It is time the Americans were summoned to Scotland to answer one or two awkward questions

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Kenneth Roy

I am not anti-American. It feels necessary to state this at the outset. On the contrary, I remain a registered if less than evangelical member of President Obama’s official fan club. Only the other day the divine Michelle asked me to send her husband a birthday card by email. This seemed a little tacky, so I didn’t….

Kenneth Roy

I am not anti-American. It feels necessary to state this at the outset. On the contrary, I remain a registered if less than evangelical member of President Obama’s official fan club. Only the other day the divine Michelle asked me to send her husband a birthday card by email. This seemed a little tacky, so I didn’t.
     I used to enjoy my little visits to New York City before it all went horribly wrong and they started fingerprinting friends like myself; so I don’t go any more. But I miss it so much that I have suggested to people of influence in Europe that Manhattan should be adopted as a full member of the EU, where it would feel more at home. Yet, although I support the immediate annexation of Manhattan, I bear no ill-will to the little bit of civilised America that would be left.
     Occasionally, however, those of us brave enough still to declare that we are not anti-American have our patience, to say nothing of our credulity, severely tested. The current nonsense over Lockerbie is one of those occasions. It has rumbled on through the Scottish holiday month and now threatens to overshadow the somewhat larger nonsense of the Edinburgh Festival and the start of the football season.
     Some of the newspapers have demanded to know what Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill have to hide by refusing to be ‘summoned’ across the Atlantic to face a grilling from the Senate’s foreign relations committee over the release of the person commonly known as the Lockerbie bomber. Ministers of the Scottish Government would not need to have very much to hide – I suggest nothing at all – to find the idea of such a summons pretty resistible, perhaps even a little insulting. The offer of the Americans to pay for their air fares somehow makes it more demeaning still.
     Two can play at being the moral guardians of the world, sitting in judgement over the rest of us, letting the elected politicians of lesser nations feel the heat of the Washington committee room and the trickles of sweat on their shoulder. Och, aye, two can play at that. Our football team may be inferior to that of the United States, but were we not once a moral and intellectual powerhouse ourselves? Did we not produce and host – without the sponsorship of Irn Bru at that – the Edinburgh Enlightenment no less?
     Also, we should remind ourselves that we do not execute our citizens. We do not blindfold them, shackle them, take them to a room at two o’clock in the morning, and shoot them. We are – the more I think about this – reasonably humane. Our prisons are disgusting and we lock up far too many of our young people, but our social policies are otherwise enlightened almost to a fault. In the case of Mr Megrahi, we were – or Kenny MacAskill was – big enough to use the word ‘compassion’. I have felt slightly proud to be Scottish ever since. A dangerous and deluded emotion no doubt – but there you are. Or rather there we are.


It would not be appropriate for Alex Salmond to chair such a hearing. Nor, for obvious reasons, should the Scottish judiciary be touched with a barge pole.


      So, since two can play at this game, I have a proposal. I propose that the Scottish Government should, in the spirit of the original invitation, summon members of the US Senate’s foreign relations committee to Scotland for an inquisitorial hearing on troubling aspects of the Lockerbie case. It would not be appropriate for Alex Salmond to chair such a hearing. Nor, for obvious reasons, should the Scottish judiciary be touched with a barge pole. Perhaps someone from academia or the media could be persuaded to assume this important responsibility. Magnus Magnusson would be ideal, but alas he is no longer with us. Professor Tom Devine can look quite scary. Failing him, we might have to turn to Magnus’s daughter, Sally.
     Professor Bob Black dropped me a note to say that he is back in this country. I feel sure that Bob would be happy to provide a list of questions for the chair, but already I can think of two. They have been bothering me for years and I would dearly love to know the answers.
     First, there is the enduring mystery of why, in late December 1988, with Americans in Europe clamouring to be home for Christmas, a flight to the United States reportedly fully booked suddenly had seats to spare – seats eagerly snapped up by travellers who couldn’t believe their luck. Their luck was soon to change. Soon they would be dead. Why were so many seats on the plane so abruptly vacated? If the Americans are anxious to know the ‘truth’ about Lockerbie, it will be necessary for the hearing in Scotland to examine the theory that, for some unexplained reason, a significant number of important-ish American state employees decided to travel on another flight. If there is anything in this theory, the records of these state employees could be checked and the employees in question could be invited to Scotland to tell us why they changed their travel arrangements at the last minute. There could be a perfectly innocent explanation. We should hear it.
     Second, there is the question of our old friend Tony Gauci, the chief prosecution witness, without whose evidence there would have been no – repeat no – case against Mr Megrahi. I have written many times before of the unreliability of Mr Gauci’s identification; no need perhaps to do so again. But what has happened to the poor little Maltese shopkeeper? Why, it seems that he is happily resettled in Australia, living very comfortably. The hearing in Scotland would have to put to the members of the Senate’s foreign relations committee the repeated claim that the CIA gave Mr Gauci a large cheque. Can this be true? And, if it is true, why was the CIA so generous to the chief prosecution witness in a Scottish trial?
     It is, of course, possible that, when Senator Robert Menendez and his colleagues receive their invitation to attend the hearing in Scotland, and are made aware of these and other questions that may face them, they will decide they have better things to do that week. I wonder if the press will then demand to know what on earth they have to hide.

Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.