The GLSS member offices are:
The Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) is an associate office of the GLSS. The GLSS also provides legal staff to the Crofters Commission, the Lord President's Private Office and the Scottish Land Court.
Scottish Government Legal Directorate
SGLD is the largest office in the GLSS, providing legal services to the Government and its agencies. This covers a very wide spectrum including litigation and tribunal work, property and commercial law and procurement advice, instructing Bills and drafting subordinate legislation, including implementation of EC Directives. These responsibilities include the provision of legal advice to the Scottish Ministers.
A major focus of SGLD's advisory and legislation work is in ensuring that Ministers act always within the powers conferred on them by the devolution settlement and that Government Bills presented to the Scottish Parliament are within the legislative competence of the Parliament. This aspect of the office's work invariably involves consideration of human rights issues.
SGLD reports to the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland who are the principal ministerial advisers to the Government on legal matters. It currently has 112 lawyers, plus a range of support staff.
Legal Secretariat to the Lord Advocate
The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland are the principal legal advisers (formally known as the Scottish Law Officers) to the Government. They are responsible for providing legal opinions to Scottish Ministers in cases where advice at the highest level is required. Both are members of the Government and the Lord Advocate attends Cabinet by invitation.
The function of the Legal Secretariat is to support the Scottish Law Officers in this role, for instance by researching and helping to draft opinions, and by assisting with Parliamentary Questions, speeches and correspondence. The work very often involves complex issues of human rights and constitutional law. The Legal Secretariat also has an important role in maintaining close liaison with SGLD which provides most of the legal advice required by the Scottish Government, and with their UK counterparts.
The Legal Secretariat currently comprises three lawyers.
The Role and Functions of the Lord Advocate
Office of the Advocate General
The Office of the Advocate General is a Department of the UK Government and the Advocate General is the Law Officer responsible for advising UK Ministers on Scots law. OAG is responsible for advising UK Government Departments operating in Scotland on all matters relating to Scots law.
It instructs UK legislation applying in Scotland and represents its client Departments in litigation before the Scottish courts. It has special expertise in administrative law and in the division of legal powers between the devolved Scottish institutions and their UK counterparts.
The Office also provides support for the Advocate General in carrying out his statutory functions under the devolution settlement. Devolution issues arising in the Scottish courts are intimated to the Solicitor to the Advocate General and the staff of the Office co-ordinate their consideration in Whitehall and arrange for any intervention which the Advocate General considers appropriate.
Legal staff also consider legislation which comes before the Scottish Parliament so as to identify any issues about competence which may arise. These issues are then considered in co-operation with Cabinet Office and other Whitehall legal advisers.
The Office also comprises the Legal Secretariat to the Advocate General based in Dover House, Whitehall
The Advocate General is one of the three UK Law Officers, along with the Attorney General and Solicitor General, and is the principal legal adviser to the UK Government on Scots law. The Legal Secretariat is a small team, normally of three lawyers and based in London. They assist the Advocate General in preparation of Law Officers' opinions (some of which are prepared jointly with the Law Officers for England and Wales), and support him in relation to Parliamentary business, Cabinet committee meetings, correspondence, speeches and other general business. The legal staff take part in Cabinet Office committees of officials and other Whitehall co-ordinating meetings on European law, human rights and devolution.
For more about OAG see http://www.oag.gov.uk.
Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament
OSSP provides the parliamentary legal service so GLSS staff, while at the Parliament, gain experience as parliamentary lawyers. The work is diverse. Much of it is legislative - helping produce non-Government Bills, advising the Presiding Officer on legislative competence, scrutinising Minister-made subordinate legislation.
There's also work on procedures and governance, such as advising the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body which is responsible for providing the Parliament's property, staff and services.
Most of the lawyers work not only with colleagues in the Parliament staff group but also with Members across the parliamentary political spectrum, in committees and other forums.
OSSP has 13 lawyers, plus four support staff.
The Scottish Law Commission
The Scottish Law Commission is an independent statutory body which recommends reforms to improve, simplify and update the law. Its recommendations, if accepted, are generally implemented through legislation in the Scottish or Westminster Parliaments. Lawyers seconded from the GLSS play an important role in managing and contributing to the development of legal policy on all of its reform projec
There are currently five senior GLSS lawyers working at the Commission. For more information about the Commission and its work see http://www.scotlawcom.gov.uk
Parliamentary Counsel Office
Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) currently has 18 lawyers, known as Parliamentary Counsel, who specialise in drafting primary legislation. Their main responsibility is the drafting of Bills introduced in the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers (known as 'Government Bills') in pursuance of their annual legislative programmes and the drafting of amendments to those Bills to be lodged on behalf of Ministers.
Some of the Counsel in PCO are also responsible for drafting Scottish provisions to be included in UK Government Bills at Westminster, including Government amendments to those Bills. In relation to Government Bills in the Scottish Parliament, Counsel in PCO act on instructions from lawyers in the Scottish Government Legal Directorate; and in relation to Government Bills at Westminster, they act principally on instructions from lawyers in the Office of the Advocate General.
PCO recruits separately from GLSS, but applications from suitably qualified lawyers in the GLSS are welcomed and encouraged.