Scotland’s most senior law officer, James Wolffe QC, is to step down as Lord Advocate, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
It was reported on Sunday that Mr Wolffe could step down within days, with Solicitor General, Alison Di Rollo QC, also set to depart. It is understood a shortlist of candidates to fill both roles is already being drawn up.
A further announcement is expected to be made once the new law officers have been nominated by the first minister but both Mr Wolffe and Ms Di Rollo will remain in post until the new appointments are made.
The new Lord Advocate could play a key role in providing legal advice on any future legislation relating to a second independence referendum.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said earlier this month he expects whoever is in the role to “uphold the competency of what the Scottish Government can and cannot do” and object to any new legislation to hold a vote.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Lord Advocate informed the first minister last year that he intended to leave office following the recent election and confirmed his intention before her re-election by the Scottish Parliament as first minister.
“The Solicitor General has confirmed her intention to stand down at the same time.
“It is for the first minister to nominate new law officers and, subject to approval of her nominees by the Scottish Parliament, to recommend their appointment to Her Majesty the Queen.
“The current law officers intend to remain in office until the new law officers are appointed.”
Marked by controversy
Mr Wolffe was appointed in 2016, after his predecessor Frank Mulholland stepped down, and his five years in the dual role of head of the prosecution service and legal adviser to the Scottish Government have been marked by controversy.
He faced calls to quit from Alex Salmond over the botched handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister but Mr Wolffe rejected what he described as “baseless” claims of political interference in the Holyrood inquiry into the issue.
Mr Wolffe also made a public apology in February following the wrongful prosecution of two men after a fraud investigation relating to the sale of Rangers Football Club. The men were awarded more than £10 million each in damages.
We reported previously how opposition parties have called for the Lord Advocate’s role to be broken up as part of sweeping changes needed to restore the principles of accountability and transparency in the wake of the Alex Salmond saga.
The Scottish Parliament probe into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond found there was a “long-standing tension” in the dual roles and called for “reassurance that the existing arrangements continue to command confidence in the independent exercise of these two important roles”.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said: “The SNP should use this opportunity to separate the role of the lord advocate as the independent head of the prosecution system from sitting in the cabinet and being a member of the government. In that way the post will in future be truly independent.”