Scots appointments break legal ground

A RESHUFFLE among Scotland's top legal figures is believed to have set a couple of professional records.

The appointments include what is believed to be the first former solicitor to become Lord Advocate, the Government's ultimate source of legal advice for Scotland.

Newly-appointed Lord Advocate Donald Mackay qualified as a solicitor in 1971 and practised for five years, latterly as a partner at Allan McDougall & Co SSC, before joining the Scottish Bar.

Mackay was solicitor general for only six months before replacing Lord Rodger of Earlsferry QC, now elevated to the Appeal Court as a Senator of the College of Justice.

The Lord Advocate heads the prosecution work of the Procurators Fiscal and its Crown Office headquarters and sees Scottish legal Bills through the Lords.

In another unusual promotion, advocate Paul Cullen becomes solicitor general. Cullen, 38, is seen as a high-flyer and is believed to be the youngest ever individual to take up the job.

Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Forsyth made Cullen a silk last week to allow him to qualify for the position.

Cullen comes from a large family of lawyers. One brother is an assistant secretary at the Law Society of Scotland.

Law Society of Scotland secretary Kenneth Pritchard welcomed both appointees as “very talented and successful lawyers”.

He said he was confident Mackay would take “a very robust line” over the issue of court funding.

“He is sufficiently independent and concerned about the public and the profession's interests in access to justice that he will fight this corner hard.”

Pritchard praised Lord Rodger's past record as Lord Advocate, welcoming his support for the principle of solicitor advocates.

It has been reported that the Government appointed lawyers to the two jobs because it did not have sufficiently qualified Scots Tory MPs.