http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/south_of_scotland/8197370.stm The Lockerbie bomber is to be released on compassionate grounds, the Scottish Government has announced. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, was jailed in 2001 for the atrocity which claimed 270 lives in 1988. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed that the Libyan, who has terminal prostate cancer, would be allowed to return to his homeland. The US Government said it "deeply regretted" the Scottish Government's decision to release Megrahi. The BBC understands he will be flown to Tripoli on a specially chartered plane due to leave Glasgow after 1400 BST. The government said it had consulted widely before Mr MacAskill made his decision on applications for Megrahi's compassionate release or his transfer to a Libyan jail. Megrahi had applied for release or transfer to a Libyan prison He told a media conference on Thursday that he had rejected the application for a prisoner transfer. However, after taking medical advice it was expected that three months was a "reasonable estimate" of the time Megrahi had left to live. He ruled out the option of the Libyan being allowed to live in Scotland on security grounds. And he stressed that he accepted the conviction and sentence which had been handed to Megrahi. However, Mr Macaskill said Scots defined themselves by their humanity. "Mr al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them. "But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days." Mr MacAskill continued: "Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available. "Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs the we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people - no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated. "For these reasons and these reasons alone, it is my decision that Mr Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminaly ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die." Mr MacAskill had been under intense pressure from the US government to keep Megrahi behind bars, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying his release would be "absolutely wrong". I am ashamed to be Scottish today. Where is the justice for the victims? Ross MacDonald, Edinburgh Send us your comment Some 189 Americans were among those who died in the airliner explosion. However, the Scottish Government insisted the decision had been reached "on the basis of clear evidence and on no other factors". Reacting to the decision, the White House said in a statement: "The United States deeply regrets the decision by the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi. "As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland. "On this day, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of their loved ones. We recognize the effects of such a loss weigh upon a family forever." Families of victims of the bombing gave a mixed response after the BBC reported news of his imminent release. We believe he has only a very short period of time to live Prof Karol Sikora Victoria Cummock, who lost her husband in the atrocity, said freeing him was "morally incomprehensible". She said: "This man is a mass murderer - and if you do a crime you have to pay the time." However, Martin Cadman, whose son was killed, said recently that he believed it was the "right thing to do". Medical experts have said they believe Megrahi has little time left to live. Prof Karol Sikora, who visited him in prison, said the Libyan had an "aggressive" form of prostate cancer which was no longer responding to treatment. Appeal dropped "We believe he has only a very short period of time to live," he said. Megrahi was convicted of murder in January 2001 at a trial held under Scottish law in the Netherlands. A first appeal against that verdict was rejected the following year. However, in 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission granted him a second appeal. It subsequently emerged he was suffering from terminal cancer but a bid to have him granted bail was refused. His second appeal got under way this year but shortly afterwards applications were made for both his transfer to a Libyan jail and release on compassionate grounds. Earlier this week the High Court in Edinburgh allowed Megrahi's application to drop his second appeal.