Scots to protest at English intervention in legal cases

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The Independent Online

Alex Salmond was last night preparing for his first showdown with London after leading the SNP to a crushing victory in elections to the Scottish Parliament.

The flash-point is over the ability of judges sitting in the UK Supreme Court to intervene in Scottish criminal cases. It can rule on cases where Scottish law conflicts with human rights legislation.

It comes after the Westminister-based body ruled last week that the conviction of Nat Fraser, 52, of Elgin, for murdering his estranged wife in 2003, was unsafe. He had been ordered to serve a minimum 25-year term after being found guilty by a jury in Scotland of killing his wife Arlene, whose body has never been found.

Last night Mr Salmond, the First Minister, held talks with Holyrood ministers and Scotland's senior law officers to discuss "possible remedies" to the situation.

The SNP says it is the first time that criminal cases have been taken outside Scotland, undermining the independence of Scots law. It argues that people convicted in Scotland should be able ultimately to take their appeal direct to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg without going through the Supreme Court.

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, said yesterday: "It was never anticipated either at devolution or at the establishment of the Supreme Court that criminal appeals would routinely be decided by the Supreme Court."

But the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said he was thinking in a "post-independence world", and that the Supreme Court provided "conclusions" and "consistency".

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