ALEX Salmond’s early plans to have a “constructive relationship” with the UK Government were immediately thrown off course by a row over the Lockerbie bomber, official papers have revealed.

Moments after presenting a cabinet paper on trying to work productively with London, the First Minister told colleagues that Tony Blair had struck an unacceptable, secret deal. 

Within days, it became the first major public row between the two administrations, with Mr Salmond complaining personally to the Labour PM about the lack of consultation.

It followed the so-called “deal in the desert” between the UK and Libyan governments over oil and justice matters, including prisoner transfers.

That raised the possible transfer from Scotland of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1998 that killed 270.

However justice and prisons are devolved matters, not ones for the UK Government.

Minutes released by the National Records of Scotland show Mr Salmond took a paper to his cabinet on 5 June 2007 titled “UK Relations: A Strategic Approach”.

It said the aim was to “seek constructive working engagement” to deliver good government in Scotland, but not to be a pushover or sign up to things with which ministers disagreed. 

It said: “We will act, and expect to be treated, as an equal partner.

"We should aim for a constructive and assertive stance in all engagement to promote Scottish interests. We should avoid sending negative or defensive signals, particularly in the early stages, in order to create the best possible climate in which understanding and agreement can be brokered. 

“We should not allow ourselves to be led into a situation where we can be portrayed as signing up to a UK position with which we disagree. But we should be open about the fact that we will not always agree. If we do disagree, we should do so constructively but clearly, leaving as many options open for further discussion as possible. 

“On certain areas of disagreement we may want to say so publicly but we should judge this on a case by case basis in order to avoid an actual or perceived escalation of problems in our relations with the UK.”

Mr Salmond said he had already had a “constructive and friendly” phone call with then Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown, who was due to become Prime Minister later that month.

He intended to write to him when he entered Downing Street on June 27 “to set out my intentions to pursue constructive engagement between our governments”.

However “in the meantime, we should not hold back from taking a tough line with the existing Prime Minister if there are areas where that is warranted, in advance of Mr Brown taking up office”.

In that vein, he told his cabinet about the Lockerbie issue.

The minutes record: “As highlighted in the paper, the First Minister said that it would be important to raise any immediate issues of concern with the current Prime Minister. 

“In that regard, he understood that the UK Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Libya which dealt with judicial cooperation on matters of law, extradition and on the issue of prisoner transfer, which was particularly important, not least in relation to the case of Mr Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted in a Scottish court of the Lockerbie bombing. 

“The First Minister intended to write to the Prime Minister expressing his concern that it was felt appropriate for the UK Government to sign such a memorandum on matters which were clearly devolved to Scotland, without any opportunity for the Scottish Government to contribute. 

“The First Minister said that he would make clear that the lack of prior consultation was not acceptable and that, while the Scottish Government supported the UK Government in its desire for better relations with Libya, any decisions on individual cases should be made following due process and with proper recognition of the independence of the Scottish legal system.”

Two days later, Mr Salmond made an emergency statement to Holyrood expressing his anger at the memorandum of understanding, which apeared to cut across devolved justice issues, and complaining about the lack of consultation.

However six months later Mr Brown finalised the deal started by Mr Blair and the then Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, despite vehement opposition from Edinburgh and claims that the deal was part of London efforts to get UK firms access to Libyan oil fields.

The Scottish Government later rejected Mr Megrahi’s application for transfer to Libya.

However he was released from Greenock prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds after a terminal prostate cancer diagnosis gave him three months to live.

He was given a hero’s welcome in Tripoli and died aged 60 in May 2012.