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Website reviews

1 April 01

Reviews of sites including a guide to the workings of devolved government in Scotland

by Derek O’Carroll

www.saltireguide.co.uk

Here, for an initial free period, can be viewed the result of a collaboration between Saltire Public Affairs and the Stationery Office. The result is a comprehensive and, it is said, authoritative guide to the workings of a devolved Scotland with a website all to itself. Given the nature of devolution, it is perhaps not surprising that the Scottish electoral, legislative and political system does not get a look in till Part 3 of the Guide. This is indeed a meaty piece of work, far removed from the typical simplistic summaries one often sees on websites. To understand in detail the workings of the governmental, political and legal processes, you could do much worse than to start here. The Guide is also fully searchable using a modern and customisable search facility. This is a site well worth bookmaking for all Scots lawyers. Users can sign up to regular newsletters on developments in the areas of their choice. Like most sites, it contains links to related sites (mostly official sites in this case) but here the links contain a useful précis of the content and helpful icons which assist navigation. Is it too much to hope that the publishers will want to do their bit for an open and accessible and modern system of administration by keeping free access to at least the basic service?

Speed 5/5
Usefulness to practitioners 5/5
Usefulness to non-practitioners 5/5
Site design 3/5
Ease of use 4/5
Updating frequency 3/5

www.iaa.gov.uk

The Immigration Appellate Authority has been online for several months now. The IAA handles not only immigration appeals but also asylum appeals, the number of which is increasing rapidly. It contains case lists (in pdf format) for all the IAA centres in the UK, including Glasgow, which are updated by 3.30 on the previous day (although that hadn’t been done on my visit). There are statistics of case types (unfortunately not updated beyond December 2000). Copies of 10 general information leaflets can be downloaded easily but for any detailed information on the procedure and practice, the viewer is directed to external sites such as www.justask.org.uk and www.ein.org.uk. There is a useful basic guide to appeals procedure (omitting Scottish variations). The intriguingly titled page “a guide to the words that we use” is a plain English guide to some expressions.

I could not find: “your claim is a pile of pants” though: no doubt an expression used only by officials in other places. This site is a useful starting point for those new to immigration and asylum appeals work. The IAA says that it is under development, which is good because it has a lot of potential, which is not fully exploited yet.

Speed 4/5
Usefulness to practitioners 3/5
Usefulness to non-practitioners 3/5
Site design 4/5
Ease of use 4/5
Updating frequency 3/5

www.law.ed.ac.uk/Elr.home.htm

This is the website of the Edinburgh Law Review, which is edited by Prof. Hector MacQueen of Edinburgh University. You cannot get the Review itself online: for that you have to subscribe to the paper version. But what it does provide is an archived contents list and abstract of all issues of the ELR since first publication. The quality of the writing is always good or excellent and while the content of some articles can only be of interest to academics, much of it will be of interest to the practitioner. The other interesting part of the site is Scots Law News, which gives a pithy account of interesting, quirky and important legal developments in the Scots courts, Scottish Executive, Scottish Parliament and other interesting places. Worth a look from time to time. The site itself is basic and has no search facility, which is a shame. But it works.

Speed 4/5
Usefulness to practitioners 4/5
Usefulness to non-practitioners 2/5
Site design 3/5
Ease of use 4/5
Updating frequency 4/5