Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain has agreed to meet a campaigner who has been urging her to order a new investigation into the deaths of three RAF crew in a mid-air Tornado jet collision over the Moray Firth in 2012.
The nation’s top prosecutor will hold talks next month with Moray-based Jimmy Jones, as well as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
Mr Jones, a retired RAF officer who has been battling for a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the tragedy for several years, said he was “highly optimistic” that this lord advocate would “adopt a more open and compassionate approach” than her predecessors.
Mr Ross revealed he had already raised the details of the campaign at an earlier meeting with Ms Bain, and was “pleased” she had agreed to “fully discuss” the case.
The collision involved two RAF Lossiemouth-based jets and happened in bad weather on July 3, 2012, about seven nautical miles south-east of Helmsdale.
It caused the deaths of Squadron Leader Sam Bailey, 36, Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole, 28, and Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders, 27. A fourth crew member was injured.
Michael Poole, father of Flt Lt Hywel Poole, wrote to Ms Bain in July to ask that she reconsider the case for an FAI, warning that a previous Military Aviation Authority (MAA) investigation into the collision was conducted by officers who were “too close to the system” to recognise the “systemic failures” he believed existed.
Mr Jones and Mr Ross also wrote to Ms Bain, urging her to order an FAI.
The MAA probe found 17 contributory factors led to the collision, including the failure to fit collision warning systems to the Tornado GR4 jets and “ineffective” supervision of the crew.
However, two previous lord advocates have rejected calls for an FAI into the tragedy, despite a 2017 rule change meaning all military deaths in Scotland must now be subject to such a hearing.
The Crown Office has previously insisted that an FAI could “not better and would only repeat” the probe carried out by the MAA, which made 42 recommendations.
But Ms Bain, who was appointed lord advocate in June, has agreed to meet Mr Jones and Mr Ross to discuss their concerns.
Mr Jones said: “I am delighted with the response from the new lord advocate, which hopefully will open the door for a long overdue fatal accident inquiry in to the deaths of Flt Lt Poole, Flt Lt Sanders and Sqn Ldr Bailey on 3rd June 2012, who died in work-related accident over the Moray Firth.
“Such an inquiry would expose the defects in a ‘system of working’ which are not addressed in the MOD in-house service inquiry report and continue today.
“It would also satisfy the need for an open judicial inquiry into the deaths and circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three airmen, with family involvement.
“I am highly optimistic that this lord advocate will adopt a more open and compassionate approach to that shown in the past.”
The Crown Office confirmed the meeting had been scheduled for October 7.
Mr Ross, the Moray MP and an MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “I met with the new lord advocate following her appointment and we discussed the details of the campaign Jimmy Jones has been fighting for a number of years.
“I’m pleased Dorothy Bain has agreed to meet with both Jimmy Jones and myself to fully discuss the action he is calling for and his efforts to get answers for the families.”