[This is the headline over a report by Bob Smyth in this week's edition of The Sunday Post. It is not on the newspaper's website but has just been sent to me. It reads as follows:]
The Scottish Government is under pressure to change the law to allow the release of secret files on the Lockerbie case.
Campaigners desperately want to study an 800-page dossier on bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s abandoned appeal.
They say the Scottish Government could change the legislation to allow that — but they are stalling.
The row erupted after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission revealed earlier this month it had failed to get the green light to release details of its “statement of reasons” for referring Megrahi’s case back to court for the appeal. That’s because the law requires that all those involved agree to the release of the files.
The main parties include Megrahi, the Crown Office, the Foreign Office and police. It’s understood none have given the required unqualified consent.
The Scottish Government admits it’s disappointed the information couldn’t be made public and says it will now consider a law change to get round the need to get the go-ahead from all those involved.
But ministers say it would need the lengthy process of an Act of Parliament to do that.
Campaigners who doubt Megrahi’s guilt say this “primary legislation” is not necessary and the change could be done a lot quicker through a simple variation of the legal order that put the consent rule in place.
MSP Christine Grahame, who is battling for answers on Lockerbie, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament. It says she is unsurprised consent wasn’t given and calls for the Scottish Government to repeal or amend the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Permitted Disclosure of Information) Order.
She has also lodged a question, asking ministers if they’ll delete the part of the order that says everyone’s consent is needed.
She said, “I don’t understand the suggestion that primary legislation is necessary. There would be no time to get it through the Parliament before next year’s elections.
“It could be done before then in the way I have suggested.”
She said the consent requirements amount to a “gagging order”.
“Given that the Crown Office, the police and the UK Government are involved, why would they possibly agree to a release of information that might show that Megrahi should never have been found guilty?
“They’ve just stonewalled the whole thing.”
Professor Robert Black, a legal expert who was the architect of the Lockerbie trial, agreed a change to the law could be done quicker.
He said, “It doesn’t have to be an Act of Parliament and go through all the committee procedure and other stages that entails.
“When the Scottish Government say they’re considering primary legislation, given that’s not necessary, we have to ask what they are playing at.
“The suspicion is they are simply adopting delaying tactics.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said, “Based on legal considerations about the most effective way of overcoming constraints of existing legislation, we are now considering primary legislation to address the issue of consent while retaining the necessary protection for any third parties potentially affected.”