My blogging time is strictly limited these days, and accordingly I'm a few days late with this, but it's something I feel very strongly about.
His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O' Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and Scotland's senior Roman Catholic clergyman, has apparently added his voice to those seeking an independent enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombings. In my opinion, his decision to do so was unwise.
As is well known, Mr. Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds in 2009, having been diagnosed with cancer of the prostate. However, prior to his release he abandoned his appeal against conviction in the High Court of Justiciary. This means that it is part of the law of Scotland that Mr. Megrahi has accepted his guilt in this matter. To my mind, this is not the action of an innocent man.
In a sane system, this would render functus all further process in, and discussion of, the Lockerbie case. The responsible would be able leave Lockerbie to the chatrooms, the conspiracy theorists and the morbid narcissists, a type for which the Lockerbie case seems to have a particular attraction. However, the botched, bag of the fag packet nature of the devolution settlement effected by the Scotland Act 1998 seems to have rendered some of those under a public duty to be responsible into fraught, jumpy creatures. The emblem of devolved Scotland should not be the Lion Rampant but the Siamese cat.
Don't get me wrong, the Lockerbie case still throws up some pressing questions. If it is the case that the devolution settlement has enabled Mr. Megrahi to have a right to further process, such as a referral to to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, when he has accepted his guilt, then the law of Scotland has gone insane. If this loophole exists, it should be closed so tight it should be considered a singularity.
If it was the case that a deal of some kind was done so that Mr. Megrahi would get his liberty provided he dropped his appeal, then it is the kind of matter over which better administrations than our seedy, crappy, Christmas cracker novelty of a soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government' would fall. If this has happened, it deserves to fall.
However, one question that doesn't arise is the most basic of all - who did it? Mr. Megrahi's abandonment of his appeal renders fruitless all further speculation concerning his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, with all the violence and destruction that ensued. Instead of the issues of guilt and innocence being confused, in law they are crystal clear, thanks to the actions of nobody other than the convict. I wish that the Cardinal had picked another battle.