[What follows is the text of an article by Justice for Megrahi's secretary, Robert Forrester, that was due to appear in the the Scottish edition of today's Sunday Express. I cannot find it on the newspaper's website (which is pretty selective in its coverage) but it probably does appear in the print edition:]
The Justice Committee's consideration of the Justice for Megrahi (JFM) petition, calling for an independent inquiry into the Lockerbie/Zeist affair, held on Tuesday 18th February, was by far the most animated session yet on the subject. Reaching almost operatic proportions, it generated valiant, bravura performances from both Christine Grahame MSP (SNP Convener of the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament) and John Finnie MSP (Independent) in the teeth of determined pressure to close the petition: this opposition emanated largely from Margaret Mitchell MSP (Conservative).
The principal argument used against maintaining the JFM petition, PE 1370, open was the feeling that the Justice Committee was wandering away from its strict remit with regard to the petition proper by conflating it with JFM's allegations of criminality against police officers, forensic investigators and legal officials.
Margaret Mitchell's position is an interesting development in that the principal Conservative Party member on the Justice Committee when JFM received its first unanimous vote by the committee to keep 1370 open (11th December 2012) was the late David McLetchie MSP. JFM had, up until that moment, rather regarded Mr McLetchie an arch foe. However, he was most vocal in his support of the petition: backing up earlier statements made by John Finnie. The catalyst behind his change of heart was in fact that he had been attracted by the new dynamic brought to the petition not only by the lodging with the then Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary of the JFM allegations themselves but also by the manner in which the JFM allegations were being treated by the authorities. This referred to the Justice Directorate's release of our private and confidential letter to Cabinet Secretary for Justice MacAskill to the Crown Office and the ensuing media attacks on JFM launched by Chambers Street, culminating in Lord Advocate Mulholland's outbursts to Magnus Linklater on the anniversary of the 103 tragedy in 2012.
It is now, therefore, most curious that the Conservative Party appears to doing a complete volte-face on essentially the same principle that encouraged Mr McLetchie to support 1370. In the current situation, both JFM and the Justice Committee are being confronted by an outrageously dismissive attitude by Police Scotland and the Crown Office with respect to the JFM allegations. As Mr Mcletchie recognised at the time, the petition and the allegations had become inextricably entwined as a result of the attitudes of the authorities to the allegations.
This situation has not altered one jot. In fact, the attitude of Police Scotland and the Crown Office towards JFM is now even more parlous than it ever has been following the freezing of the investigation into three highly contentious allegations, so why has the position of the Conservative Party changed? Something of a mystery. Or, perhaps Margaret Mitchell’s viewpoint is simply her own and not necessarily her party’s. Perhaps she sees herself as a champion of the Crown Office and Police Scotland where Mr Mcletchie wisely spied a political opportunity in supporting the JFM’s mutually complementary petition and allegations. Perhaps he saw JFM as an irritant to First Minister Salmond and his longstanding Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr MacAskill. They can hardly be overjoyed today by the fact that Petition PE 1370 has now entered it’s fourth year on the parliamentary books on top of the results of a public opinion poll in the Scottish Sunday Express of 4th September 2011 (Sample: 500. 52% expressed the view that there ought to be an independent inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing, 34% disagreed and 14% were unsure).
Ultimately though, the strength of Christine Grahame's anger at the behaviour of Police Scotland, and John Finnie's reasoned presentation of the current, developing environment vis-à-vis JFM’s petition and the now 9 JFM allegations won the day: with the Justice Committee decision that letters would be sent to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland Sir Stephen House and Detective Superintendent Johnstone asking them, amongst other things, to account for the seemingly blasé and dismissive conduct of Police Scotland.
It now remains to be seen whether or not Margaret Mitchell will, before her next consideration of this petition, experience the same political epiphany that David McLetchie did.