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Scotland Act 1998

Details of Provisions

Subsection (1) provides that the First Minister is responsible for recommending to Her Majesty the appointment of a person as Lord Advocate or Solicitor General for Scotland and for recommending the removal of either but prohibits him from doing so without the agreement of the Scottish Parliament.

The Standing Orders of the Parliament make provision for the agreement of the Parliament to be sought, by motion, to the recommendation to be made by the First Minister about the appointment of the Scottish Law Officers and the motion may relate to either or both of the Scottish Law Officers. Where it relates to both, the motion may be amended by the Parliament to delete the name of one of them.

There is no requirement that the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor General has to be a member of the Parliament. Where they are not, there are special provisions regarding their participation in the proceedings of the Parliament under section 27 and the Standing Orders.

Unlike the case of the other members of the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Law Officers can only be removed from office by Her Majesty and after the agreement of the Parliament. This adds to their security of tenure.

Subsection (2) provides that the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General may at any time resign and shall do so if the Parliament resolves that the Scottish Executive no longer enjoys the confidence of the Parliament.

The Standing Orders of the Parliament require the Presiding Officer to notify the resignation to the Parliament.

Subsection (3) provides that where the Lord Advocate has resigned in consequence of a vote of no confidence, he shall be deemed to continue in office until the warrant of appointment for his successor is granted, but only for the purpose of exercising his retained functions. Retained functions are defined in section 52(6) and refers in particular to his functions as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland. This provision is required to ensure that there is continuity in criminal proceedings.

Subsection (4) provides that subsection (3) is without prejudice to section 287 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 providing for the demission of office by Lord Advocate. Section 287 provides for indictments raised by a Lord Advocate to remain effective even although he has demitted office and for indictments to run in the name of the Solicitor General for Scotland if the office of Lord Advocate is vacant. Section 287(5) provides that, where both the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General demit office on the same day (as would happen in the event of a vote of no confidence - see subsection (2) above), the Lord Advocate is deemed to continue in office for the purposes of the 1995 Act until the appointment of his successor.

Subsection (5) protects the independence of the Lord Advocate in his capacity as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland by providing that any decision made by him in that capacity is to continue to be taken by him independently of any other person. This is intended to ensure that the traditional independence of the Lord Advocate in taking those decisions when he was a member of the UK Government continues now that he is a member of the Scottish Executive.

The provisions in subsection (6) are necessary to disengage the offices of Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland from the UK Government. This subsection removes them from the list of Ministerial offices in Schedule 2 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Section 2 of that Act limits the number of holders of Ministerial offices who are entitled to sit in the House of Commons at any one time. Subsection (6) also removes the two offices from Part III of Schedule 1 to the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. That Part lists the Law Officers to the UK Government and specifies their salaries. See also the Scotland Act 1998 (General Transitory, Transitional and Savings Provisions) Order 1999 (S.I. 1999/901), which includes transitional provisions relating to these amendments.

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