THE Herald today publishes the details of a Lockerbie document the UK Government worked to keep secret for more than two decades.

The document not only implicates a different country and terrorist group but indicates the lengths the UK Government would go to in order to keep key information out of the public domain.

It has not explained why the document could not be published or shared with the defence team of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing, other than to use the catch-all cover of national security.

However, we believe that publishing the information was in the public interest.

The document only came to light in 2007 when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) published its Statement of Reasons for a possible miscarriage of justice and referred the case for a new appeal.

The commission said failure to disclose the document could have constituted such a miscarriage. It was one of the six grounds upon which the case was referred back to court.

However, UK ministers signed a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate to prevent disclosure.

Yesterday the Crown Office said that, during the second appeal in 2008/9, it wanted to share the contents of the document with the defence team but was unable to do so because of the PII.

Yet the same Crown Office chose not to disclose this document to the defence a decade previously, before the original trial. Its position was that the document "did not require to be disclosed in terms of the Crown's obligations", even though it was not covered by PII at the time.

The Crown had a duty to disclose relevant information, even if it risked undermining the prosecution case.

The UK Government says the document was not "hidden" as it had been shared with investigating authorities. So why did the Crown choose not to share the information with the defence?

The document is a highly significant piece of new evidence which weakens and perhaps undermines the case against Megrahi as it states that agencies other than the Libyan Government were involved.

It may not be in the UK Government's interests to probe this case more deeply but any grounds for an inquiry should be based on new evidence and the wishes of the relatives of the victims.

The Scottish Government claims it does not have the power to order an inquiry but legal experts have made clear that a narrower inquiry could be ordered by ministers at Holyrood. They have emphasised a desire to be open and accountable in this case.

The relatives of those who died have waited 23 years for answers. It is time for ministers to put the wishes of the relatives first and start answering questions in full.

We are not passing judgment on Megrahi's guilt or otherwise, but the failure to disclose this document and its contents provide compelling reasons for a full and independent public inquiry.