A SECRET 800-page document detailing why the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing could have suffered a miscarriage of justice has moved a step closer to publication after an agreement between the Westminster and Holyrood governments to discuss the report.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has revealed he has received assurances from the UK Government to help smooth the path to publication of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission's (SCCRC) long-awaited report.

Mr MacAskill wrote to the UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke earlier this month to ask the Coalition Government to remove obstacles presented by the Data Protection Act 1998, which is reserved to the UK Parliament, to enable a Scottish Government Bill to be put forward.

Mr Clarke has replied to say he is happy for his officials to discuss the matter directly with the SCCRC to find out more information about the barriers to publication of its Statement of Reasons in the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

The Scottish Government has responded by providing contact details for the SCCRC to facilitate discussions.

The unpublished 800-page report from the SCCRC explains the six reasons why the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing should be referred back to court for a fresh appeal.

Despite starting the process to allow the SCCRC to publish the report in 2009, the Scottish Government only recently officially asked Mr Clarke for the exemption. The issue was previously raised in informal talks only.

In October, The Herald revealed the Bill currently going through Holyrood to allow for the release of the document would be a waste of time and taxpayers' money unless the data protection issue was tackled.

The chief executive of the SCCRC said that, regardless of the legislation going through the Scottish Parliament, the commission still had to "comply with the requirement of the Data Protection Act 1998 which is, of course, UK-wide legislation".

Robert Black, QC, one of the architects of the original trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, said the Scottish legislation was a "waste" of time.

Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which killed 270 people 23 years ago. He served eight years in Scottish prisons before being released on compassionate grounds in August 2009 because he was suffering from terminal cancer.

The SCCRC referred his case for a fresh appeal in June 2007. However, the full appeal was never heard and the details of the commission's report have never been published.

It is thought Megrahi's official biography, expected early next year, will contain much of the detail from the report. If it does, that could free the commission to publish the full report because it will already be in the public domain.

Mr MacAskill said: "I welcome this willingness from Kenneth Clarke and the UK Government to engage with the SCCRC on this important issue. We in the Scottish Government have always made it clear that we want to be as open as possible when it comes to publishing information relating to the Lockerbie atrocity.

"This is a welcome step forward that we have sought for some time in the process of removing the obstacles that bar publication by the SCCRC of its Statement of Reasons in the case of Megrahi.

"We will be following the outcome of discussions between the UK Government and the SCCRC very closely and will review the necessary steps forward after these discussions have concluded."

In October this year, Gerard Sinclair, the commission's chief executive, said: "As I previously indicated, the commission is willing, in principle, to publish this document, the content of which has been the subject of a great deal of public and media speculation and debate.

"I believe, however, that legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament cannot, by itself, guarantee publication of this document, as both the Scottish Parliament and the commission must act at all times in compliance with their respective obligations under the Human Rights Act.

"In addition, the commission would also still require to act lawfully and comply with the requirement of the Data Protection Act 1998 which is, of course, UK-wide legislation."

Scottish officials claim the Bill currently going through the Justice Committee is important because it will remove the ability of parties who disclosed the information to block its publication.

The Criminal Cases (Punishment & Review) (Scotland) Bill is expected to be passed early next year. It should give statutory authority to the SCCRC to decide whether it is appropriate to publish a Statement of Reasons in cases it has investigated where an appeal has subsequently been abandoned.

However, it has no power to get around UK data protection legislation.