THE OUTGOING leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has claimed that an ongoing fraud probe into SNP finances shows the need to split the lord advocate role.

Willie Rennie, who has stood down as his party’s leader, has stressed that a criminal investigation into donations handed over to the SNP highlights the need for an independent director of public prosecutions – separated from the Scottish Government's chief law officer.

Currently, the lord advocate has two roles – but Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to investigate whether the dual responsibility can be split.

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The newly appointed Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain is both the Scottish Government’s senior law officer and the head of the Crown Office, Scotland’s prosecution service.

Yesterday, Ms Bain confirmed she was removing herself from any further involvement in litigation related to the collapse of Rangers FC, over conflict of interest concerns.

In a statement, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said that on her appointment, Ms Bain had “raised the issue of a perceived conflict of interest as she had previously acted for a firm of solicitors who represented the corporate entity, Duff and Phelps”.

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It said she had “recused herself from further involvement in related matters”.

Police Scotland has confirmed that it has launched a fraud investigation after a series of complaints over donations made to the SNP. The party said it would "cooperate fully" with the investigation.

Mr Rennie said: “It has been clear for some time that the role of Lord Advocate needs split to end the apparent conflicts of interest.

“Only Peter Murrell knows what the police probe will uncover but it is a bad look for decisions over prosecutions to be taken by the same person who is responsible for giving the First Minister her legal advice.

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“Dorothy Bain is a figure of the utmost integrity but I am sure that she recognises that this is not an ideal situation for anyone to be put in.”

He added: “In the later days of the last parliament, the conflict of interest between the duties of the lord advocate fell into sharp focus. The police probe into the SNP has brought it to the fore once more.

“An independent director of public prosecutions to run the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service could ease the pressure and reassure the public that there is no conflict between these two roles.

“This reform is in the hands of the First Minister. She should act now to make it happen.”