Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Megrahi's solicitor on threat to UK Supreme Court

[The following are excerpts from a report in today's edition of The Herald:]

Kenny MacAskill wants to cancel Scottish funding for the UK Supreme Court.

The Justice Secretary has ordered civil servants to investigate whether the Scottish Government can pull the financial plug on Britain’s most senior justices over what he sees as the threat they pose to centuries-old Scots Law.

Scotland currently contributes just under £500,000 a year to the London-based court but it is far from clear if the Scottish Government could stop its cheque.

The unprecedented threat to do so underlines just how angry Mr MacAskill is over two humiliating defeats at the UK Supreme Court, including last week’s decision to overturn the conviction of Nat Fraser for murdering his wife Arlene. (...)

Some lawyers last night warned that Mr MacAskill, an experienced defence solicitor, was risking a major constitutional crisis just by giving the impression of trying to undermine the finances of the UK Supreme Court.

Professor Tony Kelly, who acted for human rights group Justice in backing the Cadder appeal, said: “This is a politician interfering with the judicial branch of government. That is simply constitutionally impermissible. [RB: Tony Kelly is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde.]

“It’s an attack on judicial independence which we have never seen the like of in the UK. We have a politician issuing threats against a court because he does not like its decisions.”

Mr Kelly added: “I don’t see any evidence that the Supreme Court has committed any grievous error. If there were English judges importing English doctrines into Scots Law, I am sure there would be a raft of evidence for Nationalist politicians. But there isn’t.”

Solicitor-advocate John Scott said he did not believe withdrawing funding from the Supreme Court would have any impact on the court’s jurisdiction over Scottish matters.

He said: “This is just political tub-thumping. It is a bit like somebody withholding part of their taxes because they don’t want to pay for nuclear weapons. It doesn’t work like that.”


  1. S and M are only a few chucking steps away from setting up their own secret police , it will be a chap at the door at 2 am next.

    Liberty is at peril and the Scottish legal establishment seem happy to whistle while Emperor Salmon burns the hoose doon

  2. As a Yank, I'm watching this closely. This has also become a Constitutional issue in the states as well.

  3. This latest from MacAskill is outrageous. He is making himself look a complete idiot with threats like this.

    Scary too from a Nationalist who, once, was committed to that now elusive thing, justice.

    Is this another claim by him that Fraser, like Megrahi, has to be guilty just because the Scottish Justice System said so?

    Is he rejecting the various appeal processes (again!) and attempting to bar the path to justice when he has no legal authority to do so?

    This is getting to be a habit. He put a gagging order, effectively, on the SCCRC on the publication of their report on Megrahi's conviction: he declared publicly that Megrahi was guilty anyway: he then used his "emergency" legislation (related to Cadder) to reduce the powers of the SCCRC in future cases .

    This is not the behaviour of a justice secretary: this is the behaviour of a man who is determined to re-write the very definition of justice. This is deeply shocking from the SNP who, until their involvement in the Megrahi issue, were the only Party with truly clean hands on Lockerbie.

    Very sad to watch.

  4. But if it is staged for political reasons it makes more sense. Salmond et al have only a couple of years to persuade a resistant majority in Scotland that they should vote for separation - you can't do that if there is a perception that the status quo relationship with London is working. Look forward to more of this kind of thing.

  5. OK, Blogiston, let's say its a political stunt. But in the process he is making a prize fool of himself and raising worrying questions.

    He is saying if a decision on guilt is made in Scotland its correct, end of story. How can that represent justice? I heard on NN Scotland tonight the argument that if cases went direct to Strasbourg instead the SNP would want that because the Scottish Justice system wouldn't need to react as Strasbourgh doesn't have the powers to quash convictions. What use would that be to the likes of Fraser? What is MacAskill championing here? In my view he is actively trying to prevent people from seeking justice if they believe they have been wrongly convicted. I think that is terrifying conduct.

  6. On the other hand, what about other countries? Why is Scotland in the unique position of needing Big Brother in a foreign jurisdiction to second-guess its legal system?

  7. I just saw Salmond's comment about "Hope's law" and am disgusted. Both Hope and Rodger are about the best and most decent legal brains Scotland has ever produced.

    And anyone who thinks this is all about lawyers versus politicians should read Kenneth Roy's pieces on Scottish Review and Robbie the Pict's open letter on The Firm.

  8. Ewan, Kenneth Roy has a corker of an article today in the Scottish Review about Salmond's hostility towards Hope in particular. Both Salmond and MacAskill seem to be going only for Hope and suggesting that only "one Scottish judge" was involved when that isn't the case.