Salmond appoints experts to look at Supreme Court


A group of experts has been established to look at the impact of the UK Supreme Court on Scotland's legal system.

First Minister Alex Salmond set up the review after raising his concerns about the role of the London-based court.

The four members appointed to the review group include a former solicitor general for Scotland.

Their initial findings will be debated at the Scottish Parliament in time for the summer recess.

The debate over the Supreme Court was brought to life by its decision that Nat Fraser's conviction for murdering his wife Arlene in Elgin was unsafe.

The court had previously cast doubt on a large number of criminal convictions in Scotland in a ruling which came to be known as the Cadder judgement.

This concerned the rights of a suspect to legal representation during questioning by police.

Political debate

The experts who were appointed to the expert group are Lord McCluskey, a former solicitor general; Sir Gerald Gordon, a former professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University; Charles Stoddart, who has acted as interim Sheriff Principal; and Professor Neil Walker, an expert in constitutional law.

The first minister has asked them to look at the roles of the High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh and the UK Supreme Court in London, and to advise on possible options for reform.

image captionSupreme Court justice Lord Hope has been criticised by politicians

In a BBC television interview, the first minister defended Scotland's independent legal system, which he said was being affected by "aggressive" intervention from a different jurisdiction.

Speaking on BBC News channel, he said: "The Supreme Court is acting not just as a supreme court in civil cases but acting almost as another court of appeal in Scottish criminal cases, with the power to quash convictions, to throw open cell doors if it so wishes.

"I think the power of the Supreme Court is increasing, it has increased, and it's now time for it to be diminished."

But members of the Scottish government have been criticised for politicising the discussion of the Supreme Court, and particularly for focussing on the role of a Scottish judge at the court, Lord Hope.

A spokesman for the Scotland Office, part of the UK government, said evidence on the issue from a previous review had been passed on to the Scottish government.

The spokesman said: "The responses to the expert group set up by the advocate general showed overwhelming support for the Supreme Court maintaining its important role in devolution issues.

"There has been a great deal of misinformation about the role of the Supreme Court in recent weeks.

"The idea that the independence of Scots law is under threat is simply wrong."

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