Scotland’s most senior law officer James Wolffe resigns

Scottish Government confirms the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General will both leave their positions.

Scotland’s most senior law officer James Wolffe resigns Getty Images
James Wolffe giving evidence to the Salmond inquiry at Holyrood.

Scotland’s most senior law officer has resigned, the Scottish Government confirmed on Sunday.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC and Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo QC will both leave their positions once new law officers are appointed.

Candidate shortlists will be drawn up by the Scottish Government to replace them. Successors will be nominated by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and then approved by the Scottish Parliament.

A Scottish Government spokesperson 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.”

Wolffe’s tenure in the role has been marred by controversy.

Alex Salmond called for Wolffe’s resignation over the Crown Office’s intervention in redacting the former first minister’s evidence to the Holyrood inquiry set up to investigate the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment claims made against him.

Wolffe was questioned about the intervention and the apparent breach of a court order about releasing evidence.

Salmond said Wolffe, who is both the head of the Crown Office, the body for prosecuting crime in Scotland, and a member of the Scottish Government, should resign over the saga, which ended up costing Scottish taxpayers more than £600,000.

The former leader of the SNP alleged there was a “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort” to remove him from public life.

Wolffe denied any political influence relating to Salmond’s criminal prosecution, which ultimately saw him acquitted of 13 charges at Edinburgh’s High Court last year.

He told the Holyrood committee: “Any suggestion, from any quarter, that the Crown’s decision-making has at any time been influenced by irrelevant considerations or improper motivations would be wholly without foundation.

“Insinuation and assertions to the contrary are baseless.”

Rangers

In a separate high-profile case, Wolffe apologised to MSPs and the public earlier this year for a “very serious failure in the system of prosecution” that led to more than £20m in damages being awarded to two former administrators of Rangers Football Club.

Wolffe said there had been “profound departures from the normal practices” when the Crown decided to prosecute Paul Clark and David Whitehouse.

The lawyer, however, insisted that lessons had been learned, as he told MSPs that the decision to indict the two men had been “indefensible in law”.

The pair had been appointed joint administrators of Rangers in 2012, but were arrested in 2014 regarding their involvement with the administration.

After all the the charges against the pair were either dropped or dismissed, Mr Clark and Mr Whitehouse launched a civil action against the Lord Advocate, seeking damages on the grounds of malicious prosecution.

Wolffe, who was not the Lord Advocate at the time of the initial prosecution, admitted liability in August last year.

After this, mediation took place, resulting in both men being paid £10.5m in damages. In addition, Wolffe said more than £3m had been paid to them in expenses so far.

Lord Mulholland held the post of Lord Advocate from 2011 to 2016.