[This is the headline over an article just published on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]
The Justice for Megrahi Committee, the group who have garnered an international coalition of signatories to a petition calling for a full investigation of the Pan Am 103 event and its aftermath, have written to the First Minister querying his refusal to sign their petition, accusing him of raising "more questions than answers" in his response to the invitation.
"Albeit that he has declined offer, we accept his decision. However, the message delivered by the Scottish Government’s spokesman in response to the invitation raises more questions than it answers insofar as it comes across as confusing and contradictory," the group said.
The committee, who have gathered signatories to their cause as diverse as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Pilger, Professor Noam Chomsky, Kate Adie and Parliamentarians Tam Dalyell and Sir Teddy Taylor, have asked Salmond to respond to six questions raised by the response submitted to them in Salmond's name, in which he appears to contradict his earlier position that he was willing to take part in an inquiry into the Pan Am 103 event, the discredited trial and the debacle surrounding Megrahi's release.
"Mr Salmond continues to maintain his stance that the Scottish Government is satisfied with the safety of Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction, thus setting himself squarely against the findings of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in their referral of the case to the Court of Appeal," the group said.
"He does, however, state that he would co-operate fully with an inquiry by an independent authority such as the United Nations.
"Further to this, according to the Scottish Government’s spokesman, despite confidence in the safety of the verdict, “there remain concerns on the wider issues of the Lockerbie atrocity.” If these “concerns” differ from those of JFM’s, what are they? JFM would very much like the Scottish Government to clarify which “concerns” it is alluding to.
"Mr Salmond also consistently contends, as has been reiterated via the Scottish Government’s spokesman in response to the JFM invitation, that “the questions to be asked and answered in any such inquiry would be beyond the jurisdiction of Scots Law and the remit of the Scottish Government, and such an inquiry would, therefore, need to be initiated by those with the required power and authority to deal with an issue, international in its nature.”
"With the greatest respect, JFM disputes this. The international nature of the event was not such an impediment when it came to trying Messrs al-Megrahi and Fhimah at Zeist in the first instance, was it? What then is the obstruction now, when it comes to opening a Holyrood inquiry into the safety of a verdict reached under Scots Law?"
The Justice for Megrahi committee's membership includes Dr Jim Swire and Professor Robert Black QC, whose guidance on these matters allowed the international trial to be convened in the Netherlands under Scots law.
"JFM and its signatories seek clarification on the questions raised here resultant from the statement delivered by the Scottish Government’s spokesman. We list the questions below for Mr Salmond’s convenience.
-What are the wider concerns over the Lockerbie case as mentioned in the Scottish Government spokesman’s statement?
-Does the Scottish Government have the authority to set up inquiries?
-If the answer to question 2 is in the negative, under whose auspices was the 2003 inquiry into the Scottish Parliament building project, headed by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, set up?
-If the answer to question 2 is in the negative, is, therefore, the judiciary of Scotland sacrosanct and beyond the scrutiny of the people of Scotland, who pay for it?
-Is the First Minister going to lobby Westminster to request that either UN General Assembly or the Security Council set up an inquiry into the Lockerbie case?
-Given that such a considerable quantity of the evidence required for such inquiry falls under Scottish jurisdiction, what precisely is preventing the Scottish Government from opening an inquiry into the evidence already available to it?"
The full letter to Salmond can be read here.
[As regards question 2, I -- in my wonted spirit of helpfulness -- suggest that the First Minister and his advisers start researching their answer by consulting the Inquiries Act 2005 (c12), particularly sections 1, 27, 28 and 32.
The coverage of this story on the Newsnet Scotland website can be accessed here.]