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Law reform roundup

14 April 14

Recent work of the Law Reform Department, including disabled persons' parking; bankruptcy; Revenue Scotland; courts reform; Scotland's economic future; assisted suicide

Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges

The Society’s Equalities Committee submitted written evidence and David Cabrelli, member of the committee, gave oral evidence on the Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee on 26 March. The bill aims to tackle fraudulent use and strengthen the enforcement powers of the Blue Badge parking concession scheme.

The committee is generally supportive of the policy intent, but has concerns around the introduction of a strict liability offence, which it believes to be disproportionate, and the review process for any decision being restricted internally to the local authority.

Bankruptcy and Debt Advice

The Society sent a briefing to MSPs ahead of the stage 3 debate on the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill.

It welcomed Scottish Government amendments to remove interim recall from the bill, and also recommended that the proposed increase in the debtor contribution order from 36 to 48 months be closely monitored in its implementation and, if problems arise, the Scottish Government should act swiftly in order to rectify them. It voiced concerns about the removal of judicial involvement in areas where the legal rights of the debtor and creditors are directly affected, and also questioned the new, unnecessarily lengthy, appeal process.

Revenue Scotland

The Tax Law Committee gave oral evidence on 12 March to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee on the Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Bill. Among other points, it:

  • emphasised the importance of having an independent advisory panel to give clear guidance on acceptable and unacceptable tax avoidance;
  • expressed the view that legal professional privilege is not relied on as a means of creating tax avoidance schemes;
  • argued that the focus of Revenue Scotland should be to collect the correct amount of tax as far as individual taxpayers are concerned, rather than the largest amount of tax.

Courts reform

The Society gave oral evidence on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill in March. The Society’s main concerns centre around proposals which could adversely affect access to justice due to insufficient resources being allocated to implement the major reforms.

It also has concerns around the proposal to introduce a £150,000 threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session. This would be a dramatic increase from the current £5,000 and would result in a large transfer of cases to the sheriff courts.

The Society is concerned that although more cases will be heard in the sheriff courts, there will be little increase in the number of sheriffs. This is likely to lead to delays in cases being determined and could adversely affect access to justice. While the Society backs an increase in the sheriff courts’ jurisdiction limit, as it is recognised that costs are lower where disputes are litigated at the most appropriate level, it would prefer the limit to be set at around £50,000.

Scotland’s economic future

As part of the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Scotland’s economic future after the referendum, regardless of the outcome of the vote, Director of Law Reform Michael Clancy gave oral evidence along with representatives from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and PricewaterhouseCoopers on the taxation, spending, borrowing and debt implications of either independence or greater devolution of tax-raising powers to Scotland.

Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill

The Health & Medical Law Committee has formed a working group, along with members of the Criminal, Mental Health & Disability, and Professional Practice committees to prepare written evidence on the above bill. The first meeting will be held in early April.

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-bills
The team can be contacted on any of the matters above through louisedocherty@lawscot.org.uk, or follow us on Twitter: @lawscot  

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