Sunday, 18 February 2018

The mystery of the secret Lockerbie file 'borrowed' by the Scotland Office for nearly a decade

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of the Sunday Herald. It reads in part:]

Whitehall officials have taken a sensitive file on “subversive activities” relating to the Lockerbie disaster from the National Records of Scotland and failed to return the documents, it can be revealed.

The Scotland Office took the secret “security” file nearly a decade ago, when the department was under Labour control, but it still remains in its possession.

Officials used a temporary loan system operated by the NRS to request the file weeks after Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan national convicted of the atrocity, was released from prison. (...)

The NRS is a non-ministerial government department responsible for the census, family history, as well as the national archives and historical records.

Old files are catalogued and their status - whether open or closed - can be determined through a search on the body’s website. Freedom of information legislation also applies to the files.

Under a process known as “retransmission”, public bodies can ask for the temporary return of documents. However, dozens of files that were borrowed decades ago have stayed with the organisations and departments that requested them. (...)

In September 2009, the Labour-run Scotland Office, which was then led by Jim Murphy, requested a file on the Lockerbie disaster entitled “security: subversive activities”.

According to the NRS, the file from the late 1980s contained Scottish Office notes and minutes, submissions to ministers, police briefing notes, correspondence, and “other papers”.

It is listed as being “closed” until 2066 but the Scotland Office would have to consider its release under FOI, if asked.

Weeks before the Scotland Office request, al-Megrahi, who was convicted in 2001 of the terror attack on Pan Am Flight 103, was released from prison on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government.

Aamer Anwar, a lawyer who represents al-Megrahi’s family, said an application had been lodged with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission about the Libyan man’s conviction.

He said of the file: “We will be demanding a full explanation from the present Secretary of State Mr Mundell and request that any papers which we believe to be critical to any pending appeal are returned immediately.

“I would hope this is not another example of an attempt to whitewash the unsavoury role the UK government at the time played in the whole Lockerbie case at expense of the victims as well as Mr Al-Megrahi.” (...)

… the Lockerbie (...) files remain in the hands of the Scotland Office, even though they were secured via the temporary borrowing system. (...)

A UK Government spokesperson said: “It is routine practice for public authorities to request files from national archives to learn lessons from the past and to assist in policy making, this is one of the main reasons we keep archives. It is also routine for authorities to keep files for as long as they are required.”

No comments:

Post a Comment