Scotland's Lord Advocate James Wolffe to resign, Scottish Government confirms

The Lord Advocate and Solicitor General are to leave office, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 3:59 pm
Updated Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 7:43 pm

It followed reports on Sunday that Lord Wolffe QC and Alison Di Rollo QC would signal they would be stepping down, which immediately renewed calls for the dual role of the Lord Advocate as chief prosecutor and Scottish Government minister to be separated.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Lord Advocate informed the First Minister last year that he intended to leave office following the recent election and confirmed his intention before her re-election by the Scottish Parliament as First Minister.

"The Solicitor General has confirmed her intention to stand down at the same time.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

James Wolffe giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
James Wolffe giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“It is for the First Minister to nominate new law officers and, subject to approval of her nominees by the Scottish Parliament, to recommend their appointment to Her Majesty the Queen.

"The current law officers intend to remain in office until the new law officers are appointed."

Mr Wolffe’s joint legal and political post came under exceptional scrutiny by opposition parties over the failed criminal case against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Laura Dunlop QC, who led a review of handling harassment against ministers in the wake of the Salmond debacle, and Dorothy Bain QC, who chairs the police appeals tribunal, are reportedly seen as possible successors.

West Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby said today: “The appointment of a new Lord Advocate must be a moment for the Scottish Government to stop and reflect on the role of Scotland's most senior law officer.

“Scottish Labour is clear that the time has come to reassess the powers of the Lord Advocate, separating the role of prosecutor from that of the most senior legal advisor to the Scottish Government.”

Read More

Read More
Alex Salmond inquiry: Why the two roles held by Scotland's Lord Advocate should ...

Scottish Greens justice spokesperson Maggie Chapman said: “There is a legitimate case for reviewing the role of the lord advocate, but that process should be entirely separate from any criticism around how an individual is perceived to have performed.

"Any reform of such a key office certainly shouldn’t be rushed to suit political agendas.

“Rather than focus on arguments about personalities or process, Scottish Greens would like to see the next lord advocate take the bold action necessary to tackle key areas where the justice system is currently not working.

"For example, we want to see complainers in sexual offence cases given the automatic legal right to anonymity.

"Another area where this could happen almost immediately is around the drug deaths crisis. The lord advocate has considerable discretion in identifying whether prosecutions are in the public interest.

"It’s vital that Wolffe’s successor uses that discretion to ensure that NHS staff can work in safe consumption facilities without the threat of prosecution hanging over them, a measure that would undoubtedly save lives.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: "We believe now is the time to separate the Lord Advocate's position as the Scottish Government's legal advisor and appoint an independent director of prosecutions to run the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service."

Mr Wolffe was appointed Lord Advocate in 2016 when he was dean of the Faculty of Advocates

Alison Di Rollo was a senior advocate depute and head of the National Sexual Crimes Unit when she was appointed as his deputy at the same time.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.