Nicola Sturgeon is fiddling while Scotland’s institutions burn with courts in disarray – Murdo Fraser MSP

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken told the COP26 climate summit that Glasgow was watching as they reach their decisions. I hope that, in return, the leaders from around the world are watching what is happening in Scotland.

Scotland's judicial crisis could be sinister but Nicola Sturgeon does not appear to be interested (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland's judicial crisis could be sinister but Nicola Sturgeon does not appear to be interested (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Not the overflowing bins of our largest city, or indeed the rats if they can avoid them. But what is happening in our courts. Scotland could do with some impartial, international observation.

On Saturday morning, a solicitor in Edinburgh Sheriff Court was escorted from the premises by court officials and police for, according to the lawyer, merely trying to give his client some advice. On whose orders, no one will say.

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It was enough to enrage the Bar Associations of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the Law Society of Scotland, whose questions on why it happened have not been fully addressed.

Previous to that incident the Edinburgh Bar Association had announced a boycott of the city’s custody courts in protest over pay.

But that surely does not prevent a solicitor from advising a client? And it certainly is not justification for the court authorities and Police Scotland to stop them from doing their job.

As the matter came to light there was no comment, explanation or defence from the Scottish government or the court authorities. Justice may be blind, but when lawyers are ejected from courts for doing their jobs, it is not acceptable for those responsible to be mute.

Over the weekend we found out through the magazine, British Vogue, what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon likes to wear, but this ex-solicitor had nothing to say about what is happening in our courts.

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Instead she showed her ego by standing at the door of COP26 telling the world’s leaders – who were actually working there – to leave their egos at the door.

This is a graphic example of how the current administration runs – or pretends to run – Scotland. The First Minister pretends to be something she is not, while that for which she does have responsibility rots like a Glasgow midden.

But this judicial crisis could be sinister. Lawyers are not popular until you need one, so are unlikely to garner much public sympathy when up against the designer-dessed First Minister and her taxpayer-funded spin machine.

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But if she took governing half as seriously as she takes herself, Ms Sturgeon would have demanded an explanation and moved to reassure the legal profession and the public.

You can dismiss this as the actions of defence lawyers just asking for more legal aid cash. But it is not healthy for a democracy for the state to pay its prosecutors significantly more than those available to a defendant.

Nor is it right that no attention is being paid to the judicial backlog which is seeing criminals walk free on the day of their conviction because of the length of time they have spent on remand, while other accused are set trial dates not for next year, but the year after next.

Covid may be to blame for much of this, but why will this government not allow members of the public to sit in court when they will let them sit in a cinema?

In that context, the First Minister’s concerns about the planet burning look like fiddling while Scotland’s institutions burn.

Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

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