Appointment of Queen's Counsel in Scotland 2021

A report by Bill Thomson, 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.

2021 Appointment Round

Lord Carloway, acting in his capacity as Lord Justice General, intimated to the First Minister on 26 January that he intended to invite applications for appointment as Queen's Counsel.

Advertisements were placed in the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland and in the Scottish Legal News on 15 March. Copies had also been sent by email to the Faculty of Advocates, the Society of Solicitor Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland.

Whilst this amounts to minimal publicity in comparison with many public appointment processes, it is in line with recent practice and appears appropriate given the limited field of potential applicants.

Separate application forms were provided for advocates and for solicitor advocates. All applicants were also required to obtain two references from senior members of the legal profession who were fully familiar with their work. The Guide for Applicants explains that referees are expected to address directly the criteria for nomination. Applications and references were to be submitted by close of business on 5 April to the Private Secretary to the Lord President. Contact details were supplied, including a telephone number for enquiries.

21 applications were received, including 19 from advocates and two from solicitor advocates. Five of the applicants were female advocates: all others were male. Applicants completed a self-assessment form addressing their fitness for appointment in terms of the specified criteria of advocacy, legal ability and experience, and professional qualities.

One application was not supported by any references. The referees for two of the applicants had only limited knowledge or experience of the applicant's work. In the case of three other applicants, one referee was able fully to address the criteria whereas the other had only limited knowledge.

The process is repeated annually. It might therefore be expected that intending applicants would consult in advance with potential referees. However, it is also possible that an extension of the three week period between advertisement and closing would be of assistance to some applicants and referees.

All applicants completed a confidential equalities monitoring form, giving details of gender and place of origin. No other information was disclosed.



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