FIRST the smoking ban hit Scottish bars.

Now it has hit the Scottish Bar.

Solicitors and advocates have been told that from today they must not light up outside the nation's most important court.

Officials – The Herald understands – are unhappy at nicotine-addicted lawyers huddling in the colonnades outside Edinburgh's Parliament House, home of the Court of Session.

So, like many employers, the Scottish Court Service now insists its staff use a designated shelter.

The problem is it also wants officers of the court and advocates to do the same.

But this is a group of men and women who don't take legally unenforceable orders at face value – and who, crucially, aren't employed by the court service.

Some smokers insist they will ignore what one suggested may be an "unlawful edict".

Pipe-smoking QC, Donald Findlay, said: "I am resigned to being a member of the underclass of Scotland – the smokers who make up a quarter of the population.

"I won't smoke in the colonnades just to make a point. But until somebody shows me a law which I am breaking, I will adopt my usual policy on these things and do what I like within the law.

"I will light up my pipe, if I want to have a smoke, unless somebody can point to the rule of law which says I am not allowed to do so. In which case I will, of course, comply with it.

"People have to have a legal basis for telling me I am not allowed to do something."

Mr Findlay and other advocates were told, via the Faculty of Advocates, that "the courts" had instructed them to cease smoking in the colonnades of Parliament House and in the car park.

The veteran defence counsel has already fired off a series of questions about the smoking rules to officials – with the kind of forensic detail he uses to dismantle prosecution cases.

He asked: "By what lawful authority have they issued this edict? What is the punishment for failing to comply with this edict?

"How is it to be enforced, given that 24 hours a day, seven days a week the car park and the colonnades are used by members of the public, people coming to the court and tourists?"

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Court Service said: "An administrative email has gone to all Parliament House staff, informing those who smoke that a new smoking shelter is available and that staff should to use this instead of smoking in front to the building.

"Staff are already aware they should not smoke in front of the building, so this recent email served as a reminder of an existing direction.

"The view of the Scottish Court Service is that visitors should not have to walk past groups of people smoking to get access to the courts and offices.

"A copy of the email was sent to the faculty for information and faculty members are requested by the Scottish Court Service not to smoke in front of the building."

Mr Findlay responded: "Well, if this is a request, I decline."

Groups of smokers – often made up of counsel and parties in civil cases – gather under Parliament House's colonnades, especially during bad weather.

The Herald understands there have been complaints from those visiting the courts about both the smoking and the butts left by smokers.

Other courts have similar problems. There is usually a large group of smokers – prosecutors, defenders and their "customers" – outside Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The Faculty of Advocates did not wish to comment.