Archive for June 2nd, 2011

First Minister of Scotland, Alec Salmond, has provoked a ‘perfectly *Hope*less Storm’ with his recent criticism of Lord Hope and Scotland’s subservience to the United Kingdom Supreme Court.  The clue is in the name of the UKSC.  It is not an English court.  It is a Scottish, Northern Irish, Welsh and English Court.

I watched Scottish Newsnight the other night – a link provided by fellow Scot, blogger and tweeter @loveandgarbage.   While I am fairly used to English government ministers and other politicians getting the law wrong, I had not seen an example from Scotland’s First Minister before.

The Guardian notes: “The first minister and his justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, have accused the supreme court of “intervening aggressively” in Scotland’s independent legal system after it ruled that the Scottish legal system had twice breached the European convention on human rights in significant criminal cases

Not content with merely demonstrating a casual lack of acquaintance with the laws of his own country and those of the United Kingdom, Salmond  went on to say….according to The Guardian:

Speaking on Newsnight Scotland on Tuesday, he questioned why Hope had the individual authority, sitting as one of Scotland’s two judges on the supreme court, to overrule decisions made by, in one case, seven Scottish appeal court judges.

“I don’t think it’s sensible, fair or reasonable in any jurisdiction where we’ve a situation where one judge is overruling the opinion of many judges in another court,” he said. “It boils down to the potential replacement of Scottish law by Lord Hope’s law. I don’t think that’s a satisfactory situation.”

A number of  points arise from the above.  All Supreme Court judges contribute to judgments.  Ipso facto it is not one judge overruling other judges. Dissenters write their own judgments.  An ad hominem attack on Lord Hope, an eminent Scottish judge,  is unacceptable for a serious politician and undermines the rule of law. Scotland, as part of the United Kingdom, is subject to The European Convention. I am advised by  Scots lawyers that Salmond’s preference for appeals to go straight to the ECHR – where there are no Scottish judges –  on human rights issues is ‘curious’ when Scotland has two UK Supreme Court judges and has long provided eminent judges to the final appellate court in this country. I am also advised that the result in two very important Scots Law cases – would have been the same at the ECHR.

The Guardian notes: “It (The UKSC)  has no power to rule on the crimes or laws passed by the Scottish parliament, unless they breach the convention, and has only ruled on two Scottish criminal cases: the Nat Fraser murder conviction and Scotland’s failure to give defendants in police custody fair access to a lawyer.”

Anyway… enough from me on this.  @loveandgarbage (who alternates between writing about scones, snow and serious law on his blog) has kindly offered to write a ‘guest post’ soon on this matter.  I am a Scot – albeit one who is ‘versed’ in English law.  I am now reading Scots law books and reading a fair few Scots blogs. I have no view, as yet, on the issue of an independent Scotland – but I don’t think it unreasonable to observe, from Battersea, that it would help the debate if Scotland’s First Minister began intelligent debate by getting the law right?

I shall leave the last word on this brief post to… “Lord Colin Boyd QC, a former Lord Advocate under the last Labour coalition government in Edinburgh and a legal adviser to the current UK government, said the supreme court had a clear and necessary role to protect fundamental legal rights. He said the Scottish government was pursuing a nationalist agenda.”

Why barristers balk at the ‘box-ticking’ of continuing professional development

Alex Aldridge in The Guardian: “Barristers failing to complete their annual quota of CPD now dominate Bar Standards Board disciplinary proceedings”

An interesting article – one which raises very important issues and the issue of whether members of the bar who do serious blogs should be able to claim CPD points for their blog writing.  I am reading the relevant Bar Standards Board reports on CPD and the reform thereof and I will blog on this shortly.

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