Richard Keen

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Person.png Lord Keen of Elie SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(lawyer, politician)
Richard Keen.jpg
Richard Keen QC, Baron Keen of Elie
BornRichard Sanderson Keen
29 March 1954
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
SpouseJane Anderson

Employment.png Advocate-General for Scotland

In office
29 May 2015 - Present

Employment.png Justice Minister

In office
May 2016 - Present

Richard Keen QC, Baron Keen of Elie is a Scottish lawyer and Conservative Party politician who was appointed Advocate-General for Scotland on 29 May 2015, was made a life peer and relinquished the chairmanship of the Scottish Conservative Party.[1]

Richard Keen is the former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland and one of the UK’s most eminent lawyers.[2]


In December 2016, Bella Caledonia reported:

“Watching the Tory govt’s lead advocate for Scotland, Lord Keen, in his performance in the Brexit case before the Supreme Court, was to see the Scottish Unionist establishment in its fullest pomp (Keen is also the Scottish Tories party chairman, who likes to hire castles and berate his MSPs for their mediocrity). But also, it seems to me, in its self-subverting arrogance too. In order to do the Tory Brexiteers bidding, Keen ripped to pieces the rags of the 'respect' agenda towards the Scottish parliament – by making brutally clear that Westminster command will always take ultimate precedence over any determinations coming from Holyrood. There is some signs that the Supreme Court has seen this. When Keen noted that the Sewel Convention, requiring that Holyrood gives legislative consent to any WM changes in its constitution, was merely a “self-denying ordinance”, Lord Sumption pointedly asked how it could be merely so, if it was written into the law of the Scotland Act? The preening and word-splitting thereafter from Keen could only have been improved on with a full periwig from 1707."[3]


Richard Keen insisted there was nothing improper in the government's behaviour

In September 2019, Lord Keen led for the government at the UK/Supreme Court against the Scottish inner court of session which ruled that Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.[4]

Addressing an emergency hearing of the UK’s highest court, Lord Keen QC, who is a Justice Minister and one of the two lawyers representing the prime minister, resisted judicial requests for further pledges guaranteeing parliament’s return.

The sometimes testy exchanges between the government’s lawyer and a series of senior Supreme Court justices came on a day when the political row over Brexit focused on the minutiae of courtroom arguments about Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament for five weeks.

In the afternoon, Keen told the court that he was giving “a clear undertaking that the prime minister would respect” the court’s eventual judgment.

Lord Kerr, a Justice from Northern Ireland, then asked him:

“Can we take it that he (Johnson) wouldn’t apply to have parliament prorogued again?”

Keen replied:

“I’m not in a position to comment on that. That will have to be addressed by the decision maker (ie the prime minister).”[5]

Early life

Richard Keen was educated at The King's School, Rochester and Dollar Academy, and studied at the School of Law of the University of Edinburgh, where he was a Beckman scholar. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1980 and was appointed a QC in 1993.[6]

Legal experience

Richard Keen served as standing junior counsel in Scotland to the Department of Trade and Industry from 1986 to 1993, and is chairman of the appeals committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Keen specialises in commercial law, property law and administrative law.

Richard Keen defended Lamin Khalifah Fhimah at the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, with Fhimah being acquitted of all charges.[7] In 2007, he represented Henri Paul's family in a case about the death of Diana Princess of Wales. Keen represented the Scottish football club Glasgow Rangers F.C. at their unsuccessful appeal against a one year transfer/registration embargo which was held on 16 May 2012.[8] Rangers subsequently reappealed the decision commencing on 25 May 2012, with this appeal proving successful.[9]

Richard Keen represented Andy Coulson in relation to perjury charges when he gave evidence in the 2010 trial of ex-MSP Tommy Sheridan.[10][11] On 3 June 2015, the case against Coulson collapsed after his defence team successfully argued there was no case to answer. Judge Lord Burns ruled the Crown had not shown Coulson's evidence was relevant in the Sheridan trial.[12]

In November 2007 Richard Keen was elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.[13] In January 2014 Keen stood down and became chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party.[14]

Party chairman

In January 2014, his immediate predecessor - the sole Scottish Tory MP David Mundell - greeted Keen's appointment as chairman thus:

"I’m delighted that we’ve got a public figure of the calibre of Richard Keen joining Ruth Davidson’s team in Scotland."[15]

On 19 February 2014, party chairman Richard Keen predicted that the Conservatives will have the most MSPs and win power at Holyrood within a decade following a collapse in support for the "toxic" Nationalists. Keen insisted this was not "pie in the sky" and forecast Scots will reject independence in the referendum then turn away from the SNP altogether. He said Alex Salmond was the "Arthur Daley" of politics thanks to his refusal to let voters look "under the bonnet" of his assertions on issues such as a separate Scotland’s currency and EU membership. The Conservatives would be the main beneficiary of a Nationalist collapse, he said, making made the bold prediction they would be in power at the Scottish Parliament within ten years as the largest party in a coalition. But, with only one MP and 15 MSPs, Richard Keen admitted they were starting from a "low base" and that he had initially thought the party chairmanship was a "poisoned chalice".[16]

In February 2008, the then newly-appointed chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party, Andrew Fulton, who was asked by David Cameron to reinvigorate the party north of the border, was reported to have been an MI6 spy whose last posting was as "head of station" in Washington. Fulton was unmasked as a former spy in 2000 when he was forced to step down as a member of the Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit which provided media briefings on the trial in Holland of the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing.[17]

Personal life

Richard Keen married Jane Anderson in 1978, with whom he has a son and a daughter. His interests include golf, skiing, shooting and opera, whilst he is a member of the New Club, Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, and the Golf House, Elie and Earlsferry. He is one of the highest earners in Scotland, being featured on a list of the top 100 earners in 2003, and is said to enjoy fast cars.[18]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:ECJ Advocate General says UK can revoke Article 50 unilaterallyArticle4 December 2018Tony ConnellyArticle 50 allows the "unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the Withdrawal Agreement is formally concluded"