Professional information

  • 2009: Appointed silk
  • 2000-2009: Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Government (First Standing Junior 2007-2009)
  • 1984-1988: H M Diplomatic Service
Professional experience

With a background in the civil service, James has specialised in judicial review for over 20 years. He regularly advises national and local government and appears for them in cases of constitutional importance, including many appearances before the Supreme Court and the House of Lords. James has a particular expertise in planning disputes concerned with renewable energy providers, as well as a broad commercial practice. James served as an adviser to the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights and regularly advises on Convention rights, particularly in the commercial sphere.

Notable cases

Public and administrative law

  • Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland [2020] AC 373. Intervention arguing successfully that the prorogation of the UK Parliament was unlawful.
  • In re UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill [2019] AC 1022. Reference to the Supreme Court on the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to deal with continuity of EU law in Scotland.
  • Imperial Tobacco Ltd v Lord Advocate 2013 SC (UKSC) 153. Defending the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to end display of tobacco products. 
  • Angus Growers Ltd v Scottish Ministers 2016 SLT 529. Vindicating a claim for Francovich damages against the UK under EU law. 

Planning, Environmental and Energy

  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds v Scottish Ministers 2017 SC 552. Defending ministerial decisions to consent four major offshore wind farms, involving scientific evidence about environmental impact assessments.
  • Trump International Gold Club Scotland Ltd v Scottish Ministers 2016 SC (UKSC) 25. Defeating a challenge to consent for an offshore wind farm close to Trump golf course, the Supreme Court advising on the proper interpretation of planning conditions.
  • Walton v Scottish Ministers 2013 SC (UKSC) 67. Defending a major new road scheme against environmental claims, including remedies under EU law and the law on standing under planning acts.
  • John Muir Trust v Scottish Ministers 2017 SC 207. Defending consent for onshore wind farm, involving policy on wild land.
  • Ineos Upstream Ltd v Lord Advocate 2018 SLT 775. Defending the Scottish Government’s emerging planning policy on unconventional oil and gas.

Civil Liberties and Human Rights

  • Axa General Insurance Ltd v Lord Advocate 2012 SC (UKSC) 122. Defending the legislative competence of Scottish Parliament to make provision for pleural plaques compensation, including proper test for standing in judicial review and consideration of Convention rights under Article 1 of the First Protocol.
  • Friend v Lord Advocate 2008 SC (HL) 107. House of Lords upholds ban on fox hunting, discussing its impact on various Convention rights.
  • McMaster and others v Scottish Ministers 2018 SC 546. Defending remedial legislation for agricultural holdings, involving complex questions on Convention rights under Article 1 of the First Protocol.
  • Transocean Drilling UK Ltd v Greenpeace Ltd 2020 SLT 825. Arguing for freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly in offshore demonstrations.
  • Chambers UK Bar – Recommended as leading silk in Administrative and Public Law (Band 1);  Planning and Environmental Law (Band 1); and Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 3)
  • Legal 500 – Recommended as leading silk in Administrative and Public Law (Tier 1)
  • Who’s Who Legal – Recommended for Government Contracts