Alex Salmond inquiry: faults lie fairly and squarely with party politicians rather than the legal setup - Alastair Bonnington

No doubt Anas Sarwar's proposal to split up the Lord Advocate's functions in the wake of the Salmond Inquiry is well intentioned.

Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC answers urgent questions to the Scottish Government asking whether the Lord Advocate was consulted about the letter from the Crown Office to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Like most Scots, Mr Sarwar will have been appalled to see Scotland's system of government function more like that of North Korea than North America. Something, he concludes, must be done.

I wonder, however, if he's aiming at the right target here.

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The constitutional setup created by the Scotland Act of 1998 was certainly controversial. The post 1998 role of the Lord Advocate and its future connection with the Scottish Government and Parliament, was one of the principal problem areas for the drafters. Perhaps they didn't get it right and a change is worth considering.

But we must not lose sight of the fact that the hugely embarrassing problems we have been witnessing over the past weeks have not been caused by the law, lawyers or the legal setup. The source of the difficulty is to be found in the behaviour of Scottish politicians - particularly those who like their North Korean colleagues worship and are willing to do anything for the "Dear Leader". Sadly that willingness appears to include the distortion of the truth for party political purposes.

Perhaps my friends are a rather cynical lot. After all, many are experienced lawyers. But I am yet to speak to anyone who believes what the Scottish government is serving up as an explanation for their conduct in this murky affair. Party political interests have clearly been, and remain the paramount consideration for Ministers.

The underlying problem here is that we have a government obsessed with their public perception. To them reality - the truth - is quite secondary. So when things go wrong, the restoration of "a good press" is the overarching aim.

Under the SNP's Stalinist system of government fundamental legal principles such as the independence of the Crown will be deemed minor matters. We will probably never know the full tale of how the Crown came to behave as they have done in relation to the Salmond Inquiry. I have little doubt that the facts would show that the faults lie fairly and squarely with party politicians rather than the legal setup.

Ultimately any constitutional system, no matter how brilliantly constructed will fail unless it is run by honourable and competent folk. The past few weeks demonstrate that getting honest, competent folk into the government of Scotland must be our first priority.

Alistair Bonnington is former Honorary Professor of Law, University of Glasgow

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