The Scottish government has set up a panel of experts led by a former solicitor general for Scotland to review the ‘aggressive’ intervention of the Supreme Court in Scotland’s legal affairs.
The review was sparked by growing disquiet among Scottish politicians and lawyers at the Supreme Court’s willingness to overturn decisions of the high court of Scotland in criminal matters.
The panel, chaired by former solicitor general for Scotland Lord McCluskey, will advise on measures to protect Scotland’s unique system of criminal law and procedure.
An interim report is expected before the summer parliamentary recess, with a full report following later this year.
Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond said that ‘aggressive’ intervention was undermining the independence of the Scottish legal system.
He said: ‘The fact that courts outside Scotland should have no jurisdiction over Scottish criminal matters is a long-standing and fundamental principle which is enshrined in the Act of Union.
‘Yet we find ourselves in a situation where the unanimous decision of a bench of seven judges in the high court in Scotland can be overturned by the UK Supreme Court where Scots judges are in a minority.
‘The Scottish government’s view is that Scotland should be like every other jurisdiction across Europe and use the Strasbourg court as the final option for judgment when needed.’
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Salmond added that it was time that the power of the Supreme Court was ‘diminished’.
A Scotland Office spokesman said the findings of an earlier expert review showed ‘overwhelming support’ for the Supreme Court maintaining its ‘important role in devolution issues’.
He added: ‘The idea that the independence of Scots law is under threat is simply wrong.’