• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Private members Bill introduced to split Lord Advocate role 

ByJess Clark

Jan 23, 2024
Woman in pink suit (Joanna Cherry MP) speeching

Joanna Cherry, MP of the Scottish National Party (SNP), presented the Ten Minute Rule Bill, a private members Bill, in the House of Commons on 10 January which would enable a dual role for the Lord Advocate role in Scotland. 

The roles of public prosecutor and government legal advisor would be split, and the private members Bill is looking to give the Scottish Parliament the power to make amendments to the role of Lord Advocate. 

The SNP, in preparation for the 2021 election, previously committed to a consultation on whether the Lord Advocate role should be broken up. 

The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to change the role, which is protected from amendments to its function under the Scotland Act. 

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Joanna Cherry said “The straitjacket of the Scotland Act has prevented the Scottish Parliament from modernising the post … by splitting the dual roles of providing independent legal advice to the government and that of head of the prosecution service in Scotland.” 

Scottish political parties, including Alba, and the SNP have supported the Bill, with support expected from the Labour Party and the Conservatives.

The reason behind the introduction of this Bill by Cherry is due to perceived conflicts of interest regarding how the Scottish government handled sexual harassment claims made against Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland. 

The issue has re-emerged recently after the Police Scotland investigation into the finances of the Scottish National Party. 

However, Dorothy Bain who is the current Lord Advocate, has recused herself from the investigation.

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Cherry is a controversial figure herself, as a critic of the Scottish Government’s Gender recognition plans.

Her show ‘The Stand’ was almost cancelled during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August of 2023, due to staff saying they did not feel comfortable with Cherry’s views on trans issues.

The show went ahead after Cherry threatened legal action.

The Scottish Labour party has also previously pledged to back the splitting of the Lord Advocate role in their 2021 Scottish Election manifesto. 

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Support is held across all parties in the Scottish Parliament for this piece of legislation, and Ms Cherry has remarked that “I trust my Bill will have cross party backing when it comes before the Commons.”

Joanna Cherry QC MP” by PlaidCymruWales is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.