Nicola Sturgeon has committed to examine the dual role of Scotland’s top law officer, as MSPs unanimously backed Dorothy Bain QC in the role.
The highly-respected lawyer will succeed outgoing Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, who was recently embroiled in the battle between the Scottish Government and Alex Salmond over the government’s handling of harassment complaints.
MSPs also approved the appointment of Ruth Charteris QC to succeed Alison Di Rollo as the new Solicitor General for Scotland.
The new appointments come as the Scottish Government plans to review the Lord Advocate’s dual role as head of the prosecution service and a member of the government’s cabinet.
The first minister told MSPs there is a “strong” case to be made for reform but that parliament must consider the “precise detail”.
She confirmed the government would take forward a consultation “in due course”.
‘Splitting up the role’
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said Ms Bain “comes to the new role at a time when the importance of the Lord Advocate seems to have taken on even more significance in Scotland over the last few years”.
He said his party supports “splitting up the role”, claiming there is a “serious conflict” between being head of the Crown Office and the chief legal adviser to the Scottish Government.
Mr Ross said the “Alex Salmond scandal exposed the weaknesses for all to see” and called for reform to “restore public confidence”.
He said: “Time and again it seemed the dual role put people in impossible positions.”
The sentiment was one shared cross-party with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also arguing for reform of the role.
He said: “What matters is not just whether there was bias but whether there is the possible appearance of bias too.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the “role needs to be split to end the apparent conflicts of interest”.
‘More equal representation’
The first minister described Ms Bain as “one of Scotland’s most senior and highly-respected lawyers”.
She said the two appointments marked the “first occasion in which the roles of Lord Advocate and Solicitor General have both been held by women at the same time”.
She added: “That would represent a further welcome step towards more equal representation at the most senior levels in the legal profession and in public life more generally.”
Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to Mr Wolffe for the “scrupulous independence of his advice” who she said had served during “extraordinary times”.
Mr Salmond previously called for the ougoing Lord Advocate to “consider his position,” following the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against him.
Ms Bain, who studied at the University of Aberdeen School of Law, has experience in several high-profile criminal cases.
She became known for securing serial killer Peter Tobin’s first murder conviction in and represented the family of one of the victims of the Glasgow bin lorry crash.