LORD McCluskey, the former Solicitor General and one of Scotland’s most respected legal figures described as "a giant of Scots law" has died. He had celebrated his 88th birthday just eight days ago.

His son David said he "died peacefully surrounded by his close family".

"He had suffered a long and difficult illness, borne with characteristic grit and determination," he said.

His nephew, Niall McCluskey, also an advocate said: "Just heard the sad news that my uncle has died. He was a great man and a fantastic lawyer. He will be missed."

A graduate of the University of Edinburgh, he was called to the Scottish Bar in 1955 after services in the Royal Air Force and became a QC in 1967.

He had been a crossbench life peer sitting in the House of Lords for 41 years until he retired in February on grounds of poor health.


The Scottish Legal Awards soon afterwards celebrated his career with a lifetime achievement award.

He said at the time that he considered lifetime achievement to be helping safeguard the independence of the judiciary from a provision of the Scotland Bill which would have allowed Parliament to remove judges.

Gordon Jackson, QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said paid tribute saying: "Lord McCluskey was a giant of Scots law. He had an outstanding career as counsel, law officer and judge. Although often outspoken, his views were always challenging and merited the most careful consideration."

Leading Scottish human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar added: "Sad to hear Lord McCluskey passed away. A great lawyer & a judge never scared to speak his mind."

Lord McCluskey, one of four sons of solicitor Francis McCluskey and his wife, Margaret, was made Solicitor General in 1974 and served for more than five years and was a high court judge for 20 years.

Early in his career, in 1973, as a bowler-hatted, QC, he defended Sir Paul McCartney against drugs charges, and caused uproar in court when he asked if the multi-millionaire could have "time to pay" a £30 fine.

He also worked on the original Scotland Bill in that decade, along with his tennis partner and friend, the then Labour leader, John Smith.

It was during the new Labour government of Harold Wilson that on September 29, 1976 he was created a life peer as Baron McCluskey, of Churchhill in the District of the City of Edinburgh. He remained in this office until the Conservative victory in the 1979 election, continuing thereafter as Labour Opposition Spokesperson for Scottish Legal Affairs until 1984.

He made headlines in 2005 when he called for heroin to be legalised, saying current drugs policy did not work.

He retired from the bench in 2004 but then conducted two high-profile inquiries, firstly on the relationship between Scotland’s courts and the UK Supreme Court. He concluded that only those cases of “general public importance” should be taken to the Supreme Court. “The UK and Scottish governments accepted entirely what we decided, which was very satisfactory,” he said.