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Law reform roundup

17 October 16

Recent public policy work of the Society's committees, including Scottish Government legislative programme; Public Policy Committee; Scotland's place in Europe

The Society’s committees have been working on a number of consultations relating to Scotland’s place in Europe following the result of the referendum. The Society has also provided comment on the Scottish Government’s legislative programme. Key areas are highlighted below. For more information see www.lawscot.org.uk/law-reform

Scottish Government legislative programme

The First Minister announced the Scottish Government’s legislative programme on 6 September. The Society is pleased that access to justice features prominently, including bills on third party rights, tackling child poverty, and the Domestic Abuse Bill, along with the intention to abolish employment tribunal fees. It also supports the principles behind the bills aimed at ensuring an accessible and affordable justice system. Once introduced, the Society will scrutinise the proposals and engage with the Government, opposition parties and other key groups to ensure that the resulting legislation is practical and effective.

The programme also confirmed the intention to engage with the profession on legal aid. Last year the Society published a series of recommendations for both civil and criminal legal aid to ensure its long term sustainability, and it is pleased that the Government has confirmed it will engage with the profession on how this can best be done. It is essential that people can access the legal advice and services they need, regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances, and that those who provide that advice can continue to afford to do so.

Public Policy Committee

The Society has established a new Public Policy Committee, which will replace the Law Reform Committee from the beginning of the new operating year on 1 November.

Its aim is to take a leadership role in the delivery of the Society’s strategy through the development of positions relating to public policy. Particular focus will be given to influencing the creation of a fairer and more just society and being an international centre of excellence in thought leadership.

The committee will have oversight over all the specialist policy subcommittees and the policy work of a number of committees of the Society’s Council, including Access to Justice, Civil Justice, Criminal Law and the Legal Aid Committee. It will also ensure close collaboration on policy work where required with the Society’s board, its office bearers and various regulatory committees.

Scotland’s place in Europe

The Constitutional Law Committee has responded to two separate inquiries by the UK Parliament’s European & External Relations Committee and the Scottish Affairs Committee into the implications for Scotland’s relationship with the European Union following the referendum result.

At the moment it is difficult to be certain how the result will affect Scotland’s relationship with Europe. Much depends on the terms of the withdrawal agreement which follows under the article 50 procedure, and of any future relationship between the UK and the EU. The Society has analysed what it perceives to be the most significant public interest issues arising from the UK’s exit, and also the most significant issues confronting Scotland’s solicitors.

The options for a future relationship between Scotland and the EU include: remaining within the UK and participating in a World Trade Organization membership relationship; remaining within the UK which joins the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) agreements; remaining within the UK and participating in a free trade agreement or an association agreement with the EU; remaining within the UK and participating in a bespoke relationship with the EU; and seeking to be admitted as a member state of the EU following an independence referendum. Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages as well as political and legal ramifications.

The legal impact of the UK’s exit from the EU will affect the primacy of EU law, which will in turn affect the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government. There are also aspects of EU law which will have a particular impact on clients, the general public and the legal profession as a whole. The Society believes that arrangements must be made to preserve legal professional privilege for the clients of Scottish lawyers acting in EU law matters in the EU on their behalf.

The Policy Team can be contacted on any of the matters above at policy@lawscot.org.uk
Twitter: @lawscot 

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