[This is the headline over a long article by Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday. The first section covers the well-trodden ground of the Scottish government's reasons for not sending witnesses to the Senate hearing and former UK minister Jack Staw's reasons for also refusing. The second section is more interesting -- particularly in a newspaper with the political stance of this one. It contains the following:]
With the two governments having rehearsed their lines over and again, it is hard to see how, even if they hauled Straw and MacAskill over in manacles, they would get further than the simple facts which the two governments can lean upon. MacAskill released Megrahi because he was ill. Straw and BP didn't release Megrahi because they couldn't.
End of story? Not quite. For relatives such as Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among those killed in December 1988, the hope is that the questionable genesis of the Senate inquiry, and the buck-passing of its witnesses, will not deter it from a more thorough investigation; into the trial of Megrahi himself.
Here the controversy really begins. For while BP's alleged involvement has created all the heat in Washington in recent weeks, the slow-burning story of Megrahi's prosecution is likely to last for much longer. Lockerbie veterans such as former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who has long believed in Megrahi's innocence, thinks there is an obvious reason why MacAskill decided to free Megrahi. Yes, because he was terminally ill. But also: "I think he and Alex Salmond know in their heart of hearts that Megrahi was an innocent man who had nothing to do with Lockerbie."
He goes on: "Of course they can't say this because if they were to say it, here would be an SNP government decrying the quality of Scottish justice. It would be saying that Scottish justice had made an almighty fool of itself in the eyes of the world."
Dalyell and other sceptics such as Swire and UN Observer Hans Kochler, all argue that Megrahi's release was inextricably linked to the prisoner's decision to drop his appeal just before he was released last year. Minutes from the controversial meeting MacAskill had with Megrahi in Greenock jail show that the Justice Secretary raised the question of the appeal with Megrahi, warning him that the Scottish Government could "only grant a transfer if there are no court proceedings ongoing".
Megrahi had already been informed that the PTA request and compassionate release request (which was not affected by the appeal) would be taken together. There is no evidence in the minutes of any deal being brokered, but questions about why that meeting took place are now being raised. Kochler declared: "It is entirely appropriate to ask whether the decisive motive might have been the termination of proceedings so that the Scottish, UK and US administrations in the handing of the Lockerbie case would never be fully scrutinised in a court of law." Swire, Kochler and Dalyell all believe the matter needs to be examined.
For many American relatives who are convinced of Megrahi's guilt, such an inquiry into the reliability of the conviction would be met with dismay. Kochler and others are "conspiracy buffs", they argue The evidence linking Megrahi to the crime was clear. But the fact is that the senate inquiry, however misguided in its approach, is now focusing attention once more on the original claims: the Iranian connection; the claims of baggage on Flight 103 being tampered with at Heathrow; the evidence allegedly planted on the scene; the complicity of the US and UK Governments in a cover-up; and whether an innocent man was put in the dock.
The logical lesson to be taken from last week's buck-passing is clear.
If the US Senate cannot get the answers, then surely a proper inquiry should be called. The US Senators themselves have acknowledged this.
Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the four who called this week's hearing, declared: "The only way to restore the integrity of what happened and to continue the integrity of the British government is to do a full and complete investigation." Only a few weeks ago – before he took office – David Cameron agreed, arguing in the strongest terms that the matters most be probed.
Now in office, he is vacillating. It was Jack Straw and Kenny MacAskill who played the blame game last week. But if Cameron refuses to act over the coming weeks, he may go down as the biggest buck-passer of them all.