ONE of Scotland’s most senior former judges has called on Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to resign over the routine arming of the police and a range of other issues.
Former Solicitor General Lord McCluskey accused Mr MacAskill of “unacceptable conduct” and said “he should not continue to hold office as Justice Secretary”.
In a newspaper article, Lord McCluskey claimed the use of armed officers on routine patrol could lead to the “Americanisation” of Scottish policing and may be the “thin end of the wedge” for the all officers being armed.
He said the policy change by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House was an example of “secretive decision-making”.
He wrote: “Mr MacAskill says he knew about this decision from the time of the single force’s creation in April last year, but did not share that information and launched no public consultation.
“Here was a policy which could change the face of policing forever, taken behind closed doors, with Sir Stephen privately briefing the minister about a matter which clearly required public debate.”
He cited the recent US riots in Missouri as evidence of “the dangers of police with guns”.
And he continued: “Mr MacAskill has claimed – without any clear evidence and flying in the face of opinion polls – that the ‘vast majority’ of Scots support arming of police officers on routine duties. If this policy is to remain in place, urgent public debate is needed.”
Lord McCluskey – who was Scotland’s longest-serving judge before his retirement in 2004 – said Mr MacAskill had been guilty of “unacceptable conduct” when he attacked English judges during a clash with the Supreme Court in London, claiming they had no more knowledge of Scots Law than a visit to the Edinburgh Festival.
He also attacked Mr MacAskill’s decision to abolish corroboration, the long-established principle of the Scottish legal system that there must be evidence from at least two sources for any conviction.
“This was driven through by Mr MacAskill – despite the legal establishment, including all judges bar one, protesting against it – in another ruthless display of the SNP’s parliamentary clout.
“The truth is that consultation, even when it is sought, is strategically ignored by the present government when it is deemed incompatible with its overall agenda.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Current policy on armed police remains under constant review by Police Scotland.”
He added that over 98 per cent of police remained unarmed and only 275 officers out of 17,318 had standing authority to carry weapons on duty. He said police, prosecutors and victim groups’ agreed corroboration was a “barrier to justice” in too many cases.