Salmond inquiry: Former sheriff questions whether rule of law still holds in Scotland



A former sheriff has questioned whether the rule of law is actually at work in Scotland amidst the problems plaguing the Salmond inquiry.

Scottish Legal News spoke to former sheriff, Kevin Drummond QC, who said that the Scottish Parliament seems unable to investigate “a relatively uncomplicated issue of management at the heart of government”.

The inquiry is tasked with reporting on the actions of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish government officials and special advisers in dealing with complaints about former First Minister, Alex Salmond, who was last year found innocent of various sexual assault charges made against him.

Sheriff Drummond said that the civil service was being “brought into disrepute” by the whole affair.

He criticised the Crown Office over the fact the unredacted version of Mr Salmond’s evidence was initially published by Crown Office lawyers, apparently without the Lord Advocate’s knowledge, before a redacted version was reissued “all while the Lord Advocate himself is a witness before the same inquiry”.

The redacted document contains allegations that Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.

Sheriff Drummond questioned the purpose and competence of unpublishing the material. He said: “Presumably it was redacted because of fear of contempt or identification. Once it’s already in the public domain you cannot unpublish it.

“It seems to me that the exclusive consequence of that redaction was purely to deprive that witness of being able to refer to that part of the evidence. I don’t see what other result can flow from that sequence of events.”

He also drew attention to worries over the rule of law.

“Concerns have been expressed over a number of years that the rule of law itself was in danger in Scotland. Such views may have seemed to many to be little more than rhetoric but as events have developed it has become clear that our present constitutional arrangements leave much to be desired.”

In his book The Justice Factory, which contains a foreword by Lord Hope of Craighead, author Ian Mitchell suggests that Scots are in thrall to a nationalist elite who are blurring the lines between the civil service and the government and who have interfered with at least one appointment to the office of Lord President of the Court of Session.

The QC also expressed grave concerns over the separation of powers. 

“It should come as no surprise that a constitutional arrangement cobbled together for the general election in 1997 has failed. It should be remembered that one of the provisions which appeared in the Scotland Bill was a power to remove judges by a majority vote in the new Parliament. That was defeated in the House of Lords at the instigation of Lord McCluskey but the concept of control of the judiciary did not go away. It is alive and well in our present system.”

He added: “We now have a national police force which is yet another arm of political control and a Parliament which the ruling party is effectively demonstrating is incapable of controlling the executive arm of government.

“Serious questions are entitled to be asked as to whether or not the rule of law is actually operating in Scotland at the present time.”