Lord Steel resigns from advisory role in protest at Supreme Court row

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by G.A.Ponsonby
 
Veteran Lib Dem politician David Steel has quit as an advisor on Scottish ministerial standards following the row over the role of the UK Supreme Court in Scottish criminal cases.
 
Lord Steel announced he was stepping down after attacking the Scottish government’s criticisms of judicial figures who sit on the court.

The senior Lib Dem politician, and one time party leader, said he had been “appalled” at the language adopted by the First Minister and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill when each attacked the London based court accusing it of undermining Scots Law.

The row over the role of the court follows recent decisions that have led to the overturning of verdicts in Scottish criminal cases.  In a high profile case, Nat Fraser had his conviction for murdering his ex-wife Arlene overturned after the London based court ruled his human rights had been infringed at his trial.

Last week a Bo’ness couple, accused of supplying chemicals to crystal meth dealers in the US, were given leave to take their challenge of an extradition decision to the same UK Supreme Court.

The court, set up by the last UK Labour government, allows Scottish cases leave to appeal on issues relating to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  However despite an assurance that it would deal only with Human Rights cases, the court is now hearing appeals from Scottish criminal cases.

Lord Steel, who is leaving along with another former Presiding Officer George Reid, informed the Scottish government of his decision a number of weeks ago but agreed to make no statement until replacements had been announced.

Lord Steel said: “I resigned from this position several weeks ago but agreed with the First Minister not to say anything until he had made new appointments.

“The reason I relinquished the role was that I was appalled by the language being used by Alex Salmond, Kenny MacAskill and an authorised spokesman towards the judiciary on the Supreme Court and the Secretary of State.

“I told Alex that I hoped this was not the way they were going to continue now that they had an overall majority, because if so I expected a growing number of complaints against ministers.

“Whether my letter had any effect I do not know. He sent me a polite and effusive letter of thanks for my services, but I am glad to observe that there has been no repetition of attacking the messengers instead of arguing the message.

“I wish Peter Fraser and Elish Angiolini, both of whom I hold in high regard, well in taking on this task, with the hope that their services will not be too often required.”

The Scotish government has announced that their replacements will be former Lord Advocates Dame Elish Angiolini and Lord Peter Fraser.

 

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