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Public policy highlights

14 October 19

Recent work of the Society's policy committees, including legal aid; rights of the child; heritable securities; disclosure

The Society’s policy committees analyse and respond to proposed changes in the law. Current key areas are highlighted below. For more information see www.lawscot.org.uk/research-and-policy/

Programme for Government

At the start of September, the Scottish Government outlined the new bills and policy reforms over the 2019-20 parliamentary session. There will be 15 new bills, including the Defamation and Malicious Publication Bill, taking forward the Scottish Law Commission’s report, the Continuity Bill, ensuring legal continuity after the UK’s exit from the European Union, and the Hate Crime Bill, following Lord Bracadale’s recommendations.

Prior to the announcement, the Children (Scotland) Bill was introduced. The Society will be considering each bill, and other proposed legislation, and would welcome views from practitioners.

Other policy reforms to be taken forward in the coming year include judicial factors, victims, diversity within the legal profession, a human rights framework, and digital and data ethics.

Legal aid

Scottish Government consultation on legal aid closed in September and the Legal Aid Committee responded. Remuneration is being taken forward separately by an expert panel that will report by the end of the year. Funding is, however, a fundamental issue to the sustainability of a system that has seen significant decline in expenditure, cases and providers in recent years. Resolving these issues and also simplifying the system, particularly moving towards a single grant model, were the areas the response considered priorities. It did not believe that the development of targeted intervention powers, through directly employed solicitors, contracts or grant-funding was necessary, nor were wider statutory powers.

Rights of the child

The Society responded to the consultation on implementing the UN Convention into domestic law. Welcoming the policy, it addressed the issue of how to give effect to the Convention in domestic law, highlighting the example of the incorporation of human rights into the Scotland Act. It suggested that the language of the Convention should remain unchanged in its incorporation, for consistency and comprehensiveness.

With the Children Bill and the Law Commissions’ consultation on surrogacy law, the next period will be busy around child and family law issues.

Heritable securities

The Society responded to the Scottish Law Commission’s discussion paper on heritable securities. Modernising the law is important, promoting clarity and certainty both within Scotland and in cross-border transactions. A particular area considered was the creation of a new Scottish debenture, and the Commission was encouraged to consider this proposal in its subsequent work.

Disclosure

Various recent judgments have considered the balance of public protection and individual privacy, and the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill, introduced in June, makes a number of reforms. The Society’s written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education & Skills Committee highlighted the importance of disclosure to its regulatory functions, ensuring that persons admitted as solicitors are fit and proper. Guidance on the tests of relevance and “ought” to be disclosed will be important, so there is a degree of certainty and predictability to all involved in the disclosure process. It is also sympathetic to the differential treatment of offences committed below the age of 18, one of the significant changes from the bill.

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

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