Public policy highlights
Recent work of the Society's policy committees, including Brexit: trade and foreign investment; limited partnerships; post-Brexit migration policy; rural interests
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/
Brexit: trade and foreign investment
The Trade Policy Working Group responded to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Scotland’s priorities for future trade relations with the EU.
In the context of negotiations for a new relationship with the EU, it is important that every effort is made to continue cooperation in terms of mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments, which are so important in allowing citizens and businesses to resolve disputes. Enabling access to justice gives businesses greater confidence in their commercial relationships and is important to underpin continued trade with EU countries post-withdrawal.
The group further emphasised the importance of ensuring the devolved legislatures are involved in setting the UK’s trade policy, with engagement throughout the negotiation process, particularly where international agreements would bind domestic legislatures to effect changes to domestic law. It also noted a distinct lack of clarity in the Trade Bill as to how the devolved administrations might be involved in trade negotiations.
The importance of recognising Scotland as a distinct jurisdiction should be considered in pursuing trade agreements, including negotiations with the EU and other countries.
The Banking, Company & Insolvency Law Committee responded to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s consultation on reform of limited partnership law.
It is keen to support the Government in ensuring that Scottish limited partnerships (SLPs) are not open to abuse by criminal activity. At the same time any changes must avoid imposing disproportionate duties on legitimate businesses or creating administrative burdens which will serve no useful purpose. The flexibility currently offered by the SLP, combining tax transparency with separate legal personality, makes it an attractive vehicle in the global marketplace.
The introduction of the PSC rules has already improved transparency, and the number of SLP registrations has decreased dramatically since they came into force. As a general rule, the committee advocates allowing time for legal measures to take effect before making further changes, and it may be that in terms of the Scottish form, significant progress towards transparency has therefore already been achieved.
Post-Brexit migration policy
The Immigration & Asylum Law Committee responded to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry on post-Brexit migration policy.
It suggested that one main objective should be a clear set of rules that provides certainty to both individuals and businesses. The current rules for non-EU nationals are complex, and this has been reflected by high refusal rates in a number of visa categories. In Scotland legal aid is available for immigration cases, but the complexity of the rules is a concern for those with lower incomes and unable to access specialist legal advice. The current rules have reached a level of complexity which makes legal representation essential.
The Home Office should make post-Brexit migration a priority, to provide reassurances for individuals and businesses. Further information has been provided for EU nationals currently living in the UK, but two years after the vote to leave the EU, and the committee has concerns that uncertainty in relation to post-Brexit arrangements is resulting in delays in individuals and businesses relocating to the UK.
A rural conversation
The Rural Affairs Committee responded to the National Council of Rural Affairs’ consultation A Rural Conversation: together we can, together we will.
It is important that the needs of rural Scotland are considered by policymakers, and that these are balanced with other interests as policy is developed. There are often differences in availability between urban and rural areas, and relevant opportunities and services must be available to all and connectivity improved to support that outcome. There is particular importance in ensuring access to justice for those in rural areas, and the committee highlighted the ongoing development of new technologies as a potential solution to ensure that good quality services are available to all.
The team can be contacted on any of the matters above at firstname.lastname@example.org