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Public policy highlights

12 November 18

Recent work of the Society's policy committees, including cohabitants' rights; consumer body for Scotland; Brexit; Gender Recognition Act

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 see www.lawscot.org.uk/research-and-policy/

Rights of cohabitants: your views please

The Society is asking the legal profession and interested stakeholders for their views on the law providing rights for cohabitants, as it considers reforms in relation to cohabitants’ rights.

It is not undertaking a full review of the law relating to cohabitation but would welcome views and experiences on ss 28 and 29 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, which provide certain rights on separation and death respectively. Solicitors and interested parties are asked to respond to the consultation at www.lawscot.org.uk/research-and-policy/consultations/ by 10am on Monday 3 December 2018.

A consumer body for Scotland

The Society’s Consumer Law Subcommittee, together with the Competition Law Subcommittee, responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on establishing a consumer body for Scotland.

They welcome and support the proposal to establish an independent consumer body in the form of Consumer Scotland, which will represent and promote the interests of Scottish consumers, as an opportunity to create a genuinely consumer-centric independent body.

The committees support a more comprehensive advice service than is offered at present. Often a consumer will face more than one problem, and a coordinated approach could bring far greater benefits. It can also be difficult to navigate the range of current consumer bodies. The creation of a “one stop shop” and effective signposting to the advice or information required could assist consumers and empower them to exercise their rights more effectively.

Article 50 inquiry

The Brexit Policy Working Group responded to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Affairs Committee inquiry on the impact of Brexit negotiations on Scotland.

It is difficult to assess the impact the article 50 negotiations have had on individuals, businesses and organisations. The group is aware of work by other bodies, which indicates that there is significant uncertainty, and it is therefore difficult to plan for all eventualities.

Society members were polled in late 2017. The results indicate that solicitors are more likely to think Brexit will have a negative impact on their business than a positive one. The group suggested it might be helpful to identify the range of scenarios which might result from the article 50 negotiations.

It has drafted four negotiating scenarios and their associated legislative activity based on current UK Government proposals and where no agreement is reached before March 2019.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Equalities Law Subcommittee responded to the UK Government’s consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Although the consultation is only considering changes to apply in England & Wales, the current procedure under the Act applies also in Scotland.

The committee supports self-declaration with a significant reduction in the evidence required to be presented in an application for gender recognition. The process for granting legal gender recognition should be highly formal, as this is a serious, life changing decision with consequences.

It also believes that consideration should be given to providing for a period of reflection before finalisation of the process, and the law relating to gender recognition for people under the age of 18 should be given careful consideration with a view to reform.

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

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