2 November 2011

“I’m forced to take a paper round”, admits top Scottish judge...

Although largely quiescent after the Holyrood election (caused, as I understand it, by a Newsnetesque split between the vision of its proprietor, Sir Wimple Stanley Whipsot and its editor, Ecclefechan Mackay MA), I'm delighted to be able to bring you a new cross-post from the North West's organ of record, the Kinlochbervie Chronicle. Although the Herald appear to have covered the same story about Lord Hamilton's concerns about the implications of the judicial pay freeze for the lifestyle and quality of the third branch of our government, and belief that our judges aren't being paid enough, for my money, the Chronicle does the tale more justice...

“I’m forced to take a paper round”, admits top Scottish judge
by Ecclefechan Mackay MA, Political Correspondent.

It has emerged today that Scotland’s top judge, Lord Hamilton spends his mornings and evenings delivering hundreds of newspapers a week, just to make ends meet. Appearing before Holyrood’s Justice Committee, the Lord President of the Court of Session told startled MSPs that he rarely gets more than four hours of sleep a night, forced to rise at “sparrowfart” to ensure his New Town neighbours get their daily fix of news and the Lord President has enough money to cover the bare necessities of the judicial life.

“I’m just about keeping our head above the water, but it is a real struggle”, an exhausted Hamilton told Scottish politicians between rounds. “When I hit the bench some mornings, I barely have the energy to listen to learned counsel. But I struggle on.”

Despite collecting an average salary of £187,624 a year – a figure that compares with £128,296 earned by sheriffs – Hamilton said the public sector pay freeze had given rise to “a number of problems, not least that my fellow High Court judges are forced to eke out a life on just nine times the average Scottish salary, while the situation of sheriffs is even more dire, earning only six times more than most Scots. It is intolerable that such a situation has been allowed to persist in a civilised country.”

Figures secured by the Kinlochbervie Chronicle reveal that every single judge  of the Court of Session undertakes some sort of casual work in the evenings and weekends, to top up their dwindling publicly-funded salaries. One Inner House judge admits “I’ve tried to do a bit of babysitting on nights, but it is difficult to get any work without a graduate degree, and even then, parents keep offering me unremunerated internships in “child custody”, with the promise of future, steady babysitting work when the economy upturns. I’m at my wits end, I really am”.

Lord Hamilton identified several “concerning implications” of the freeze, adding: “we were recently forced to appoint an illiterate Peterhead fishwife Sheriff Principal of Aberdeen in the absence of any other qualified candidate willing to struggle by on £128,296 a year. And I must say, I sympathise with many of those gentlemen who simply wouldn’t countenance it.” It is understood that Nanette Pirie, 63, will be retaining her wee morning cleaning job for a local office complex, to make up the shortfall in her judicial earnings.

Responding to Lord Hamilton’s concerns, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have confirmed that they will be researching the phenomenon of judicial poverty in Scotland “as a matter of the utmost urgency”. Rowntree research director, Gary Streeting, said yesterday: “It is vital that we care for our older people and recognise the particular financial pressures judges are subject to. Increasing wig rates, powder tax, gown bills, the dry cleaning. There are a great many hidden costs for judicial appointees, and many of these people are simply too proud to admit that they are struggling financially”.

One senior lawyer who did not wish to be named, Bertie Bunkum-Smythe QC, told the Chronicle, “Our judges really are in an intolerable position. With increased alcohol levies and the parlous rate of inflation, the cost of claret has substantially increased in real terms, while judicial salaries have stagnated. A decent drop is not to be had for less than fifty, sixty pounds a bottle.” In legal circles, it is feared that judges will only be able to secure “cheaper, inferior vintages”, discouraging applications from the best and brightest candidates for Scotland’s top legal jobs.

“I’m not drinking any fucking merlot”, one senior QC confirmed.


  1. Bloody brilliant LPW, you have a talent for prose.

  2. Great article although I have to take you to task with one part i.e "while the situation of sheriffs is even more dire, earning only six times more than most Scots"! "Most Scots" don't earn anything like the "average salary".

  3. This reminds me of the late Lord 'Tiger' Morison's outburst in 2004 when he resigned his position as a 'winger' in the Appeal Court. Amongst other things he was complaining about the remuneration. The newspaper report quoted the daily rate as being £161, which although quite a bit above the average wage in 2004, was perhaps not very generous for the responsibility of snoozing through interminable perorations by Counsel, and then waking up in time to concur with the Judge in the chair.

    It was only on reading the newspaper article in detail that it became apparent that the £161 per day was not the salary but was the expenses rate for food and drink - ie luncheon !! Apparently that would barely be enough for a decent bit of venison and an acceptable bottle of claret.

    I exaggerate, but only a little - the £161 was the maximum daily expenses allowed for food and accommodation while on circuit. It still represents a figure way beyond the ken of the 'average' Scot.


  4. Brilliant. You do have a way with prose. Perhaps they could use your services over at the Scotsman where competent prose suppliers seem to be in remarkably short supply.

    Nah. I think they have some rule about not having a brain cell.

  5. I loved this also - many thanks lpw!

  6. Hi Lallands,

    Once again we are indebted to you for bringing the inestimable publication, the Kinlochbervie Chronicle to our attention. It is such a disappointment that they will not publish on the web, such that those of us living furth of that town cannot read the truth on a regular basis. Many thanks to your auntie Jean for forwarding it to you on a regular basis. How is she getting on with her "troubles", by the way. I myself, have been having a terrible time with my - Sorry, I digress.

    This article was an object lesson to the rest of Scotland's press as to how to treat a sensitive subject, well, sensitively.

    I will not sleep tonight thinking of that poor Lord Hamilton and his financial trials. The poor soul.

    Of course, I blame that awful Alex Salmond and his band of thugs in the Scottish parliament for letting things like this get out of hand. He should be looking out for those who run the country, not wasting time "picking fights with Westminster". Bring back Maggie I say. She would soon have sorted him out.

    One thought though. Is it not time they scrapped the rule that prevents judges taking on private legal work? My upstairs neighbour has a nephew in the Fiscal's office. He's doing terribly well apparently, and she says he says private lawyers do awfully well. I suppose if they don't actually sit on a case they're judging, what's the harm?

    Just a thought.

    Bye bye for now.

    Remember me to your auntie Jean.



    ps I hope Rab doesn't mind me using his computer thingy. He can be awfully sensitive sometimes about me fiddling with it.

  7. Tormod, pictishbeastie, J.R. Tomlin, Edwin,

    Obviously, this article was composed by the good Mr Ecclefechan Mackay MA from the Chronicle. I'll be sure to forward your praise and criticisms respectively!


    I will be sure to send your felicitations onward, also! If you ever fiddle about on Rab's computer again, allow me to suggest that you don't click on any image files marked "private".


    Ha! Splendid. We have such a populist, egalitarian-spirited judiciary. I could struggle by myself on £161 lunches. The Lord President seems to be shy a wig. I wonder where to put my application form...

  8. Wonderful sanity is restored -Ecclefechan's back.

  9. Crinkly,

    Hopefully the wellspring of new articles from the desk of Ecclefechan won't dry out too speedily...

  10. Excellent Lallands. My own crude effort on the subject pales, nay, is bleached to dry bone in comparison.

    I'll just have to drown my sorrows in fucking Merlot.

  11. Conan,

    Needless to say, I don't share the learned senior counsel's prejudices. I'm very happy to quaff a sorrow-drowning merlot any day!