questions from the hawks in Congress is nothing compared for what might be in store if he gets on the wrong side of a Russian oil oligarch.
Scotland needs to have a care as well. The US has something of a track record when dealing with small countries who have the temerity to wish to control their destinies and oil reserves. Upset the oil companies and you may find the 7th Cavalry turning up in landing craft on Gourock beach and the 101st Airborne abseiling down from helicopters onto the 18th green at Carnoustie.
The record loss incurred by BP is likely to impact upon the fortunes of Hayward as the latest and richest British pensioner but not as much as those who belong to pension funds that have invested heavily in BP and will soon experience the raising of retirement age to 67. At the age of 53 and after three years as CEO, Hayward steps down as Greenpeace blockade BP petrol stations in London as a protest against the dreadful environmental and safety record of the company. BP have described the protest as “an irresponsible and childish act which is interfering with safety systems”.
After Deepwater Horizon, that seems a bit rich.