Crime: general in Scotland

John Scott KC Solicitor Advocate

The Edinburgh-based John Scott at the eponymous John Scott KC Solicitor Advocate is a highly regarded criminal defence and human rights lawyer handling the full spectrum of criminal defence work and also frequently chairing independent advisory groups. Most recently, this included chairing the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) to assist Police Scotland with human rights-related matters pertaining to the planning of COP26. In January 2022, he has been recognised by the Law Society of Scotland as one of twenty certified specialists in trauma informed practice. This expertise is not only relevant when dealing with defendants, who suffer from the continuing effects of trauma, but also when dealing with witnesses in cross-examination.

Practice head(s):

John Scott


‘John Scott KC continues to be one of the pre-eminent criminal practitioners of his generation. His mastery of the law coupled with precise and effective Court craft render him a go-to for his peers.’

‘John Scott KC is an excellent solicitor advocate; he has a deep knowledge of the law and keeps himself up to date with developments in the law.’

‘His oral and written advocacy is of a very high standard. He communicates very effectively with clients and is able to put them at ease and also quickly earn their confidence.’

‘He works very well with those instructing him and involves other members of the defence team in a collaborative way.’

‘From the point of instruction John Scott takes full ownership of the case. He clearly directs what steps of preparation are required. When consulting with clients he is personable, providing the level of explanation required in a straightforward manner that the client will understand.’

‘Importantly, John will see the case through to a conclusion himself, avoiding double bookings or date clashes that so frustrate instructing solicitors.’

Key clients

Glasgow Law Practice

Guarino and Thomson Solicitors

Peter G Farrell Solicitors

Gallen and Company

Morgans Solicitors

Russells Gibson McCaffrey Solicitors

Halliday Campbell WS Solicitors

Scullion Law

Work highlights

  • Iinstructed by Halliday Campbell WS Solicitors in contempt of court proceedings against renowned whistleblower and writer Craig Murray. The three aspects of the alleged contempts arose from the Alex Salmond trial.
  • Acted in an appeal against the convictions of the appellants, at Edinburgh High Court, on a charge of abduction and rape.
  • Represented an individual at Edinburgh High Court on a murder charge, instructed by Morgans, Solicitors, Dunfermline. The accused was convicted of culpable homicide.

Levy & McRae

Levy & McRae received a significant boost with the arrival of solicitor advocate Neil Hay and his private client team from MTM Defence Lawyers in January 2022. He is based in the firm’s Edinburgh and London offices, while solicitor advocate Callum Anderson and David McKie are the main contacts in Glasgow. The team is well versed in defending professionals, high-net-worth individuals and people operating in public life as well as those who are answerable to professional bodies against a wide range of criminal allegations.


‘A very experienced team of lawyers.’

‘They have represented high-profile and high-net-worth individuals and are clearly a leading firm in what they do.’

‘They are client focused and go the extra mile to ensure that their clients receive the best possible outcome.’

‘The team are very clued up in all areas of crime and able to provide specialist advice to clients of all types.’

‘Neil Hay provides a top class personal service to professional clients charged with crimes.’

‘Neil helps his clients who are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system by talking them through the process and options and by coming up with strategies to address the problems faced.’

‘Neil Hay – a brilliant lawyer who combines great client skills with unsurpassed experience.’

‘Callum Anderson is exceptional. He has the best client skills I have come across, and knows how to use his impressive team to best effect. He is very highly rated in the profession. His personality – putting everyone at ease, belies a steely resolve to get the best outcome possible.’

Work highlights

  • Acted for a solicitor who had allegedly defrauded clients as part of a high-value value embezzlement relating to the estates of deceased people over a ten year period.
  • Defended an international sportsman against a very serious rape allegation made by a woman, with a good deal of evidence against the client (forensic and eyewitness).

Moir and Sweeney Litigation

The Glasgow-based team at Moir and Sweeney Litigation is jointly led by the two name partners and criminal defence specialists Ian Moir and Paul Sweeney. It handles a wide range of cases that are self-funded or covered by Legal Aid, including those involving the most serious offences.

Practice head(s):

Ian MoirPaul Sweeney


‘Very, very tight and professional team, certainly the most upright and professional I have ever seen in the criminal law arena.’

‘They are articulate, organised, focused and efficient – they work well in a corporate arena.’

‘Moir and Sweeney are still relatively young in terms of this business. They have grown considerably in a short time. However they have done so taking great care to ensure that they have the right people in the right places.’

‘Well-organised firm that puts client care uppermost in its agenda. Its preparation leaves nothing to chance and its organisational skills put it well placed in the marketplace to meet the ever increasing demands and challenges in a competitive market place.’

‘The strength of the practice is the quality of the lawyers and their collective dedication to providing the best service for their clients.’

‘Both Ian and Paul are clearly very close and work superbly as a team. I cannot praise highly enough their dynamic, speed of attention, ability to focus on the main issues very quickly, commerciality and practicality of advice etc.’

‘Ian Moir is an absolute star in the legal world. He is very experienced, and extremely capable.’

‘Both Ian Moir and Paul Sweeney are powerhouses in Scots criminal law, and it is a testament to their qualities that they are instructed by clients the length and breadth of the country, from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway.’

Work highlights

  • Secured an acquittal in respect of serious driving offence for an extremely anxious client whose case had a complex, lengthy background.
  • Avoided a period of detention for a vulnerable, first time offending young adult. This result ensured that the client was able to continue with his studies at one of Scotland’s universities.

MTM Defence Lawyers

With offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Falkirk alongside London, MTM Defence Lawyers has a strong regional presence and is routinely instructed by commercial and family law firms across the UK. The firm’s directors, Murray Aitken (Falkirk) and Martin Morrow (Glasgow), and the legal team handle a wide range of criminal law which has recently included theft, breach of peace, assault and sexual offences.

Practice head(s):

Murray Aitken; Martin Morrow


‘I was impressed by how closely the team worked and the grasp that each member of the team had of the case. They were all very approachable and willing to assist in any way they could.’

‘This was our first ever court case so it was extremely unnerving and scary but we were put at ease.’

‘Very professional, easy to talk to, and good listeners.’

‘The team were polite and helpful.’

‘Murray Aitken kept us informed about our case from start to finish.’

‘Murray Aitken explained everything in a way we would understand.’

‘I have mainly worked with Murray Aitken. He has always been exceptionally well prepared and has always been available to discuss the case. He has a great relationship with clients and a detailed grasp of the issues at hand.’

Work highlights

  • Advised a vulnerable 21-year-old with mental health problems in an attempted murder Sheriff and Jury case.
  • Advised an IT consultant in relation to a NHS high-value theft and saved the client from a potential five-year prison sentence.
  • Assisted a boy at a private school charged with stalking in avoiding a criminal record.

Scullion LAW

Scullion LAW has offices in Glasgow and Hamilton and is led out of the former by director Kristopher Buchanan. He specialises in road traffic cases, which accounts for a large share of the team's work, but the group's wide-ranging criminal law expertise is also routinely called upon by individuals faced with allegations of domestic and sexual abuse, stalking, assault and other criminal offences, including those involving drugs.

Practice head(s):

Kristopher Buchanan

Other key lawyers:

Urfan Dar


‘Very client-focussed with good understanding of best feeing options but also really good to their whole staff, legal and support.’

‘Good communication skills and excellent treatment of all staff.’

Work highlights

  • Acted for an individual faced with charges of dangerous driving and evading the police.
  • Acted for an individual who was accused of domestic abuse, stalking and harassment by his ex-partner.

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP has a strong profile handling fatal traffic collisions prosecuted in the High Court by the Crown’s specialist Road Traffic Fatalities Investigations Unit, which is not least due to the firm’s strong insurance offering leading to regular instructions from insurers and their policyholders. The team includes Alasdair Gillies, whose expertise extends to reputation management.

Other key lawyers:

Vikki Watt; Alasdair Gillies


‘Responsiveness, empathy with clients and good  knowledge of the Crown process.’

‘Their attention to detail with clients and the level of advice given is good.’

Knowing that a solicitor is fully committed to representing you with complete honesty and professionalism is something that I appreciated and cannot be underestimated.

Anyone who chooses to work with BTO, and Alasdair Gillies, can be assured that he will do his utmost to defend the individual’s position.

When I was working with Mr. Gillies, I was always confident that he was fully focused on the work that he was undertaking for me.

‘Alasdair Gillies has developed a professional relationship with me and goes out of his way to ensure that I am fully informed of the legal process and my case.’

‘Alasdair Gillies is an outstanding partner. He is extremely professional and has in-depth knowledge and experience in his field.’

‘Vikki Watt has unrivalled experience, unparalleled communication skills and consistently exceeds customer expectations. She is never flustered and delights our clients. Where liberty was at stake, her value is immeasurable.’

Key clients

Scottish Police Federation




Work highlights

  • Successfully appealed a sentence of imprisonment imposed on a client following conviction for causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The client was liberated from custody pending the appeal before a fine and reduced period of disqualification from driving were imposed by the Appeal Court.
  • Secured an acquittal at trial on the basis of a special defence of automatism. The client, a professional driver, faced a charge of careless driving which led to extensive damage to other vehicles and injury to drivers involved in the collision with his HGV.
  • Secured a discontinuation of a careless driving case before trial. The client would have faced consequences in their professional life if they had been convicted. The defence was technical and related to the actions of the co-accused immediately prior to the driving witnessed.