Today we publish on our website,, the controversial report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) which casts doubt on both the fairness of the trial of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and the guilty verdict it passed.

There is no shortage of parties eager to put on record their view that this report should be in the public domain.

The Crown Office has allowed the SCCRC to publish the report without fear of prosecution. The Scottish Government and the First Minister have strongly stated they want the report published. And the SCCRC has long been in favour of publication.

And yet it has remained secret for five years, until today.

There is a clear public interest in making the report available. The public has a right to know the nature of the SCCRC reservations and why it reached its conclusions.

Of course, publication of the report will not clear up the very many questions which remain unanswered in the wake of the Lockerbie atrocity.

As the Crown Office points out, the conviction can only be quashed in a court of law and there is at present no appeal in process.

But publication of the report inevitably makes the conviction seem less secure and casts doubt over the manner in which the Crown undertook the prosecution.

It also throws up interesting questions as to why the report has not been published before and about the role of the press in a free society.

One is the nature of data protection legislation, which has been continually cited as a block on disclosure. There are justified fears that this legislation is preventing the work of a free press.

The role of newspapers in publishing information contained in the SCCRC report and, today, publishing the report itself, is a strong argument against moves to limit the effectiveness of journalists being discussed in the wake of the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking. The media needs to make two points.

The first is that journalists who break the law should be prosecuted and punished in accordance with that law. The second is that a free press is essential to a functioning democracy. Without it we would not know of the MPs' expenses scandal; we would not know that the justifications for the war against Iraq were lies; we would not even have known about phone hacking itself.

And we would still be waiting, after five years of silence, to learn the exact nature of the doubts over the trial and conviction of the man accused of the biggest terrorist atrocity ever committed in this country.