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Senior figure in Scots law

Scottish legal ‘giant’ Lord McCluskey dies at 88

Lord McCluskey

Lord McCluskey: accepting lifetime award (photo by Terry Murden)


One of the giants of Scottish law and Labour peer, Lord McCluskey, has died. He was 88.

John Herbert McCluskey enjoyed a distinguished legal career and was described by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “one of the outstanding Scots lawyers of his generation”.

Lord McCluskey served as Solicitor General for Scotland from 1974 to 1979 on the recommendation of the Prime Minister Harold Wilson and as a Senator of the College of Justice from 1984 to 2004.

He was a member of the House of Lords from 1976 until his retirement this year.

He famously represented Paul McCartney in 1972 after the former Beatle had been charged with offences, including growing cannabis, on his Machrihanish farm.

He was able to get all but one of the charges dropped on technical grounds after arguing that his client had a genuine interest in horticulture.

Lord McCluskey retired from the Bench in 2004 but continued to sit occasionally as a judge. In June 2011, the Scottish Government announced he would chair a panel of experts examining the position of the UK Supreme Court in relation to Scottish cases raising human rights issues.

In March this year he was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Legal Awards.

He told the gathering of leading figures from the sector at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh that it was “immensely flattering” and joked that some of his contemporaries would be “appalled” if they were not turning in their graves.

“Why me? I could only think of 18 reasons, and the first is in recognition of my modesty,” he said.

He added: “You do not get to the top without a great deal of luck.”

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