Westminster seeks update on splitting lord advocate’s role

Westminster seeks update on splitting lord advocate's role

Alister Jack

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has called on the Scottish government for an update on proposals to split the role of the lord advocate.

Mr Jack has asked First Minister Humza Yousaf to explain what is causing the delay on consulting on the separation of the role, as pledged in the SNP’s 2021 manifesto, into those functionally similar to director of public prosecutions and attorney general in other jurisdictions.

The SNP stated in its manifesto: “We will consult 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.”

In his letter to Mr Yousaf, Mr Jack wrote: “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. For that reason, it would be helpful to understand the Scottish government’s direction of travel on the matter.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “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.”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry KC last month introduced a private member’s bill at Westminster on reforming the role. Her draft legislation would allow MSPs to split the role independently.

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