A few days ago, I drew your attention to the fact that Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee have decided to sustain the parliament's examination for the Justice for Megrahi public petition, by forwarding it to their colleagues in Holyrood's Justice Committee. The petition calls...
"...on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988."
I have only now been able to get sight of the official report of the Petitions Committee meeting on the 28th of June, in the course of which they came to this decision. Their discussion was brief and consensually adopted. Many members are new faces from the Nationalist benches. While the trenchant and unstinting Aberdonian, Kevin Smith, couldn't remember whether or not he'd signed the petition himself - clearly has an eye for detail, wur Kevin - it was a fellow Nationalist member, Bill Walker (above, right), who most vehemently contended for the parliament's continued examination of the circumstances surrounding the calamity over Lockerbie and the character of the criminal investigation and proceedings which followed..
Justice for Megrahi (PE1370)
The Convener (David Stewart) (Labour): PE1370 is on justice for Megrahi. I refer members to the clerks' paper and invite comments from the committee.
Nanette Milne (Tory): I find this to be a difficult petition to deal with. There is an option to get an update from the Scottish Government on its plans for legislation regarding the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. Beyond that, however, I think that the committee has gone as far as it can with the petition. I know that I have been a bit reluctant to refer petitions to subject committees, but this is clearly one to refer to the Justice Committee.
Sandra White (SNP): It is an extremely important petition on a subject that people have various views on. It could be controversial, but I think that it is an honest petition that is seeking the truth. I was not a member of the previous session's committee, which deliberated on the petition. Would it be sufficient for the Public Petitions Committee to ask the Scottish Government to open an inquiry, or would it be better to send the petition to the Justice Committee with the recommendation that the Government pursue an inquiry? My problem is that I do not want it to get hidden in the Justice Committee stuff and not come back out again.
Kevin Stewart (SNP): I agree that the petition should go to the Justice Committee. As a new member of Parliament, I should probably declare an interest in that I may have signed the petition—I am not quite sure. If I did not, I probably did not see it, otherwise I would have signed it. It is a matter for the Justice Committee and we should allow that committee to have a clear look at it.
The Convener: I should have mentioned that Jim Swire and Robert Forrester are present. I thank them for the comprehensive work that they have done on the petition and for referring us to the interview with Gareth Peirce, "The Quiet Storm", which made fascinating reading.
Bill Walker (SNP): I am desperate for the truth of the matter to come out. It is fundamental that the truth come out, and we should do everything that we can to help it to come out. I agree with Kevin Stewart that the petition should go to the Justice Committee, although I was a bit concerned when Sandra White said that it might get buried in that committee's paperwork. The terrible events happened a long time ago so we must get to the truth sooner rather than later. Let us not let the Justice Committee bury it.
The Convener: I cannot make any predictions about other committees, but given Christine Grahame's interest in the matter, I would be extremely surprised if the petition did not have a high profile in the Justice Committee.
John Wilson (SNP): You said it, convener. The interest of the new convener of the Justice Committee in the matter will do the petition justice and ensure that the issues that have been raised are examined. The previous Public Petitions Committee tried to deal with the petition although it came to the committee late in the previous session. However, the responses that we have received and the further evidence that has been submitted by the petitioners indicate that the matter is for the Justice Committee to consider. The petition raises a number of concerns about who takes responsibility for what decisions in relation to the process of appeals within the Scottish criminal justice system, so I would be happy to see it passed on to the Justice Committee.
The Convener: If no member wishes to make any further comment, we will move on. It is agreed that we will refer the petition to the Justice Committee under rule 15.6.2?
Members indicated agreement.