[What follows is the text of a letter submitted by Dr Jim Swire on Tuesday to The Herald. It has not (yet) been published.]
Today we have confirmation, from Susan Stipp of the University of Copenhagen, that to have flown civil aircraft during the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland might have endangered innocent lives. At the time Willie Walsh of British Airways actively sought to have the flight bans lifted. This from the CEO of the airline which in 1982 had come within a whisker of losing a 747 to the ash cloud from Mount Galunggung in Indonesia. There were 247 passengers plus the crew aboard that aircraft. A close match for the 259 aboard the Lockerbie flight.
In 1988, on the night before Lockerbie, we now know, though the Zeist trial court did not, that Heathrow airport was broken into, close to where the bags for the Lockerbie flight were assembled the following evening.
Although reported immediately in its night security log, the airport took no steps to find out the identity or motive of the intruder, nor to prevent any consequences. That would have entailed a costly suspension of outgoing flights on 21st December 1988. 16 hours later 270 people died at Lockerbie, thanks to a bomb loaded at that same airport, with bags assembled for the flight adjacent to the break-in point. Only then were outgoing flights suspended, pending investigation. It was not till after the verdict against Mr Megrahi that the break-in came into public view, despite 12 years of Scottish police investigation.
On 22 December 1988, in the House of Commons, Nicholas Soames MP asked Paul Channon, (Transport Secretary): 'May I ask my Right Honourable Friend to confirm that security at Heathrow and Gatwick is at a very high and sustainable level and will remain so?'
Paul Channon replied: 'I certainly confirm that the security arrangements at Heathrow and Gatwick are among the best in world. We intend to maintain them at that level, and if more needs to be done it will be done.' *
Yet during the night of 20/21 December the Heathrow night security logs had shown that a break in had occurred, about which no action was taken until after 7.03 the following evening of 21 December. Had Channon been informed? All we know is that Heathrow did know immediately but had failed to act, and that the Metropolitan police were actively investigating the break-in by January 1989. Therefore it is hard to believe that the Scottish police did not know throughout their more than a decade long marathon investigation.
The priorities of Mr Walsh and, far more culpably, of the Heathrow authorities, are expressions of the ethos of modern British capitalism.
In Scotland we investigated and tried two Libyans for causing the Lockerbie atrocity, then we set one free using the compassion built into our justice system. Of that last act, I believe, we should be proud.
However the manner of conducting the Lockerbie investigation and the trial of the accused are increasingly seen to have been deeply flawed, and thus far Scotland has proved incapable of re-examining what she has done: does this matter after all these years?
Of course it does to us relatives of the dead who still seek the truth. It should also matter to all who use Heathrow airport, and to all Scots.
However I was astonished when David Cameron, despite the lessons of recent history, took a lead in seeking to enforce regime change upon Libya (for that is what it has become). I have heard from credible insiders that the reason he did this was in part because he was incensed by the pictures he saw of the reception of Mr Megrahi, as a hero, at Tripoli airport, on transfer home from Scotland.
The Prime Minister again and again refers to Mr Megrahi as 'the Lockerbie bomber' yet there is available now sufficient evidence to show, at the very least, that Mr Megrahi should never have been convicted in the first place. Of course that neither exonerates nor implicates the regime for which he worked
It seems that to dislodge the perception of Mr Megrahi's guilt will require that the natural desire of Scottish authorities to protect their own reputations over this disastrous failure of investigation and justice, now so deeply ingrained, will require a strong and astute leadership in Scotland. That this be achieved ought to be of prime concern to all Scottish citizens: who knows when he may need accurate investigation or impartial justice?
Shortly we will be voting, I hope that the result will be strong and astute leadership, willing to concede the vital importance of re-assessing the Lockerbie case for Scotland's reputation and the well being of her citizens.
There is so much we could improve, and even as polling day approaches, the activities of 'the Old Firm's' hatreds also trumpet the need for a strong hand at Scotland's tiller. Democracy dictates that we all have a hand in the choice as to whose that hand should be.
Unless we take that difficult (and costly!) step we will be mimicking, and by association supporting, the complacent and dangerous nonsense heard in the Westminster Parliament on 22 December 1988.
* These quotations are taken from the booklet Lockerbie, a "Bum Rap" published by the late David Rollo of the SNP, dedicated to the support of Marina Larracoechea**, Tam Dalyell, John Mosey, Jim Swire, and Teddy Taylor, in their search for truth and justice.
** RB: A letter from the indefatigable Marina de Larracoechea appears today on the Spanish Deia website, responding to an article on 22 April about her views on the Lockerbie case and her reaction to current events in Libya. Well worth reading if you have some Spanish. Google Translate gives a flavour, but no more than 75 per cent accuracy.
[This post has now been picked up by Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. The relevant articles can be read here and here.]