04 October 2006

Boyd quits (That's Colin, luckily, not Kris)

Colin Boyd QC has quit as Lord Advocate of Scotland, with his resignation apparently effective as of midnight tonight. It seems he wishes to 'play a full role in the House of Lords and seek opportunities in the private sector'. Does that mean he wants to join Oracle Chambers, the breakaway from the Faculty of Advocates? Probably not, actually, that's just idle speclation on my part.

In any case, this has been a bad year for Baron Boyd of Duncansby: his involvement in the Shirley McKie affair has tarnished his reputation, as has the row over his peerage after he took his seat as a Crossbencher, prompting opposition politicians to argue that it wasn't possible for him to be an Independent at Westminster AND a member of the Cabinet in Scotland (incidentally, this complaint forever rules out the idea that a party can be in government in one Parliament and in opposition in the other, but let's not go there right now).

Boyd was appointed as Solicitor General in 1997, and being promoted to Lord Advocate in 2000 following Andrew Hardie's appointment to the bench. Since then, he's seen First Ministers come and go, with only Ross Finnie holding the same job for longer, and even his job description changed in 2001!

For the moment, therefore, his deputy, Solicitor General Elish Angiolini will do the work. McConnell will have to ask Holyrood to vote on a permanent successor (whether it be Angiolini or someone else), and any candidate the Parliament backs will have to be appointed formally by the Queen. My guess at this stage (though I'm not a legal eagle) is that it's between her and Neil Davidson, or rather Baron Davidson of Glen Clova. Angiolini wins this contest on the grounds that: 1) McConnell dropped Davidson as Solicitor General in her favour when he took office as First Minister; 2) Davidson is already the Westminster government's Advocate General, Blair has lost one of these already this year, and it's not outwith the realm of possibility that Davidson will prefer the status quo; and 3) although Davidson is an unashamedly Labour peer, there's already been a headache about allowing one Lord Advocate to go to the Lords, and McConnell probably won't fancy a row over recruiting one from the Lords.

There's also a wider question here: could McConnell use this as his last big chance to instigate a broader Cabinet re-shuffle before the Election? Does he dare?

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