Parliamentary and public affairs in Scotland

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP has deep expertise in legislative drafting and parliamentary matters translating into regular instructions from the Scottish Parliament and government bodies. Team head and chair Christine O’Neill and Charles Livingstone are regularly entrusted with both elements, while O’Neill, who was appointed Queen’s Counsel in September 2020, is also a key contact for constitutional litigation. Niall McLean, who made partner in May 2020, is another contact for public sector disputes but also assists with legislative drafting. This broad offering extends to advice on EU law, Brexit and, most recently, Covid-19-related matters. While its client base centres around the public sector, it also includes charities and commercial clients.

Practice head(s):

Christine O’Neill QC

Other key lawyers:

Charles Livingstone; Jackie McGuire; Niall McLean


‘The partner and associates we work with take a genuine interest in our project and quickly had a grasp of what we are trying to achieve.’

‘Exceptionally strong public law offering, led by Christine O’Neill, with some able assistance. Their experience in handling many of the most high-profile public law cases shines through, and the firm is of a size such that it can provide whatever resources are required.’

‘Charles Livingstone and team turned around a complex opinion in the short time requested and within budget.’

‘The firm is the go-to for breaking new ground. They were comfortable going back to first principles and really grappling with the law as it applied to our specific facts. We had high confidence in their ability to do so. The final work product was exceptional. ’

‘The team has market-leading knowledge of Brexit-related issues for the food and drink industry.’

‘Christine O’Neill‘s advice is always timely and very useful. She has the ability to make you feel like you must be her only client, though she is clearly in high demand and supports many clients. Her expertise is unquestioned but her ability to work with client-side non-lawyers is excellent and most appreciated. She is patient and engaging and always willing to speak, discuss and explain. It makes for a very valuable (and valued) relationship.

‘Charles Livingston delivered very useful advice on EU Food Information to Consumer regulations that allowed us to adopt a cost effective solution.’

Key clients

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

Good Law Project

Scottish Government

Scotch Whisky Association

Annan Harbour Action Group

Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body


Argyll and Bute Council

Children 1st

City of Edinburgh Council

Work highlights

  • Drafted three bills this year that have been introduced in the Scottish Parliament – The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, The European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Bill.
  • Appointed by the Scottish Government to support its participation as a core participant in the UK Infected Blood Inquiry.
  • Instructed to advise the Good Law Project on the UK Government’s appointment of an independent panel to consider reforms to judicial review. In particular, the team’s advice covered the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts to review the acts and decisions of the UK Government, the extent to which the UK Parliament could limit that jurisdiction, whether such steps would be consistent with the Acts of Union and/or devolution, and whether any inconsistency could be the subject of a court challenge.

Anderson Strathern

Following Fiona Killen's move to Burness Paull LLP in October 2020, Anderson Strathern's team is now led by solicitor advocate Robert Carr. The practice is known for its statutory interpretation expertise, leading to regular instructions from public sector bodies, including the Scottish Parliament, on key issues such as Brexit, Covid-19 response and data protection, while handling public inquiries and reviews constitutes another key element. The team has particular strength in the education and health sectors and also acts for regulatory authorities and commissioners.

Practice head(s):

Robert Carr

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Alun Thomas


‘The firm is always engaged in key public law issues of the day.’

Catriona Watt has a very good understanding of client priorities.

‘The team is able, experienced and has an in-depth knowledge of parole law and of the ways in which the court is likely to react. Advice is well informed and practical.’

‘Individuals who can help are always available and easy to contact. They are always helpful and will go the extra mile.’

‘Robert Carr has experience and knowledge – he is attentive and knows business well.’

‘The individuals are knowledgeable yet manage to present complex matters in an understandable way. They are always willing to speak to explore issues so that we understand things fully.’

‘They have the most broad-ranging regulatory and public law expertise. They provide excellent, prompt customer service. They scale up and down the service they provide to us, on short notice, as we require.’

‘Knowing Robert Carr is on our side is one of the reasons I can sleep at night! He has an in-depth knowledge of regulatory law combined with an understanding of the principles and ethos which drives us as an organisation. He inspires and motivates our multi-disciplinary team in every interaction.’

Key clients

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)

Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC)

Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

University of St Andrews

Glasgow Caledonian University

Universities Scotland

Royal College of Nursing

Crown Estate Scotland

Audit Scotland

The Scottish Government

Work highlights

  • Advising the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) on a range of data protection, IP, IT, procurement and construction matters.
  • Advising Glasgow Caledonian University on aspects of its constitution and proposed changes.
  • Acting for multiple regulators in obtaining documents necessary for the purpose of exercising their statutory functions from Police Scotland, through applications in the Sheriff Court and Court of Session.

Burness Paull LLP

With the arrivals of Hazel Moffat, previously at DLA Piper, and Fiona Killen from Anderson Strathern in June 2020 and October 2020 respectively, Burness Paull LLP's team now combines the expertise of two extremely well-known figures, which makes it an attractive partner for public, third and private sector clients requiring assistance with statutory interpretation, EU law, Brexit-related matters and education sector governance.

Practice head(s):

Hazel Moffat

Other key lawyers:

Fiona Killen; Graeme Palmer


‘Fiona Killen has been known to me as a first-class public lawyer for over a decade. She is unflappable; extremely knowledgeable; and gives her clients 110%. Rated by public bodies, her peers, her opponents and the court, she is one of the leading public lawyers of her generation.’

‘The firm has just established a practice in this area, led by Fiona Killen. Early indications are very promising. They have resourced this practice well, and I would expect it very rapidly to become one of the key firms in this area.’

‘Responsive and communicative. They are good at keeping to deadlines and the quality of advice is good. The firm is keen to showcase its added value offering and are prepared to take on board feedback.’

Key clients

Various current and former members of the First Division Association (civil service trade union)

Scottish further education college


Guild Homes (Tayside) Limited;

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Kellas Midstream

Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association Limited

Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted for various current and former civil servants in the Scottish parliament inquiry on the Scottish government handling of harassment complaints.
  • Advised Scottish Further Education College on the governance of the students’ association in the context of a wider review of proposed amendments to the formal constitutional document of the association. The parliamentary element of this work included drafting provisions to ensure that amendments to the constitution met the requirements of primary and secondary legislation.
  • Advised Scottish Enterprise in relation to the winding up of its engagement with the European Investment Fund through the Scottish European Growth Co-investment Programme following the decision of the UK to leave the European Union.

Balfour+Manson LLP

Balfour+Manson LLP is rated for its strength in the contentious space, representing individuals, SMEs and charities in disputes and judicial reviews arising from regulatory decisions, which have recently including a number of Covid-19-related matters. Chairwoman and litigator Elaine Motion heads up the team.

Practice head(s):

Elaine Motion

Other key lawyers:

Sindi Mules


‘The team is an expert in this area of litigation. They are front-runners when it comes to the use of new methods of litigation funding such as crowd funding and have unrivalled experience when it comes to high-profile challenges against government. ’

‘Elaine Motion instils confidence in clients like no solicitor I have ever met. The clients know they can turn to her for assistance at any stage and, even in the fastest-paced litigation, she is entirely calm. Sindi Mules is simply the best when it comes to fast-moving and complicated public law litigation. She is always on top of what needs to happen and she makes sure it is done on time and done properly.’

‘Sindi Mules is always available, and provides excellent and pragmatic advice. ’

‘Everything about the ethos and culture in B+M is exceptional and resonates with a person-centred and respectful approach to delivery of excellent legal services.’

‘Elaine Motion and Sindi Mules are simply brilliant.’

‘The team stands out because, unlike some others, they give thought to the arguments before instructing counsel, and they take time to prepare papers properly. They are also very efficient, and always on top of the procedure.’

‘Highly experienced in this field. Indeed streets ahead in cutting edge public law challenges. B&M brings clear and incisive knowledge to a case and does not simply leave everything to counsel to resolve. They are also able to turn around complex and paper intensive work very quickly and accurately which is a key feature of public law litigation.’

‘Sindi Mules is intellectually very strong but with strong practical sense as well. Brings her own own creativity to a case and thinks outside of the box. Elaine Motion is also really strong intellectually and has a first rate knowledge of the Scottish public affairs and parliamentary scene.’

Key clients

KLR & RCR International Ltd & Others

For Women Scotland Ltd

Vtesse Harlow Ltd

Commissioner for Children and Young People Scotland

Niall Finucane

Shelter Scotland

Compassion in World Farming International (CIWF)

Rape Crisis Scotland

Paul Hutton

Work highlights

  • Acted for the owners of six cafes and the owner of a holiday let to challenge the Scottish Government’s decision of 8 December 2020 to continue the Level 3 restrictions for the City of Edinburgh rather than to move it to Level 2 restrictions.
  • Acting for an individual in an action seeking to determine whether the Scottish Parliament has the legislative competence to legislate for the holding of an independence referendum without requiring the consent of the United Kingdom Government or further amendment of the Scotland Act 1998 by the UK Parliament.
  • Acting for Women Scotland Ltd in judicial review proceedings seeking to determine whether the definition of “woman” contained in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 is outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament on the basis that expanding the definition of “woman” in terms of the Equality Act 2010 is incompatible with the ECHR, EU law and CEDAW.