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Lord Steel quit over SNP attacks on Supreme Court

LORD Steel of Aikwood, the former Presiding Officer at Holyrood, has revealed he resigned from his role adjudicating on complaints against the First Minister because he was "appalled" by attacks on the UK Supreme Court.

stepping DOWN: Lord Steel says he left his ajudication role because of Alex Salmond's attacks on the Supreme Court. Picture: Graham Hamilton
stepping DOWN: Lord Steel says he left his ajudication role because of Alex Salmond's attacks on the Supreme Court. Picture: Graham Hamilton

The Government painted a picture at the weekend of an amicable parting of the ways, which saw two former Presiding Officers, Lord Steel and George Reid, choosing to step down after three years in post.

Mr Reid wanted to spend time on other appointments in public life, and with no other former Presiding Officer to step in -- Alex Fergusson having chosen to return to the Tory benches -- it was said Lord Steel had also decided to stand down.

On that basis the appointments of two former Lord Advocates -- Lord Fraser of Carmylie and Dame Elish Angiolini -- were announced, along with words of praise all round from Alex Salmond.

But yesterday Lord Steel decided to end the cosy words.

“The reason I relinquished the role was that I was appalled by the language being used by Alex Salmond, Kenny MacAskill and an authorised spokesman towards the judiciary on the Supreme Court and the Secretary of State,” said Lord Steel.

“I told Alex that I hoped this was not the way they were going to continue now that they had an overall majority, because if so I expected a growing number of complaints against min- isters.

“Whether my letter had any effect I do not know -- he sent me a polite and effusive letter of thanks for my services, but I am glad to observe that there has been no repetition of attacking the messengers instead of arguing the message.

“I wish Peter Fraser and Elish Angiolini -- both of whom I hold in high regard -- well in taking on this task, with the hope that their services will not be too often required.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie was quick to say: “There’s now a serious situation in Scotland. Alex Salmond has his overall majority.

“He has the plum parliamentary committee positions, and now he has lost two experienced members of his scrutiny panel.

“He has every opportunity to bulldozer now. It will take strong, liberal voices to stand up to him.”

The Government feels aggrieved by the criticism, given that two former Lord Advocates are in place to handle any complaints, and no such system existed at all under the previous Labour/LibDem administration.All three complaints in the past -- all by Labour -- on the funding of the Scottish Interfaith Council, open prison absconds and class sizes were rejected.

Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray, said: “The manner of these resignations is a personal embarrassment for the First Minister.

“This is a damning indictment not of SNP policy but Alex Salmond’s lack of judgment, and comes on top of his ill-judged response to last week’s riots.”

Labour MP Jim Sheridan said: “On Saturday I referred Alex Salmond for investigation under the ministerial code because of his deception over the Brian Souter cash for honours affair.

“Now it transpires that the advisers had already resigned, leaving no mechanism for the First Minister to be investigated.”

However, a spokesman for Mr Salmond said Labour was guilty of hypocrisy on both the ban on honours nominations by Ministers and the complaints procedure for the conduct of the First Minister, neither of which it ever put in place during its time in office.

“Mr Sheridan will receive a reply in due course but the position is perfectly clear -- honours are the responsibility of the UK Government and ministers in this administra- tion make no nominations,” he said.

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