Why Crown Office has become 'lickspittle' arm of SNP Government - Alistair Bonnington

I practised for many years as a lawyer in Scotland's criminal courts. I was opposed in criminal trials by Crown procurators fiscal. They were excellent lawyers – and trustworthy, honourable people.

Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: AP Photo/Scott Heppell

That trust was a product of their being completely independent of outside influence. Although the government paid their salaries they arrived at their decisions independent of government and indeed of everyone else.

The Scottish Crown determined all its actions based solely on the test of public interest. To these Crown lawyers nothing else mattered, particularly politics and politicians.

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Recent events make it impossible for my respect for the Scottish Crown to continue. I look on in horror at the present degeneration of the Crown into what appears to be a lickspittle arm of the current SNP Government.

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I refer to their intervention in the Alex Salmond inquiry. They have now fired not one, but two warning shots across the bows of the Parliamentary Committee due to hear the verbal evidence of Mr Salmond later today.

Nominally these warning shots relate to the possibility of the order made by the Salmond trial judge, Lady Dorrian, being breached by identification of the female complainers.

Is this warning normal and justifiable? Having advised newspapers and BBC Scotland on media law matters for decades, I know the Crown simply doesn't issue such warnings. There's no need.

Any order made under the Contempt of Court Act is public, plain for all to see and observe.

As Lady Dorrian observed at the recent hearing at the behest of The Spectator, any lawyer who couldn't understand her order must be incredibly dense (she was a little more circumspect).

So why is the Crown behaving in this exceptional fashion – and sending its strange warning to the committee remarkably late at night?

I regret to say that I cannot see any other explanation than that this communication was at the direct command of the cabal currently at the head of the Scottish Government.

It was accompanied contemporaneously by social media posts of seemingly honest concern from various women employed in the Scottish Government regarding the guarantee of anonymity when complaints of sexual wrongdoing are made.

But it transpires that far from being truly independent expressions of concern, these postings are all from SNP staffers/special advisers who used a pro forma set of words supplied to them. Now who might have done that? It's not too difficult to work out.

An independent, honest way of doing justice is essential to any nation. In my view, the Crown's weird intervention in the Salmond inquiry makes it plain that things have gone horribly wrong in Scotland's constitutional system.

To put things right may well require the scalps of many of today's Stalinist inner circle in Scotland's Government. That's a small price to pay for returning to the honest Scots system I once knew.

- Alistair Bonnington is a former honorary professor at Glasgow University School of Law.