Thursday 19 May 2011

Mulholland to be new Lord Advocate

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]

Solicitor General Frank Mulholland will today be named Lord Advocate, succeeding Elish Angiolini who last year announced plans to step down.

This will create a vacancy for the second law officer post and The Herald understands that it has been decided that a woman will fill the deputy role.

One of the names mooted for the Solicitor General post had been experienced QC Ronnie Clancy, a son of a police officer who has been at the bar since 1990 and was senior Crown counsel in the Lockerbie appeal.

However, The Herald has been told that with the promotion of Mr Mulholland, his No 2 will be a woman. A source at the Faculty of Advocates made the point that the number of women there has expanded from 10 to 100 in just 20 years, so with other senior female fiscals there will be no shortage of choice. (...)

Mr Mulholland was appointed by Alex Salmond as Solicitor General four years ago and it is understood he will now be promoted to the top post.

Mr Salmond will name his Cabinet team today after being sworn in at the Court of Session. He will swear three oaths – as First Minister, as Keeper of the Seal, and of allegiance to the Queen – before receiving the Royal warrant confirming his appointment as First Minister.

[This appointment is not unexpected, but it is to be regretted. Virtually the whole of Frank Mulholland's career has been spent as a Crown Office civil servant. This is not, in my view, the right background for the incumbent of the office of Lord Advocate, one of whose functions has traditionally been to bring an outsider's perspective to the operations and policy-making of the department. Sir Humphrey Appleby was an outstanding civil servant of a particular kind, but his role was an entirely different one from that of Jim Hacker and no-one would have regarded it as appropriate that he should be translated from Permanent Secretary of the Department of Administrative Affairs to Minister (or, indeed, from Secretary of the Cabinet to Prime Minister).

The appointment by the previous Labour administration in Scotland of Elish Angiolini as Solicitor General and then as Lord Advocate was a mistake, both constitutionally and practically, as was her retention as Lord Advocate by the SNP minority government (though the political reasons for her re-appointment were understandable). It is sad that the new majority SNP Government has not taken the opportunity to return to the wholly desirable convention of appointing an advocate or solicitor from private practice to fill the office of Lord Advocate. The much-needed casting of a beady eye over the operations of the Crown Office is not to be expected from this appointee. This is deeply regrettable since such scrutiny is long overdue.

The Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm has picked up this post. Its report can be read here.]

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