Appointment of Queen's Counsel in Scotland 2020

A report by Jessica Burns, an independent observer that has been engaged by the Scottish Government to report on the fairness and objectivity of the process for the Appointment of Queen's Counsel in Scotland.


The annual cycle of QC appointments commences when the Lord President and the Lord Justice General, the Rt Hon. Lord Carloway, gives notice to the First Minister that he intends to invite applications for appointment. At the same time he notifies the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and the President of the Law Society of Scotland and takes account of their views on the need to increase the number of Queen’s Counsel and any other relevant considerations. As at 18 September 2019, the date of the announcement of nine QCs appointed in last year’s round, there were 132 practicing QCs in Scotland, including those who had just been appointed. 30 of those were women. Typically QCs cease to practice due to retirement, illness or death, on being appointed to salaried judicial positions and, less commonly, on taking up other types of employment. There is always a balance to be struck between the applicants who may be appointable, the need to ensure appropriate 

career progression and the demand for the services of Queen’s Counsel. Those applying will doubtless have assessed the impact, financial and otherwise, that such an appointment is likely to have on their practice, particularly at the present time when demand for the services of counsel has diminished somewhat due to a number of factors. 

I was provided with all relevant paperwork. I had regard to the information which appeared on the Judiciary of Scotland website. I was assisted by the Lord President’s Private Secretary who provided any further information I requested. I met with the Lord President at the commencement of preparing my report to discuss the current round of appointments and communicated again on submission of the draft report. 

As noted in past reports, Independent Observers have overseen each round of appointments of Queen’s Counsel in Scotland since 2004 thus providing a greater degree of transparency than was hitherto possible.

The Independent Observer, Elaine Noad, summarised the procedure in her 2012 report, which can be found at: -



Back to top