Professional information

  • 2016-21: Lord Advocate
  • 2014-16: Dean of Faculty
  • 2013-14: Vice-dean of Faculty
  • 2007-10: Advocate Depute
  • 2004-7: First Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Ministers
Professional experience

James Wolffe KC is a former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates (the elected leader of the Scottish bar) 2014-16 and Lord Advocate (the senior Scottish Law Officer) 2016-21. He has substantial experience of both public and commercial law and has appeared in many significant cases, including in the UK Supreme Court.

Notable cases

Public and Administrative Law

  • R (Miller) v. Prime Minister; Cherry v. Advocate General for Scotland [2019] UKSC 60, the “prorogation case”. Whether the prorogation of the UK Parliament in 2019 was lawful.
  • UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill [2018] UKSC 64: Whether the Scottish Continuity Bill, providing for the continuing effect of EU law after withdrawal from the EU, was within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.
  • R (Miller) v. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 33, the “Article 50 case”: Whether the UK Government could notify the EU of the UK’s decision to withdraw without the authority of an Act of Parliament.
  • Davies v. Care Commission [2011] UKSC 47: Transfer of statutory functions; interpretation of transitional provisions; drafting lacuna.
  • KP (Pakistan) v. Home Secretary [2012] CSIH 38, 70: Asylum; whether the enactment by Rule of Court of the second appeals test for appeals from the Upper Tribunal to the Inner House of the Court of Session was ultra vires.

Competition, EU and procurement

  • Scotch Whisky Association v. Lord Advocate [2017] UKSC 76: Whether legislation establishing a minimum unit pricing scheme for the sale of alcohol in Scotland was compatible with EU law.
  • Case C-335/13 Feakins v. Scottish Ministers: Agricultural law; interpretation of Article 18(2) of Commission Regulation (EC) No. 795/2004 establishing the Single Payment Scheme; whether Article 18(2) was compatible with the EU law principle of equal treatment.
  • Sinclair Collis v. Lord Advocate 2013 SC 221: Whether legislation banning tobacco vending machines was compatible with EU law; for the significance of the analysis of the proportionality analysis advanced by James Wolffe and accepted by the court, see R (Lumsdon) v. Legal Services Board [2015] UKSC 41, paras. 75-82.
  • Cloburn Quarry Ltd v. Advocate General for Scotland [2013] CSOH 203: State aid; whether aggregates levy was enforceable against the taxpayer when exemptions to the levy were subject to investigation by the Commission.

Civil liberties and human rights

  • Dean v. Lord Advocate (on behalf of Taiwan) [2017] UKSC 44: The legal test to be applied under Article 3 ECHR where extradition is resisted on the basis of a risk that the accused will be the target of violence when imprisoned in the requesting territory.
  • A (Uganda) v. Home Secretary 2016 SC 776: Whether the exclusion of spouses of refugees from a Home Office policy to grant leave to remain to victims of domestic abuse was compatible with Articles 8 and 14 ECHR.
  • BH v. Lord Advocate [2012] UKSC 24: The leading authority on the relevance of the Article 8 rights of an accused person’s children when considering whether the extradition of the accused would be compatible with Convention rights.
  • Salvesen v. Riddell [2013] UKSC 22: Whether a provision in an Act of the Scottish Parliament controlling the termination of agricultural tenancies was compatible with Article 1 of the First Protocol.
  • Ruddy v. Chief Constable of Strathclyde [2012] UKSC 57, 2014 SC 58: The leading Scots law authority on the investigative obligations of the state under Article 3 ECHR in respect of alleged police assault.
  • Karl Construction Ltd v. Palisade Properties plc 2002 SC 270: Whether Scots law on provisional and protective measures was compatible with Article 1 of the First Protocol.


  • Joint Administrators of Prestonpans (Trading) Ltd, Petitioners 2013 SLT 138: Applications under sections 242 and 243 Insolvency Act 1986; whether competent by way of petition.
  • Tor Corporate AS v. Sinopec Group Star Petroleum Ltd [2012] CSOH 112: Repudiation of management agreement of drilling rig; arbitration; scope of plea of competent and omitted.
  • Whyte & Mackay Ltd v Blyth & Blyth Consulting Engineers Ltd 2013 SLT 555: Whether enforcement of construction adjudicator’s award compatible with Convention rights.
  • BP Exploration Ltd v. Chevron (Transport) Scotland 2002 SC (HL) 19: Shipping; whether bareboat charterer “owner” for the purposes of section 74 Harbour Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847; prescription and limitation.
  • Caledonia North Sea Ltd v. BT plc 2002 SC (HL) 117: Piper Alpha disaster; indemnity claims; cause of explosion; application of doctrines of subrogation and contribution.


  • “He is an authoritative voice in court”; “Sets out his views in a very client-friendly way”; “He has a first-class legal brain”; “Experienced in construction cases, including contractual disputes and professional negligence matters”  (Legal 500, 2016)
  • A seasoned silk … James Wolffe QC is very highly regarded for his in-depth knowledge of the law. He regularly represents business clients and public bodies in the highest courts, including the UK Supreme Court, the ECJ and the ECHR.’
    Strengths: “His legal analysis is always first-class; he is a very clear thinker and good at distilling difficult points into a client-friendly narrative.” “Outstanding in terms of intellect but combines that with a pragmatic approach. He’s also very user-friendly – he will move heaven and earth to find you time. He is very willing to help.”’ (Chambers, 2015)
  • James Wolffe QC receives plaudits for his handling of both commercial and non-commercial public law cases. “He has great analytical ability”. “He is very good to work with, knowledgeable, diligent and clients like his approach”.’ (Chambers, 2014)
  • ‘… significant experience in both administrative and public law and commercial disputes, “His presentation is clear, concise and very well respected by the judges. He always has an excellent grasp of the legal concepts and facts involved in the case”.’ (Chambers, 2014)
  • One of the most able advocates of his generation”; “A formidable advocate held in high esteem by all”; “Totally reliable and thorough, with a superb mind” (Legal 500, 2014)
  • James Wolffe is “very highly regarded for his court performance” as well as his academic ability, so much so that commentators hail him as “one of the best commercial QCs in Scotland”. His expertise crosses both public and commercial law.’ (Chambers, 2013)
  • James Wolffe is praised as “an exceptionally able and hard-working advocate, possessed of acute insight and sound judgment”, He acts for and against government at all levels.’ (Chambers, 2013)
Select publications
  • Some Property Problems in Building Contracts (with SPL Wolffe), in Steven et al (eds), Nothing so Practical as a Good Theory; Festschrift for George Gretton, 2017
  • Miller and Scotland: the Importance of the Legislative Consent Convention in the Devolution Settlement (2017) 8 UK Supreme Court Year Book
  • The Proposed Common European Sales Law: Scope and Choice of Lawin Alpa et al (eds), The Common European Sales Law – the Lawyers’ View, 2013
  • Principles and Pragmatism in Building Contracts, Scottish Building Contract Committee Annual State of the Industry Lecture 2015, Edinburgh, 10 March 2015
  • Enrichment by Improvements, in Johnston & Zimmermann, Unjustified Enrichment: Key Issues in Comparative Perspective, 2002
  • Contributor, Gloag & Henderson, The Law of Scotland, 11th edn, 2001
  • The Scope of Judicial Review in Scots Law 1992 PL 625
  • Building Contracts, Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, Vol. 3 (with JM Arnott)