Plenty to talk about, in private
So, at last, we have it. The British government did not want the Lockerbie bomber to die in prison.
The foreign secretary has now confirmed that that is what they let the Libyans know in private, even if it was something ministers refused to confirm in public to their own electorate.
From Gordon Brown down, the government has refused to say what it thought of the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. It was not, they said, a matter for them. It would have been constitutionally improper to intervene in a quasi-judicial decision taken by the Scottish justice secretary.
Furthermore, they said, did we really believe that a Scottish nationalist minister would pay any attention to the views of their hated political enemies running the Westminster government? No doubt the prime minister will repeat that line today.
However, if you take a look at the bundle of minutes and documents released in London and Edinburgh yesterday, you see that ministers felt there was plenty to talk about.
Indeed, they spent more than two years discussing the legal, political and diplomatic parameters of releasing the Lockerbie bomber. What's more, Tony Blair has confirmed that, ever since his famous visit to Tripoli in 2004, Megrahi's fate had been on the table. Throughout this time, Libya were threatening dire consequences if Megrahi died in jail. British business was warning of the consequences for British contracts and British jobs if Libya did not get its way.
British ministers advised the Scottish government that there was no "legal bar" to Megrahi's release. They advised them that the commitment made to the American government that he would serve in a Scottish jail was no longer binding. They refused to seek an exclusion for the Lockerbie bomber from the prisoner transfer agreement they were negotiating with Libya - a U-turn taken after pressure from Tripoli.
Isn't what we've learnt rather simple? British ministers - who are responsible for the UK's foreign, economic and trade policy - decided that they did not want Megrahi to die in prison and privately left no-one in any doubt? They did so, careful at all times, to stress that it was not actually a decision for them.
Some would argue that this is precisely the sort of hard-headed "realpolitik" decision that we elect politicians to take.
However, the Tory leader, David Cameron, insists that he would not have taken it if he were prime minister, since justice demanded that the Lockerbie bomber serve his time and, if necessary, die in jail.
That is a fascinating debate. It is one that ministers in London refuse to enter as they continue to insist that their views on this extraordinarily sensitive matter were, somehow, irrelevant.
PS. Team Blair have been in touch in response to yesterday's post. They've pointed me to an interview with the former prime minister on CNN in which he said:
"Let me make one thing absolutely clear. The Libyans, of course, were raising the case for Megrahi all the way along, not just with me but with everybody. It was a major national concern for them but as I used to say to them, I don't have the power to release Mr Megrahi."
He went on to say:
"The release that has taken place is a decision by the Scottish executive, which has taken place on compassionate grounds. Those compassionate grounds didn't even exist a few years back.So yes, of course it's absolutely right the Libyans were always raising this issue, but we made it clear that the only way this could be dealt with was through the proper procedures."