A LEADING lawyer has accused Alex Salmond of misrepresenting the Supreme Court's role in Scottish affairs as she expressed concerns at a growing "culture of resistance" to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Maggie Scott, QC, has called for reforms on how civil liberties are dealt with by the Scottish criminal courts, describing the practice as “insular”.

Her comments come on the back of the political storm that erupted after Elgin businessman Nat Fraser, for whom Ms Scott is lead defence counsel, had his appeal against his 2004 murder conviction upheld by the Supreme Court in London.

Judges there ruled his trial was unfair under the European Convention on Human Rights and referred it back to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, which last month formally overturned the conviction and granted a retrial.

Politicians said the UK Supreme Court should have no role in Scottish criminal law and Mr Salmond described it as an “aggressive” intervention, saying it could give the London court power to “throw open cell doors if it so wishes”.

However, Ms Scott said: “I think it is a misrepresentation. That is one of the big problems with the statements.

“I don’t believe the Supreme Court interferes with Scots criminal law. It is not aggressive. If you read the judgments you can see how careful it is in respecting Scottish jurisdiction.

“The Supreme Court only deals with human rights issues. It doesn’t get involved in Scottish criminal law in terms of our rules of evidence or definition of crimes.

“We are certainly far behind in the implementation of human rights. I am quite worried, in terms of the recent debate, by the kinds of insults that are being hurled about by Scottish ministers. There is a culture developing which is quite anti-European Convention on Human Rights and anti-civil liberties.”

Last month Ms Scott told the Appeal Court in Edinburgh that the Scottish Government’s concerns about the “interfering” role of the UK Supreme Court had been prejudicial to Fraser, 52, who is accused of the murder of his wife, Arlene, in 1998.

She said the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s senior prosecutor, had not taken “adequate steps” to prevent prejudicial publicity.

With respect to appeal cases, Ms Scott told The Herald she would prefer to see things remedied in Scotland, but the current climate left little alternative.

“The problem is they are not being implemented properly by the Scottish courts, so we are having to go to London,” she said. “There has been a failure by the Scottish courts, in particular the appeal court, to engage in human rights implementation into Scots law.”

Mr Salmond has set up a review to look at the roles of the High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh and the UK Supreme Court.

The group’s first report claimed Scotland faced more intrusive jurisdiction from the Supreme Court than the rest of the UK.

But Ms Scott said: “The Supreme Court will help us harmonise with other countries. Even if we were independent I would want to see some sort of arrangement where we could maintain that kind of unity.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers strongly support human rights and believe the people of Scotland should have an effective way of enforcing their rights under the European Convention.

“We accept the jurisdiction of the European Court, but as a matter of practicality and access to justice, enforcing these rights should be done primarily through the Scottish Courts. However, recent cases have demonstrated an unexpected and potentially damaging role for the UK Supreme Court in such cases.

“Scottish cases can be considered by the UK Supreme Court whether or not they are considered to raise a point of public importance, a system that the report by the independent review group described as ‘seriously flawed’.

“This is why Scotland’s courts must be given parity with those in other parts of the UK when it comes to certification of appeals to the UK Supreme Court.”

Face-to-face with Maggie Scott: Page 10