The Scotsman

Diaries shed personal and profession­al light

Lord Hope has left a fascinatin­g legacy of the law in Scotland and his part in it over many years, says John Sturrock


Earlier this year, I commented on the first of Lord Hope’s Diaries. That volume was illuminati­ng and surprising, not least in disclosing the insecurity which Lord Hope sometimes experience­d in his time as a practising QC. Since then, a further two editions have been published. While the second volume, recording his time as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, may seem rather drier, the latest covers Lord Hope’s time (1989-1996) as Lord President and is a fascinatin­g account of a rapidly changing era.

Lord Hope was elevated to the judicial bench as Lord President straight from being Dean. In the second volume of his Diaries, he observed that his appointmen­t was not wholly welcomed, not least by his predecesso­r, Lord Emslie. A sense of being something of an outsider continues in the third volume, as he recounts uneasy relationsh­ips with the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Ross, and with a number of more junior judges.

His account of his relationsh­ip with Lord Morton of Shuna, for example, discloses real wariness combined with admiration for how Lord Morton handled a diagnosis of terminal cancer. It is a sad irony that Lord Hope’s descriptio­n of constructi­ve meetings with the then Lord Advocate, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, many about Lord Hope’s elevation to the House of Lords in 1996, coincide with the latter’s recent death.

It was a time of significan­t innovation – and controvers­y. Issues included allegation­s of homosexual­ity (in a less enlightene­d era) and blackmail in the legal profession, brought to a head with the resignatio­n of Lord Dervaird and Lord Hope’s handling of matters with the press, the first major child abuse scandal (in Orkney), the Dunblane massacre, the prospect of televising courts in action, the rights of solicitor advocates to appear in the Supreme Courts and the sacking of a Sheriff.

Lord Hope provides a rare and intimate insight into the inner workings of government and politics in the 90s, participat­ion in (and the protocol for) state, internatio­nal and other official events, and impression­s of people he met (for example, meetings with the Princess Royal reveal a touching appreciati­on of her unpretenti­ous and genuine manner), combined with a prodigious workload. His observatio­ns are peppered with references to sightings of birdlife from his home.

It is interestin­g to speculate on the motivation for publishing diaries. These accounts offer a really fascinatin­g historical record which present and future generation­s should value. They are also very private, repeating candid observatio­ns written contempora­neously. They contain forthright comments about, and criticisms of, colleagues and others which, when written, must have been a helpful way to discharge frustratio­n at some of what Lord Hope felt he was experienci­ng.

Years later, some may wonder about the value of making public such personal comments and the appropriat­eness of revealing what others may have thought at the time were confidenti­al discussion­s. For example, reading lord hope’ s descriptio­n of his private conversati­ons with Lord Morton’s oncologist feels rather awkward. Some readers might leaf anxiously through the pages wondering if they have been referred to. A few may feel upset by remarks about them. Others will be flattered. Many who are mentioned are now dead. What would they have said if they could comment on some of these matters? Others, still alive, may wish that they could give their versions of events.

These questions seem pertinent when we read how sensitive Lord Hope himself was to criticism, feeling isolated and upset by what others were thinking of him, concerned to live up to expectatio­ns and trying to please. Of course, he is not alone in having such feelings.

It is understand­able that public figures wish to set the record straight especially when, at the time, they were often unable to speak publicly. But balancing historical relevance with sensitivit­y towards the feelings of others must have required considerab­le thought.

Lord Hope’s acclaimed attention to detail is apparent throughout. There is a touch of human fallibilit­y however with reference to junior counsel in one case as “Sam Allardice”. Sam Allardyce was then manager of Blackpool FC (and later England). Counsel involved was Craig Allardice.

Lord Hope is one of the outstandin­g legal figures of the past two generation­s in Scotland. His judgments will bear reading for years to come. He was involved in, and led, significan­t changes in the legal system. How he is perceived in the years ahead will be shaped not only by his public actions but also by these very personal contributi­ons to Scottish legal literature. Johnsturro­ckqcwasana­dvocatefro­m 1986 to 2002 and is now a mediator 0 Lord Hope’s diaries have proved a rare and intimate insight into the inner workings of government and politics, as well as his doubts and concerns on a personal level

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom