[This is the headline over a report published yesterday on the website of Holyrood magazine. It reads as follows:]
MSPs have demanded answers from Scotland’s chief constable after expressing frustration over Police Scotland’s inquiry into alleged criminality in the original Lockerbie investigation.
Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee this morning agreed to write to Sir Stephen House requesting details on the number of officers working on the inquiry and what stage it is at.
It came as members opted to keep a petition by campaign group Justice for Megrahi, calling for the Scottish Government to launch a separate independent inquiry into the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, open.
The Scottish Government has maintained that it has no plans to instigate an inquiry and insisted a review would be best undertaken via an application to appeal in the courts. Megrahi was convicted of the bombing of Pan Am 103, which killed 270 people, over the town of Lockerbie a quarter of a century ago.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is also to be written as the Justice Committee seeks to ascertain whether family members of Megrahi have applied or inquired about a new appeal in the wake of recent media reports.
JfM has made a number of allegations regarding the original investigation into the Lockerbie air disaster, investigation of which has been put on hold due to a conflict with a parallel live criminal investigation.
In September, MSPs were told by Police Scotland a conflict between the two investigations was likely to be resolved in a “matter of weeks”.
However, a letter written to JfM, passed to the committee this morning, confirmed this is now likely to extend to the end of March.
Detective Superintendent, Stuart Johnstone, who has assumed the role of senior investigating officer, said it was inappropriate to provide details on how many officers are working on the inquiry or what stage it is at.
“I am unable to provide you with definitive updates in relation to these questions as they are currently being reviewed by myself, having just taken over as SIO, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment until this review has been concluded,” he said.
Independent MSP John Finnie said: “I think all of this is [an] extremely dismissive approach by the authorities to the Justice for Megrahi committee and I would suggest by default to this committee, which has an important oversight role. I think the timing of that letter is entirely cynical. What we’ve seen is procrastination and obstruction and I would ask whose interests are served by that.”
Convener of the committee, SNP MSP Christine Grahame, added: “I am very cross about this. You [John Finnie] talk about procrastination and obstruction. I call it long grass. If there is any strategy here with regard to the whole Megrahi issue it seems to me to kick things into the long grass, wear people out, hope that those who are pursuing this fall off their perches, and it all goes away.”
Grahame said it was time to go to the “top of the tree” and request a response from the Police Scotland chief constable within seven to ten days.
SNP MSP Sandra White expressed concerns that the committee had moved away from the original terms of the petition, which calls for ministers to open an inquiry into Megrahi’s conviction.
Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell suggested the committee was “going off on a tangent” and urged members to close the petition.