Scotland’s top lawyers appointed following Holyrood vote

It is the first time both posts have been simultaneously held by women.

Scotland’s top lawyers appointed following Holyrood vote Getty Images

Replacements as Scotland’s top lawyers have been appointed, as the shadow of reforming one of the roles looms.

Dorothy Bain QC was approved as the new Lord Advocate, while Ruth Charteris QC was selected as Scotland’s next Solicitor General.

It is the first time both posts have been simultaneously held by women.

Calls have intensified in recent months to split the powers of the Lord Advocate – who acts as both the chief legal adviser to the Scottish Government and Scotland’s top prosecutor.

During a debate on the appointments, which were passed unanimously in a Holyrood vote on Thursday, opposition parties again pushed for the separation of powers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is a “strong, prima facie case” for the separation of powers, repeating her election pledge to consult on whether changes should be made.

“However, it is important that parliament considers the precise details of any reform carefully,” she said.

“Change, depending on the nature of it, may require primary legislation including possible amendment to the Scotland Act.

“There are complex issues involved but I can confirm today that the government will take forward a consultation in due course.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said although he is confident that Bain will handle her post “with dedication and professionalism”, the dual role of Lord Advocate still represents a “serious conflict”.

He added: “We have raised concerns about the dual role since devolution began and those concerns have only become more acute as time has passed.

“The problems created by the dual role cannot be rectified by the skill and commitment of the person holding the office.

“The issue is systemic, it is inherent. By their nature these dual roles at times conflict with each other.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “We will proudly support Ruth Charteris and Dorothy Bain in taking on these vital roles in Scotland’s public life, but we will also call on colleagues across this parliament to make it contingent on us to reform these offices going forward.

“In doing so we will all play a small part in changing the tone and tenor of Scotland’s long history.”

Praising both Bain and Charteris before the vote, the First Minister said: “It is, I think, worth noting that if these appointments are approved by parliament today, this will mark the first occasion on which the roles of Lord Advocate and Solicitor General have both been held by women at the same time.

“That would represent a further welcome step towards more equal representation at the most senior levels in the legal profession and in public life more generally.

“However, while that may be – and I think it is – a welcome additional benefit of their appointments, it is not the reason for their appointments.

“Fundamentally, I am nominating Dorothy Bain and Ruth Charteris because they are both supremely well qualified for the roles they are being asked to do.”

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