At the end of his live two way with Huw Edwards tonight he said (and I quote approximately)...
One thing we have learned from looking through these papers, is that at no
stage did government ministers ever seriously consider saying no.
The correspondence makes clear that Labour ministers went out of their way to point out to their Scottish counterparts the consequences of allowing al Megrahi to die in jail. The Libyans had made threats of "serious consequences" if that were to happen, without ever specifying what these consequences would have been.
So yet again, the Foreign Office default position of Appeasement First won the day. In some ways it does not surprise me that the SNP Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill acceded to the constant arguments coming from London. He could hide behind the cloak of so-called 'compassion' and hope for the best.
But they have all been found out. Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, in an interview with the BBC, appeared to indicate that the Prime Minister was fully behind the collective view that al Megrahi could not be allowed to die in jail. Although I disagree with that argument, it's an entirely legitimate stance to take - that is if you are willing to come out in public and argue for it. But this man of courage has yet again hidden from the cameras and refused to give his view. He argues - and, to be fair, so do many of the letters - that it was a matter for the Scottish government. But if that were so, why were so many letters sent - from Straw, Rammell and Lewis to name but three - putting forward the view of the UK government?
Compassion is a fine sentiment, but it is one which must be used consistently. Does anyone seriously believe that if the Dunblane gunman, Thomas Hamilton, hadn't topped himself and instead was found to have three months to live, that the Scottish government would have released him from jail to end his days with his family? Of course not. And it is for that reason that the decision to release al Megrahi was wrong and that many of us believe it came about for reasons other than compassion. The release of the letters today adds further fuel to those suspicions.
The whole episode is also an example of cackhanded diplomacy. You cannot double deal the Libyans and the Americans. The Americans were lied to when they were told that the UK government wanted al Megrahi to die in prison. Rachel Sylvester has written that we have seen the end of the Special Relationship. I hope she's wrong, but I fear not.
The UK government has been caught tacitly encouraging the release of a convicted terrorist - not any old terrorist, but the one who was convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in our history. Some of us won't be surprised by this after what has happened with prisoner releases in Northern Ireland, but we don't have to support it.
David Cameron is right to call for an independent inquiry into these events. It's not only the British people who deserve to know the truth. So do the families of the 270 innocent lives that were taken on that terrible night over Lockerbie.
UPDATE: Bill Rammell is in deep trouble tonight. The front page of The Guardian reports of a note on a conversation between Rammell and the Libyan Europe Minister which disclosed that the Libyan minister had said: "Mr Rammell had stated that neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary would want Mr Megrahi to pass away in prison but the decision on transfer lies in the hands of Scottish ministers." Explosive.