Thursday, 28 April 2011

Significance of Lockerbie for Scotland's future leaders

[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.]


  1. Why is an Englander rabble-rousing on Scotland's election? And sounding a wee bit SNP'ish...Or did I miss the point?

  2. An "Englander" with a great Scottish ancestory...or am I missing the point.

    Personally I would rather listen to anyone who speaks sense than have my views driven by place of birth.

    Cameron is making enough gaffes to make George Bush look like an English Language expert. I heard him say how delighted he was that the UK was seeing a Prince and Princess marry. Sorry, the Prince marries a commoner, who becomes a Princess through marriage.

    Anyhow, Jim Swire ... man of the century!

  3. Cameron has a great Scottish ancestry.

  4. I didn't say he didn't; I suggested place of birth is meaningless when you want to hear intelligent opinion.

  5. "Or did I miss the point?"

    Yup, and impressively. If you'd been captain of the Titanic they'd have missed the iceberg.

  6. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011, doc. nr.1252.rtf. (google translation, german/english):

    Libyan ex foreign minister and ex head of Libyan intelligence agency Moussa Koussa is not a defector as UK Foreign Secretary William Hagueh, and other wishes !
    On the contrary, Mr Koussa is a "hot potato" for the Scottish Justiciary, because he and his lawyers after an indictment, including *File access to the "Files of the Scottish Criminal Cases Reappeal Commission" and the document under "National Security" (PII) can be received !
    The reason why was not issued against Mr Koussa Indictment can be explained,
    because the long-demanded release the above *secret documents could not can be blocked more ...

    With every passing day, the Libyan "WAR PICTURE" becomes clearer.
    The emerging picture confirms what most people, including imperialists, know — that the reason for the military action against Libya is anything but humanitarian.
    Protecting Libya's civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's forces is only a cover for a campaign aimed at regime change and the plunder of the resources not only of Libya but also of the whole of Africa.
    For a compilation, please visit:

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication, URL:

  7. Blogiston, as a Scot, please don't put Cameron forward as some token Scot. It is offensive.

    And can I ask you Blogiston, what part of the UK are you from?

  8. Burning ......well done to you. I like people who celebrate principles rather than birthplace or ancestry.

  9. 'Calm down dear', it's only a comment! - as Cameron might say.
    Btw - BurningCitroen mentioned 'great Scottish ancestory' and birthplace in his opinions, not me - I just brought it to our attention that Cameron also has great Scottish ancestry - read the thread again, you'll see.
    Aye, good humour about the Titanic (I did laugh) coincidently, there's another disaster conspiracy, after the fact.

  10. Blogiston, your first comment was "why is an englander..."; I think that means you brought birthplace into the thread, for all that it really matters.

    Happy weekend all.

  11. BC, And by my whimsical term I meant someone not able to vote in the forthcoming Scottish election using the word 'we', as in, "Shortly we will be voting..."
    [My assumption being the Cotswold don't vote in the Scottish election]

    Happy Weekend btw

  12. 'Calm down dear', it's only a comment! - as Cameron might say.

    Very poor response Blogiston. Apart from that my question was asked calmly so the phrase didn't even apply.

    And what part of the UK are you from Blogiston? You didn't answer.

  13. I was jesting Jo G - please don't take offence. We're all friends on here - it's so much more refined than that other blog... presently, there's a cat fight going on about whether Pippa's dress was creased, or not - I'm saying the crepe material is prone to that, I find.

    [I didn't answer regarding my location for the same reason you were alarmed about security (some time ago) when ones location was outed by some sinister randomer - but fear not, I'm neither domiciled where Reivers nor Sassenachs reside, and am definitely in possession of a valid polling card, if that's your query]

  14. OK Blogiston, I just meant in general. No problem.

    I'm just tetchy as I'm painting the sitting room just now and going nowhere fast. I would much rather be doing stuff in the garden.

  15. Well, I live in The Debateable Land on the banks of the Esk, Reiver heart land, playground of Buccleuch and Kinmont Willie surrounded by the Armstrongs, the Grahams, was born in the Highlands and am a descendent of Genghis Khan. Jim Swire can say whatsoever he cares to and associate himself with whomsoever he wishes as far as I am concerned. Meanwhile, remember Darien! Oh, and don't forget that inspired financial illiterate who comprehensively wrecked the remnants of the UK's economy, Gordon Brown.

  16. Jo G: I cut just enough grass today to allow for 'high tea' in the sun (must be the temporary royal fever rubbing off on me)...including a silver service and two tier cake stand, a gift from my late mother (a snob, she voted for Teddy Taylor all her life until Maxton arrived on the scene, whereupon she became a staunch Nationalist - figure out that logic!)

    Quincey: Like in that Billy Connolly song about Genghis McCann.
    Btw - I did mention Reiver for you :) since I surmised from the little I know, you hailed from the borders and perhaps had a Reiver-esque clan name (derived from the East March name, Forster).

  17. Well done Bloggers. As you can see, the clan have strayed a tad since the good old days. The West March proving to be more fertile territory for blackmail and our other talents.

  18. Hah! Everybody thinks, from my name, that my family hails from the eastern Borders. They don't. But for the sake of blending in, I keep quiet about it and try to smother the west-ish accent.

    Gave out well over 100 election newsletters today, and the map of the upper Lyne valley is getting satisfactorily ticked off.

    Local councillor's wife tried to insist this isn't a Napoleonic campaign, but all that happened was she was hunted out of the tea shop in Peebles and given another list of streets to do....

    I hear they're desperate for more help in Gorebridge, so maybe Bank Holiday Monday.

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  20. Ah, the fear and loathing of a Reiver name runs deep and long on both sides of the border beyond the Marches, Rolfe, even today. But nowhere near as deep as the suspicion of outsiders, English and Scots alike, that still flourishes in The Debateable Land. The only time you know when you've been accepted round here is when you're wearing a wooden overcoat.

  21. Are you getting good feedback Rolfe? What are you hearing from people?

    I hear SoS have come out for Salmond today.

  22. And Alex bloody Ferguson in the Daily Record promoting Labour - another one who doesn't even choose to live here trying to choose who governs us, simply because he has a platform we don't have.

  23. He always does that Blogiston. We should be used to it. Just as well most of us here respect him more for his football achievements than his politics. (Although not too much: I support Liverpool myself.)

  24. Are you getting good feedback Rolfe? What are you hearing from people?

    Hard to say, because I'm mainly just leaving the newspapers and leaflets and making pleasant remarks, not debating political niceties. But I have to say, I think the Purvis goose is cooked. Nobody has set the dogs on me yet, and the worst I've had is non-committal grunts.

    I had a day off and drove to Coatbridge to meet a friend to go to the cinema. While I was driving through Carnwath I saw people waving and giving a thumbs-up sign. Then I realised my car still had all the posters on display, of course.

    I hear SoS have come out for Salmond today.

    It's a bit sort of mibbe aye mibbe naw. I bought the paper to encourage them. The editorial is great but the articles are a bit of a mixed bag.

    I think their opinion poll may underestimate SNP support which is no bad thing, because I'd hate for people who don't want Gray as FM to think is was safe and they can go and vote Green or something with impunity. (Someone said, it's good because it'll motivate the activists. Give us a break guys, you can't actually get more motivated than the activists are right now. Everybody is working their little cotton socks off.)