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Law reform roundup

18 February 13

Recent work of the Law Reform Department, including on the Scottish Civil Justice Council etc Bill; land and buildings transaction tax; landfill tax; post-legislative scrutiny; SEPA funding

SCJCCLA Bill

The Society issued its stage 3 briefing on the Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill to all MSPs ahead of the stage 3 debate on 29 January. The Society restated that it was supportive of the principle of contributions, but retained its stance that the Scottish Legal Aid Board is best placed to collect contributions and not individual solicitors. The Society did agree to a number of amendments aimed at improving the bill, including the increase in the disposable income threshold from £68 to £82 per week, a guarantee that such a change would not be paid for through cuts to solicitor fees, the removal of disability living allowance and war pensions, and the removal of police station interviews and cases involving remand or custodial sentences from the contributions system.

Land transaction tax

Isobel d’Inverno, convener, and Iain Doran, member of the Society’s Tax Law Committee gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee on 23 January. They reiterated the Society’s support for the new land and buildings transaction tax, which will replace stamp duty land tax in Scotland from April 2015. The new tax will introduce a progressive rate of payment, rather than the current “slab” structure. It will also be based on Scottish property law and conveyancing practice, and a simpler administration regime will make it much more workable and easier to administer for solicitors and their clients. 

Landfill tax for Scotland

The Tax Law and Environment Law Committees responded to the Scottish Government’s landfill tax consultation. In general terms, the committees see its proposed introduction, in the context of increased fiscal autonomy for Scotland, as an excellent opportunity to introduce sensible, straightforward tax legislation that is clear in both its intent and application. The committees also highlighted the need to ensure that rates are competitive and would not discourage businesses from operating within Scotland.

Post-legislative scrutiny

The Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee is carrying out an inquiry into possible approaches to post-legislative scrutiny in the Parliament, and what changes are required to standing orders and the Parliament’s procedures. The Society’s Law Reform Committee highlighted the need for post-legislative scrutiny in three types of cases where problems or concerns have been identified. Having called in its manifesto for the 2011 elections for an evaluation of Scottish statutes and subordinate legislation passed since 1999 and the effectiveness of that legislation, the Society is supportive of the inquiry and hopes it will result in a systematic ongoing structure for cohesive post-legislative scrutiny. 

SEPA funding arrangements

The Society’s Environment Law committee responded to SEPA’s consultation for its future funding arrangements. The committee generally welcomes the provision of a single broad statutory purpose for SEPA, and supports the integration of a considerable number of current charging schemes into one framework, with a move to charging that is based on risk and operator performance, as well as the environmental resources principle.  

Full details of the above, and further information on the current work of the Law Reform Department, can be found at www.lawscot.org.uk/forthepublic/law-reform-consultations, and the team can be contacted on any of the matters above through louisedocherty@lawscot.org.uk, or follow us on Twitter: @Lawscot