First Minister told to give update on splitting the role of the lord advocate

Alister Jack looks for update
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC. Image: Jane Barlow/Press Association.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack says the First Minister must give an update on reforming the role of the lord advocate.

He has written to Humza Yousaf asking him to provide details on “whether the dual functions of the law officers, as head of the independent prosecution service and principle legal advisors to the Scottish Government, should be separated”.

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The lord advocate, currently Dorothy Bain KC, has a dual role - they are both the public prosecutor and the government’s legal advisor.

However there are mourning calls for this to be split into two separate roles to avoid a conflict of interest.

The SNP pledged to look into this issue in their 2021 manifesto, and Joanna Cherry KC MP has a private member’s bill on this going through the UK Parliament, which is due to get its second reading in March.

Holyrood is not able to make these proposed changes as it is protected from modification by the Scotland Act.

Mr Jack says he is in favour of separating the two roles, and in his letter to Mr Yousaf he said: “I understand the Scottish Government has been considering reforms to the role of the Scottish law officers for some time, with Malcolm McMillan being commissioned to complete research into the matter in the spring of last year.

“I would welcome an update on the Scottish Government’s position on amending the roles of law officers and any next steps post Malcolm McMillan’s research.

“As you will be aware, most significant changes to the role of the lord advocate would require amendment of the Scotland Act 1998.

“Many of those amendments could only be made (or enabled) by means of UK parliamentary legislation.”

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He added: “For that reason, it would be helpful to understand the Scottish Government’s direction of travel on the matter.”

A spokesperson for the UK Government said: “The secretary of state for Scotland has asked the Scottish Government for an update on their consultation on the role of the lord advocate.

“We look forward to his response.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government confirmed the First Minister has received Mr Jack’s letter.

They added: “As protected within the Scotland Act, the law officers operate entirely independently of any other person as they undertake their prosecutorial and investigation of deaths functions.

“The Scottish Government has commissioned expert research into the functions of the law officers.

“This research will ensure a detailed baseline understanding of the distinct roles and functions of the law officers and will provide information on how the functions of law officers operate in other countries.”



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