SCOTLAND’S Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC must decide on whether to investigate former US president Donald Trump’s acquisition of his golf courses in Scotland.

In a judgement issued at the Court of Session, Lord Sandison rejected arguments by public interest campaign group Avaaz that Scottish Ministers could order a probe into Trump using the Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) search powers contained in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Aidan O’Neill QC, for Avaaz, had argued in an earlier hearing that the Scottish Ministers had failed to understand their proper role in relation to UWOs and had misdirected themselves in law. In particular, the relevant legislation was predicated upon a division between the functions of the Ministers and the Lord Advocate, so that the latter could not lawfully be allocated portfolio responsibility for seeking UWOs.

The Scottish Government argued that the Lord Advocate alone should decide on UWOs, and judge Lord Sandison agreed. He wrote: “I do not find it possible to discern from section 396D (of the Act) any implicit Parliamentary intention that the Lord Advocate may not hold portfolio responsibility as the Scottish Minister concerned with applying for a UWO, whether in relation to a politically exposed person or otherwise.

“All that the section in essence says is that once an Unexplained Wealth Order has been granted and apparently complied with, the Scottish Ministers are to decide whether to give the Lord Advocate the opportunity to take the case forward under the Proceeds of Crime Act functions, which are allocated specifically to her under that Act or whether to take it forward under the POCA provisions which are allocated to them generally under that Act, or indeed to take neither course of action.”

It was the Scottish Green Party which originally called for an unexplained wealth order over questions as to how Trump had financed the purchases of the courses at Turnberry in 2014 and at Menie in Aberdeenshire, in 2006.

Responding to the judgement, Scottish Greens finance spokesperson Ross Greer said: “This was an important case brought by the Avaaz campaign, and this judgement provides clarity about how the Scottish Government can seek an Unexplained Wealth Order against the Trump Organisation’s businesses in Scotland.

“The Scottish Greens are keen to see progress on this matter and hope the new Lord Advocate recognises the growing awareness and action across the world on the former president’s finances.

“The case for a similar investigation in Scotland is compelling. Scotland must have a zero-tolerance approach to potential financial crime, regardless of the suspect.”