Scottish independence: Top law officer refuses to reveal if Nicola Sturgeon asked for indyref2 advice

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Scotland’s top law officer has refused to reveal if Nicola Sturgeon has sought his legal advice on holding a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe says it would “not be appropriate” even to say whether such advice has been sought in response to Liberal Democrat Mike Rumbles.

Scotland's top law officer has refused to reveal if Nicola Sturgeon has sought his legal advice on holding a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Scotland's top law officer has refused to reveal if Nicola Sturgeon has sought his legal advice on holding a second referendum on Scottish independence.

The MSP has now written to Scotland’s Standards Commissioner calling for an overhaul of parliamentary rules to force the minister to answer such questions.

The refusal has prompted anger because the SNP had been calling for Theresa May to release her legal advice on Brexit.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon: I won’t call a second Scottish independence vote this year

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to set out her plans for a second vote on Scotland’s future in the UK in the coming weeks. The prospect of a “wildcat” vote being held without authority from Westminster - which has control over the constitution - was at the centre of Mr Rumbles inquiries.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe. Picture: Greg Macvean

Lord Advocate James Wolffe. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Scottish Government has already refused to answer this and Mr Rumbles sought answers from the Lord Advocate, who is also a minister in the Government.

But he has told Mr Rumbles in a response this week that such advice is “privileged and confidential.”

“There is well-established convention, long pre-dating devolution, that governments do not identify the matters on which they have taken legal advice from their law officers,” the latter states.

“It would not be appropriate for me to disclose whether I have advised or might advise the Government on the matters identified in your letter.”

Mr Rumbles has now written to the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee to ask them to consider changes to standing orders to allow MSPs to get answers to simple questions, including making it easier for the Lord Advocate to respond to MSPs.

“The SNP worked alongside Liberal Democrats when we successfully pressed the UK Government to release their Brexit legal advice,” Mr Rumbles said.

“People will wonder why the SNP Government are refusing to put their own independence plans through the same openness test.

“The Scottish Government are going to outrageous lengths to avoid telling the public what they are plotting behind closed doors. Ministers just shuffle excuses back and forward between themselves.”