An appraisal scheme for practising counsel has been introduced by the Faculty of Advocates, in a move to boost public confidence over the quality of representation to be expected from advocates.

The Quality Assurance Programme requires all 450 practising advocates to undergo assessments every five years to show they have maintained the skills they needed to gain entry to Faculty.

Anyone failing to meet set standards will have to undertake training and pass another assessment before being allowed to continue in practice.

A team of assessors has been appointed and undergone a rigorous training regime. An external assessor, Mark Mulholland QC, former Chairman of the Bar of Northern Ireland, will review the programme.

“The Faculty is leading the way in this, and advocates are the only lawyers in Scotland who are required to meet these exacting standards in order to continue in practice,” said Gordon Jackson QC, Dean of Faculty.

“We want the public, and indeed the whole legal profession, to know that excellent and continuing advocacy skills are of fundamental importance to the Faculty. This should give reassurance to the public that when they instruct an advocate they will receive top notch representation and will be getting a lawyer with excellent experience and training.

“The public has high expectations of advocates and we intend to match them or exceed them wherever possible.”

Mr Jackson and Vice Dean Angela Grahame QC are leading by example in being the first and second advocates to be assessed.

The Dean noted that Faculty had always required a "significant commitment" from its members, particularly in regard to training. He added: “Equality of arms is an important aspect of access to justice and advocates want to ensure that the advocacy skills they deliver are the best they can provide.”