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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 01 June 2016

Agenda: Law Officers, Taking Scotland Forward: Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Contents


Law Officers

The first item of business today is a debate on motion S5M-00255, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on the appointment of law officers. Members should note that the question on the motion will be taken immediately after the debate and not at decision time.

I call the First Minister to speak to and move the motion.

It gives me great pleasure to speak to and move the motion in my name on the appointment of the two Scottish law officers. These are weighty positions in several regards—because of the history of the positions, their influence and the credentials of the people who are appointed to hold them.

The positions of the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland date from before the union of the Parliaments but, although the posts have an ancient lineage, they remain crucial today in their modern form. Our law officers lead prosecutions, provide legal opinions in cases where advice at the very highest level is required and—importantly—act independently in criminal proceedings, providing an invaluable and impartial service. They play a leading role in our justice system—a role that is entrusted with the vital task of keeping the people of Scotland safe.

Before I turn to the credentials of the appointees who are before the Parliament today, I take this opportunity, on behalf of Parliament, to thank the departing law officers for their commitment and their service. As Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland showed dedication to justice in every sense of the word. He led from the front at all times. After the launch of the specialist cold cases unit, he successfully made Scotland’s first double jeopardy application in the World’s End trial. In doing so, as a prosecutor, he secured a life sentence for murder for Angus Sinclair, ending a 37-year-long wait for justice. Among other reforms, Frank Mulholland embedded a specialist approach in the prosecution service, including for sexual crimes. I am delighted that his service will continue when he takes up his new role as a senator of the College of Justice.

As Solicitor General, Lesley Thomson also made a lasting contribution to the effectiveness of our prosecution service, particularly by highlighting the need for domestic abuse legislation that takes account of the emotional damage that is done to victims.

Both Frank Mulholland and Lesley Thomson have been truly outstanding public servants. They have my thanks, and I am sure that they leave office with the very best wishes of everyone in the chamber. [Applause.]

I now turn to the business of the day. My formal recommendation for Scotland’s new Lord Advocate is James Wolffe QC, who is a leading senior counsel and currently dean of the Faculty of Advocates. I think it is fair to say that he is also an outstanding legal talent. He has an extensive and exemplary legal background and experience at all levels, including in the House of Lords, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the European Court of Human Rights. An advocate since 1992, he took silk in 2007 and was also called to the bar in England and Wales in 2013. He served as an advocate depute from 2007 to 2010 and was first standing junior counsel to Scottish ministers from 2002 to 2007. I have no doubt that we will all benefit greatly from his wide-ranging professional experience.

My other formal recommendation today is that senior advocate depute Alison Di Rollo becomes the new Solicitor General for Scotland. She has led the groundbreaking work of the national sexual crimes unit, first as its deputy and then as its head for more than three years. Her outstanding career and contribution to a new, more effective approach to sexual crimes gives me every confidence in recommending her for this new role.

It is with enormous pleasure that I move,

That the Parliament agrees that it be recommended to Her Majesty that James Wolffe be appointed as the Lord Advocate and that Alison Di Rollo be appointed as Solicitor General for Scotland.

The question is, that motion S5M-00255, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on the appointment of law officers, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that it be recommended to Her Majesty that James Wolffe be appointed as the Lord Advocate and that Alison Di Rollo be appointed as Solicitor General for Scotland.

Let me be the first to congratulate Mr Wolffe and Ms Di Rollo on their appointment. I wish them every success in their new duties. [Applause.]