Alister Jack has written to the First Minister asking for an update on plans to reform the role of Lord Advocate.

It is understood the minister believes that the current situation where Dorothy Bain is both a member of the Scottish Government and the country’s top prosecutor is untenable.

The SNP’s 2021 Holyrood manifesto promised to consult on “whether the dual functions of the Law Officers, as head of the independent prosecution service and principle legal advisors to the Scottish Government should be separated.”

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Recent high-profile cases have led to some concerns about a conflict of interest, notably the Scottish Government's botched handling of complaints against Alex Salmond, and the court case which saw him charged and ultimately acquitted of 13 counts of sexual assault.  

There was also some disquiet about the Rangers malicious prosecution scandal, which saw several people involved in the administration and acquisition of the club wrongly charged.

That led to a series of civil claims set to cost the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service £60.5m in payouts.

In May last year, the former Chief Executive of the Scottish Law Commission, Malcolm McMillan was tasked by the Scottish Government with reviewing the current arrangement ahead of a possible consultation.

However, there has been no update since.

In his letter to Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Secretary said any change would need to go through the Westminster parliamentary process.

He said: “I understand the Scottish Government has been considering reforms to the role of the Scottish Law Officers for some time, with Malcolm McMillan being commissioned to complete research into the matter in the Spring of last year.

“I would welcome an update on the Scottish Government’s position on amending the roles of Law Officers and any next steps post Malcolm McMillan’s research.

“As you will be aware, most significant changes to the role of the Lord Advocate would require amendment of the Scotland Act 1998. Many of those amendments could only be made (or enabled) by means of UK Parliamentary legislation.

“For that reason, it would be helpful to understand the Scottish Government’s direction of travel on the matter.”

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry in bid to split Lord Advocate's dual role

Last month, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry lodged a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament looking to reform the role.

Crucially, her draft legislation would take the decision away from Mr Jack and Westminster and give the Scottish Parliament the power to split the Lord Advocate's functions.

In her speech in the Commons, Ms Cherry said the “historical anachronism” of the dual role could “give rise to a conflict of interest, or at the very least the perception of a conflict of interest".

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister has received the letter and will respond to the Secretary of State for Scotland in due course.

“As protected within the Scotland Act, the law officers operate entirely independently of any other person as they undertake their prosecutorial and investigation of deaths functions.

“The Scottish Government has commissioned expert research into the functions of the law officers.

“This research will ensure a detailed baseline understanding of the distinct roles and functions of the law officers and will provide information on how the functions of law officers operate in other countries.”