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Public policy highlights

15 October 18

Recent work of the Society's policy committees, including human rights; EU Withdrawal Agreement; registration of overseas entities; fisheries management

The Society’s policy committees have had a busy month analysing and responding to proposed changes in the law. Key areas are highlighted below. For more information, visit the Society's website.

20 years of the Human Rights Act

The Constitutional Law Subcommittee responded to the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry on 20 years of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The committee believes that the Act is a key component of our society and an effective tool for the protection of our rights through the UK domestic courts. It provides an effective means for individuals to challenge the actions of the state and seek redress in a more accessible, timely and affordable way than was possible before incorporation of the European Convention.

It has also had a positive impact on the development of law and policy both in the UK and in Scotland, and the committee supports the retention of the Act.

EU Withdrawal Agreement

The same committee responded to the UK Government’s white paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The paper sets out how the Government will implement the final Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU in UK law.

The committee believes that a “whole of governance” approach should be adopted by the Government when proposing legislative or policy changes in connection with the UK’s withdrawal. This is the best way to achieve legislation which is workable, practical and will achieve its objectives.

One issue missing from the white paper is the consequences of there being no Withdrawal Agreement in place by 29 March. Notwithstanding the publication of technical notes which set out the Government position in this respect, the committee expects that the Government will, if negotiations fail, take immediate steps to consult on the contingency arrangements which will need to be put in place in advance of exit day. These include important areas of “ongoing processes and arrangements”, which the white paper notes include police and judicial co-operation in criminal, civil and commercial matters, e.g. pending criminal, civil and family cases which impact on the rule of law and the interests of justice, and impact significantly on the human rights of those involved.

Registration of overseas entities

The Banking, Company & Insolvency Law Subcommittee responded to the UK Government’s consultation on the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill, which proposes the introduction of a register of the beneficial owners of overseas legal entities that own land in the UK.

It called for further clarification on how the proposed Register of Overseas Entities will operate alongside the Scottish Government’s proposed Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land. It believes there is an overlap and both administrations will need to address the potential for duplication and conflict in operating two separate systems.

It is also concerned that the proposed registration system in the draft bill would add to the delays in the registration procedure already being experienced in Scotland. The Keeper would require additional resources to discharge her increased responsibilities and safeguard the integrity of the Scottish property registers and the accuracy of the information recorded.

Sustaining fisheries

The Marine Law Subcommittee responded to the UK Government’s white paper on a future approach to fisheries management.

Scotland’s fishing interests should be protected. Following the UK’s exit from the EU, the committee believes that the regulation of fishing in Scotland should fall within the ambit of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. In line with the marine planning envisaged by this Act, it is important that fishing is not looked at in isolation but that an integrated view is taken.

Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy creates an opportunity for fisheries to be looked at in detail alongside matters such as conservation, fossil fuel and renewable energy developments, aquaculture, and navigation. This will help to ensure that the system of marine planning envisaged under the Act is comprehensive, rather than having components of use of the sea treated separately.

The team can be contacted on any of the matters above at, or you can follow the Society on Twitter: @lawscot.

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