Boycott calls over bomber release
Calls for a boycott of Scottish goods have been made in the US following the controversial decision to release the man convicted of carrying out the Lockerbie bombing.
A website urging Americans to "Boycott Scotland" has been set up featuring a list of e-mail addresses for prominent Scottish and UK politicians, as well as contact details for Scottish newspapers and a list of Scottish products and companies.
The site accuses the Scottish and UK governments of committing a "flagrant betrayal" by releasing Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.
It said a boycott was the "only way to send a clear and direct message" of American anger over the decision.
An online petition calling for a boycott of Scottish goods which was linked to by the website had attracted 460 signatures by Monday morning.
However, many of those who had signed were Scots who backed the release of Megrahi on compassionate grounds.
A second petition said to have been started by Scots opposed to Megrahi's release had been signed by about 250 people on Monday, many of them anonymous.
Grassroots campaigns were also taking hold on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, while calls have even been made to have Scotch whisky renamed as Freedom Liquor.
Tourist body VisitScotland said it had received e-mails from Americans pledging to cancel holidays in Scotland.
Visitors from the US accounted for 340,000 trips to Scotland in 2008, and spent £260m in the country, according to figures published by VisitScotland.
This accounted for 21% of spending by people from outside the UK.
VisitScotland spokeswoman Alison Robb said: "We have had e-mails from people in America saying they're going to cancel their holidays but have had no cancellations through our booking engine.
"We have alerted our staff and made them aware of the situation."
However, she confirmed that a US advertising campaign for the Year of Homecoming will still go ahead next month as planned.
The States is Scotland's single biggest export market, with some £2.3bn of Scottish goods sold to America in 2007. Whisky exports alone were worth £370m.
But members of the whisky industry have told BBC Scotland they were confident any boycott would soon fizzle out and not pose a long-term threat to sales.
And the Scottish North America Business Council said Scotland's relationship with America should not be affected by the decision to release Megrahi.
It said the issue was a political rather than a business one, and it was unaware of any anti-Scottish sentiment in terms of business or trade links.
Tom Rivers, ABC radio's correspondent in the UK, said the early release of the terminally-ill Megrahi was vey much a "hot" topic in the US media.
He said it was being widely discussed on the talk show circuit, and well as the television morning shows and the tabloid press.
This had been accompanied by a "growing phenomenon of flak" on the internet, he said, with websites calling for boycotts of Scottish goods and for people not to holiday in the UK.
Mr Rivers said: "You think back six years to when French Fries were renamed in America as Freedom Fries, when French wine was being poured down the gutters of certain streets in certain large cities in America. I think it is symbolic, I think it is a bit superficial, but that sentiment is there.
"How does it change? What can people like Gordon Brown do and say to change public perception in America? It is a big question."
An annual Tartan Week of events in New York has been held in recent years, with the aim of giving Scotland a higher profile in the US in a bid to attract tourism.
"The Scots are loved in America so this [calls for a boycott] is out of left field, we have never seen anything like this before," Mr Rivers added.
"As to how it will evolve and change, we will just need to sit back and watch because it will be hard to read, but I think there is going to be more flak in the coming days.
"It may be yesterday's news next month, but right now it is hot."
Mr Rivers said Americans had been told that the Scottish legal system was the "gold standard" for the world at the time of Megrahi's trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001, and there had not been the same controversy over Megrahi's conviction in the US as there has been elsewhere.
He added: "Now that these questions have been raised once again Americans are saying 'I don't want to go back to square one and have to re-examine evidence and rethink.'
"They are saying 'Megrahi is the one who done it - how can you guys release him?'"