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Society blog

21 Feb 18

Scottish Legal International comes to fruition

Joint initiative aims to promote Scottish profession internationally

30 Aug 17

A paralegal's tale

Janet Rieu-Clarke, the Law Society’s accredited paralegal, explains the path that led her to new role at the Society and the rationale behind the new accredited paralegal status.

30 Aug 17

A call to vote from John Scott

John Scott QC urges his fellow solicitor advocates to vote for their dedicated representative

29 Aug 17

No globalisation without representation...

Katie Hay discusses the globalisation of the legal market and urges Scottish solicitors working internationally, to get involved

24 Jul 17

Bringing the world to "world-class"

Sarah Sutton, digital communications executive at the Law Society of Scotland, talks about her bright idea to ensure international representation on the Society’s Council

26 Jun 17

The Debate - backstage, front of house and top tips

In this mini-series of blogs, three key players in the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament share their individual perspectives of the event.

19 Jun 17

Got a passion for the profession?

Could one of the 23 current vacancies for 16 different committees be just right for you?

28 Apr 17

Professional Practice - advising the advisers

Scottish solicitors help their clients through some of the most momentous occasions of their lives, personal or professional, good or bad. But where do solicitors turn for support? Prof Prac, that's where.

1 Nov 16

How getting involved in debating can change your life

Head of education Rob Marrs explains how getting involved in debating, whether as competitor or judge, can be incredibly rewarding. And more importantly, he explains how to win a debate.

14 Oct 16

Career development and volunteering at the Law Society of Scotland

If you want to enhance your career, develop your skills or just give back to your profession, there are lots of different personal and professional development opportunities at the Society

Editors Blog

What sort of legal independence?

27 May 11

Criminal cases and the Supreme Court

It was fairly predictable that the SNP Government would seek to make political capital from the UK Supreme Court reversing the Scottish appeal court in the high profile Nat Fraser case.

Some of the comments have been regrettably overdone, such as the First Minister belittling on TV the knowledge of Scots law in a body of which two of the five members in the case in question were former Lords Justice General. Nevertheless it would be fair to say that there is a section of opinion within the profession that, even if it does not share the Government view that the pre-devolution position should be restored with no criminal appeals to London at all, is uneasy at the breadth of the role that the Supreme Court has defined for itself under the Scotland Act.

It is not just that the small number of cases that actually make it to London seem to have a disproportionate impact on the criminal process in Scotland: the width of the "fair trial " guarantee in article 6 of the Convention makes it possible to construct a devolution issue out of a significant proportion of the legal issues that arise in day-to-day criminal court practice.

However it would be difficult to argue that there are different levels of human rights, so as to permit a definition of those which would justify a Supreme Court appeal as opposed to those which would not, and to that extent we have to leave it to the good sense and discretion of the courts (at both appellate levels) in deciding when to allow leave to appeal.

The question of principle is rather whether London or Strasbourg is the appropriate destination for human rights points arising in Scottish cases. And it is here that the Scottish Government's arguments look decidedly thin. How can it be said that the European judges have greater knowledge of or expertise in cherished aspects of our system than the UK court with its complement of two of the most experienced Scots lawyers? How is justice more accessible in a foreign court whose cases typically take some years to conclude? Would our politicians be making the same fuss if the decisions had been reversed? (Go back a decade or so and the Scots courts were holding the police power to require information as to the driver of a vehicle to be in breach of human rights, but were reversed on appeal - no great outcry over that one.)

There are fears for the separate identity of Scots law, but the substantive criminal law will not be much affected by these developments. As long as we choose to recognise the Human Rights Convention (and I hope no mainstream party will go so far as to urge complete withdrawal, in an independent Scotland or otherwise), its developing jurisprudence is bound to assume a steadily greater prominence within our body of law, just as it will in that of any other ratifying country. To that extent the existence of a separate legal system will have, in broad terms, no greater, but also no lesser, reality than does political independence within the European Union. But to the extent that the common rights recognised under that umbrella are an expression of our shared humanity, that should strike a chord with Scots as something to celebrate.

This is one subject at least where we should fill in any chips on the shoulder about decisions being taken in London.

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Blog archive

9 Sep 19

Courts and politics

Courts should be able to intervene if an abuse of power threatens the balance between executive and legislature

12 Aug 19

Constitutional meltdown?

The fundamentals of our constitution should not be put at risk simply in order to achieve Brexit by the scheduled date

8 Jul 19

70, and counting

The Society is in good shape as it turns 70, though uncertainty lies ahead

12 Jun 19

Uncovering the unacceptable

Our self-styled ethical profession has a problem of bullying and harassment. Can it be treated as a question of fitness to practise?

15 May 19

Make wellbeing a thing

Staff wellbeing in legal firms has to become a matter of culture, with supporting mechanisms in place

8 Apr 19

Law for people

The dignity of the law has come before the dignity of those caught up in its processes. What might happen if that were reversed?

12 Mar 19

Shape your future

Despite the uncertainty, it would benefit legal firms to think proactively about how to react to Brexit

11 Feb 19

Flexible is possible

As this month's lead feature illustrates, large and small firms alike can operate flexible working practices, and there appear to be few issues with clients when they do

14 Jan 19

Seeking the positive

A bit of flexibility and imagination can achieve things this year, whether for a business in the face of Brexit or for employees to improve their work-life balance, and wellbeing

3 Dec 18

A turbulent Christmas

Depressing divisions and a lack of clear thinking dominate the Brexit scene. But (stop press) there is something positive in the official reaction to the legal aid review