Legal advice that never was

Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told the chamber today that the Scottish Government had, in fact, not previously sought legal advice from its own law officers on whether or not an independent Scotland could be regarded as a ‘successor state’ to be given automatic EU membership.

On the heels of this, Mr Salmond told the chamber that ‘under the terms of the ministerial code neither myself nor other ministers  can comment on the existence or the content of legal advice without prior permission from the law officers.’

There can be nothing to stop ministers from saying that they themselves have not sought legal advice. That is not an issue for law officers in any way. There is nothing legally compromising or embarrassing about this – but it may be politically embarrassing if you have already stated or implied the contrary position, as Mr Salmond and other ministers have indeed previously done.

Then there is the small problem that, on camera, when interviewer Andrew Neil had asked the First Minister the straight question: ‘Have you sought advice from your own Scottish law officers on this matter?’, Mr Salmond had answered, without equivocation, ”We have, yes, in terms of the debate and the…’ [Ed: our emphases]

But now we know they hadn’t.

And then there is the large problem that the First Minister had commenced expensive legal proceedings to stop the revelation of something that could not be revealed because it had never existed.

This is unhinged.

Note: Unsurprisingly, the Scottish Government has made it known that this legal action is no longer being pursued.

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8 Responses to Legal advice that never was

  1. I’m more interested in the ability of legal advice to the government, critical to our futures and to the way we vote, to be concealed. I can understand the need for confidentiality in many aspects of government discussion with their legal bods – but aren’t our elected representatives responsible to the electorate first, and their lawyers second? Compared with this, Alex Salmond’s verbal shenanigans are less controversial – because, to me, they’re entirely in character.

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  2. Alex Salmond has certainly been “found out” this time. Alex Salmond wants the Scottish voters to vote YES in favour of independence in principle and then he will make up the rules as he goes along.
    Hopefully the Scottish voters will see through him and vote NO because at present he is taking them for mugs.

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  3. Any government publication has to be legally tested by the government law officers before publication. The publications made by the Scottish Government couldn’t have been issued in the form they were in without being approved by the officers.

    What Nicola Sturgeon was referring to yesterday was that as the Edinburgh Agreement is now in place the Scottish Government will now seek legal advice on Scotland’s legal position vis a vis that agreement in relation to Europe and other consequentials and publish it with civil service consent.

    Big fuss about nothing. EU membership and all other treaty obligations for both Scotland and rUK will be decided by politics not law.

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    • Baloney. Caught telling porkies and hoping they’d not get caught.

      Rather than ‘Scotland WILL be automatically part of the EU, this has been confirmed by the EU’ the story is ‘People we have spoken to have the opinion that Scotland automatically a member of the EU, but they have no say in the decision making’.

      Quite different Greame. The point is that had they said a year ago ‘We believe Scotland will automatically be allowed to enter the EU, but this has not been confirmed by them and we need to go through the proper channel’ then they would have maintained some credibility. As it is, they have been caught doing what they always do – living in fairy land only listening to people they want to hear!

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  4. There is no guarantee that the legal advice now being sought will be correct if there is a challenge. If it were otherwise we would not have an appellate system of law.

    On the balance of Legal experts who have voiced an opinion I have greater confidence in Sir Neil McCormick than Unionist politicians any day.

    If the rUK holds a referendum to leave the EU what will legal opinion matter then that states it can’t leave?

    Wonder if the Unionists have sought legal advice on this or will they wait till the there is an Agreement with the EU first?

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