Parliamentary and public affairs in Scotland

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP‘s wide-ranging practice covers the full spectrum of parliamentary and public affairs, with the team’s expertise spanning both contentious and non-contentious legislative and constitutional matters. The ‘outstandingChristine O’Neill heads the practice and is regularly instructed by governmental authorities to act on high-profile public inquiries and constitutional law cases before Scottish and UK courts. Legislative drafting is a core specialism for the firm, with O’Neill and public law specialist Charles Livingstone being key contacts in this area. Other key members of the team include Jackie McGuire, who advises regulatory bodies and local authorities on statutory matters, and Niall McLean, who routinely handles public sector disputes.

Practice head(s):

Christine O’Neill

Other key lawyers:

Charles Livingstone; Jackie McGuire; Niall McLean


‘Brodies has assembled an exceptional team in public law, all of whom can be relied on to be completely up to date with the latest developments in the law, are extremely bright, interested and articulate in discussing it, and yet they still retain the ability to stand back from legal and factual complexity and apply common sense in order to achieve a practicable and workable outcome for their clients.’

‘Christine O’Neill is the outstanding figure here, as she has been for years. Her ability, good judgment and long experience mean that Brodies is always in demand for public law issues. She has assembled and shaped a team that delivers impressive results.’

‘Exceptional knowledge of a relatively obscure area of the law relating to regulatory affairs in the public sector.’

‘Ability to understand the key issues that I am seeking advice on and the ability to provide that advice in a readily understandable way.’

Key clients

Scottish Renewables

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland

Scottish Government

Scotch Whisky Association

Law Society of Scotland

Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body


Scottish Land and Estates

Scottish Refugee Council

City of Edinburgh Council

Work highlights

  • Appeared as senior counsel in the UK Supreme Court as part of the Lord Advocate’s legal team on the question whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold a referendum on independence.
  • Instructed by the Law Society of Scotland to draft policies, rules and guidance to enable the society to regulate Licensed Legal Providers, creating a complaints’ framework that was compatible with existing statutory frameworks as well as being practicable and meeting legal principles about good decision-making.
  • Advised the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland on its work under the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003 and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Burness Paull LLP

Praised for its ‘wealth of experience‘ in the public sector, the parliamentary and public law practice at Burness Paull LLP is regularly instructed by local authorities and Scottish governmental bodies to advise on parliamentary issues, judicial reviews and legislative drafting. Hazel Moffat leads the team and has significant expertise in statutory interpretation and drafting; she is assisted by senior solicitor Louise McErlean.

Practice head(s):

Hazel Moffat

Other key lawyers:

Louise McErlean


‘The team at Burness Paull has a wealth of experience in working with a range of public bodies. They also have experience and knowledge of a wide breadth of regulatory law that applies to us as an organisation and employer, from equality law to data protection and freedom of information. We trust them to provide us with excellent advice.’

‘They are approachable, reliable, friendly, efficient, knowledgeable and inspire confidence. They have great values. Standouts include senior solicitor Louise McErlean.’

‘Although a relatively new team, they bring together expertise from different firms and have quickly developed into a strong and trusted team.’

‘Louise McErlean previously worked at a large commercial firm and brings that style of work and enthusiasm to her new team.’

Key clients

First Division Association

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Audit Scotland

Scottish Funding Council

Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

Odfjell Technology (UK) Ltd

British Soft Drinks Association

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise

British Property Federation and Associated Landlords

Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA)

Work highlights

  • Advised the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers (ASSC) on the legality of draft secondary legislation proposed by the Scottish Government, which would bring in the first licensing regime of its kind of short term lets in Europe. The political aim of the legislation was to control the rise of AirBnB type properties in tourism hotspots across Scotland.
  • Advised the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) on a range of administrative and public law matters, including on the interpretation of UK legislation governing the use of statistical data obtained from the HE sector, and on data sharing in the context of European Social Fund monitoring.
  • Advising Arnold Clark Group on managing a major cyber attack, which brought down its entire network and systems in December 2022. As it is a ransomware attack, the firm has been managing interactions with Scottish Police, the UK cyber crime centre, insurance support teams and various external cyber support consultants to mitigate legal and regulatory risk.

Anderson Strathern

Led by Robert Carr, the public affairs team at Anderson Strathern is particularly well known for its knowledge of regulatory law and its statutory interpretation expertise. The team is frequently instructed by regulatory bodies and other Scottish entities as well as by private individuals to advise on public inquiries, judicial reviews and constitutional issues. Other key members of the team include Catriona Watt, who regularly advises on inquiries, and Alun Thomas, who is best known for his education sector work.

Practice head(s):

Robert Carr

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Alun Thomas; Chris Weir


‘Well established with a track record of public law excellence. Advice is always relevant, informed and prompt.’

‘Approachable and always available. Full service, always available in a short timescale.’

‘The individuals are well informed and understand the areas of work in which we instruct. There is an excellent working relationship built on knowledge and trust.’

Key clients

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital – Independent Review

Scottish Prison Service

Scottish Social Services Council

Independent Forensic Mental Health Services Review

Scotmid Co-operative

Parole Board for Scotland

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

General Teaching Council for Scotland

Risk Management Authority

National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP)

Work highlights

  • Advising the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body on a range of data protection, IP/IT, procurement and construction matters.
  • Advising Glasgow Caledonian University on aspects of its constitution and proposed changes.

Balfour+Manson LLP

Balfour+Manson LLP's public law team acts for a diverse client base, including companies, political entities, trade associations and individuals, on contentious issues, such as judicial reviews and disputes pertaining to high-profile public authority decisions. Seasoned litigator Elaine Motion heads the team and has a solid track record handling disputes arising out of regulatory decisions. Sindi Mules is a key contact for judicial reviews. Associate Lauren Smith is another key member of the team.

Practice head(s):

Elaine Motion

Other key lawyers:

Sindi Mules; Lauren Smith


‘A very knowledgeable and focused group of practitioners at the forefront of public law and general civil litigation with a dedication to the cases and a keen ability to respond in challenging cases.’

‘Sindi Mules is an excellent and very focused litigator with great attention to detail, a practical and can-do attitude and a personal dedication to the cases she is involved in. Lauren Smith is an excellent communicator, has in-depth knowledge of the rules and requirements of litigation and displays a tremendous ability for the organisation and conduct of cases.’

‘Elaine Motion is an outstanding practitioner.’

Key clients

Kaagobot Limited and Others

For Women Scotland Limited

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Shelter Scotland

The Ramblers’ Association

Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland

Fair Play for Women Ltd

Work highlights

  • Acting for the petitioner, Kaagobot Limited and others, in a judicial review of the decision of Edinburgh City Council to introduce a limit of zero for the number of sexual entertainment venues permitted to operate in Edinburgh.
  • Acted for the petitioner, For Women Scotland Limited, in a judicial review which sought to determine whether the definition of “woman” contained in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 was outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The petitioner successfully reclaimed to the Inner House of the Court of Session. The Court held that the definition of “woman” adopted in the Act impinged on the nature of protected characteristics, and therefore fell outwith legislative competence.
  • Acted for the pursuer, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in a commercial action against the Scottish Event Campus Limited. The matter concerns the defender’s decision to cancel the client’s scheduled event at the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow. The court held that the defender discriminated against the pursuer on the basis of religion or belief and awarded damages of over £97,000. The remedies available to a court under the 2010 Act had not been previously litigated in Scotland.

Harper Macleod LLP

Jointly headed by Jennifer Jack and James McMorrow, Harper Macleod LLP acts for public and private sector clients, government bodies and civil servants on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious parliamentary and public law issues, including legislative drafting, statutory interpretation and judicial reviews. Jack, based in Edinburgh, takes point on contentious matters and regularly represents clients in court challenges and disputes. McMorrow advises on commercial and public law issues from the Glasgow office. They are supported by senior associate Calum Gee, who is described as 'one to watch for the future.'

Practice head(s):

Jennifer Jack; James McMorrow

Other key lawyers:

Calum Gee


‘The team is unusual in that it regularly acts for petitioners AND respondents whereas the tradition in Scotland has usually been to focus on one or the other.’

‘Jennifer Jack and Calum Gee are a winning team. Their expertise and determination make them highly sought after by petitioners and by public bodies. They really stand out in their knowledge and experience.’

‘Calum Gee – one to watch for the future. He would make an excellent partner. Calm and friendly with an enviable ability to distill complex information into easy to read summaries for busy clients. He could not have been more understanding and supportive. Five stars!’

Key clients

The Scottish Government/Scottish Ministers

Boundaries Scotland

The Musicians Union

Bord Na Gaidhlig

Avaaz Foundation

Greenpeace UK

Glasgow City Council

Dion Alexander/ Highlands & Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth (HIHAAW) group

Redress Scotland

Work highlights

  • Acting for the Musicians Union on the drafting of new UK legislation and explanatory notes for the bill.
  • Appointed by the Scottish Government to support the Scottish Ministers’ participation as a core participant in the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry.
  • Advising Boundaries Scotland ahead of the commencement of its review of Scottish electoral boundaries, constituencies and regions.