Public policy highlights
Recent work of the Society's policy committees, including organ donation; personal data; hate crime; immigration
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
The Health & Medical Law Committee issued a briefing ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s stage 1 debate on the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill.
Public awareness is crucial, and the committee supports the Health & Sport Committee’s recommendation for a high-profile and targeted public information campaign to meet the needs of our diverse society. However, it should be over a prolonged period and start sooner than recommended by the Holyrood committee. Also crucial to the success of the proposed opt-out organ donation system will be the role of the family. The new proposals do not place a duty on healthcare professionals to find out the wishes of the family, but to determine the family’s knowledge of the potential donor’s wishes. In practical terms, it would be difficult to proceed against the wishes of the family, and specific guidance should be published for families and professionals on the consequences of a soft opt-out scheme.
The Privacy Law Committee responded to the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into whether new safeguards to regulate the collection, use, tracking, retention and disclosure of personal data by private companies are needed to protect human rights.
GDPR safeguards go a long way to addressing potential concerns in a UK context. However, the committee is concerned that consumers are not aware of all the ways their data are being used: governments and data collecting corporations should work together to establish industry-wide standards of good practice in data management. Industry should be proactively addressing these issues, rather than just reacting to the latest data scandal.
Global principles such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be helpful in setting a standard for compliance. If well publicised, these principles could help create and reinforce consumer trust.
Hate crime consolidation
The Criminal Law Committee responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on consolidating all Scottish hate crime legislation and expanding statutory aggravations.
It welcomed the commitment to tackle hate crime and prejudice by bringing forward the modernisation of the legislation. Further clarification of the law is vital to the wider public interest. However, legislation alone cannot eradicate hate crime, and it should be supported by public awareness and education campaigns to change societal attitudes and achieve overall objectives.
UK immigration system
The Immigration & Asylum Committee responded to the UK Government’s white paper on plans to introduce a new single immigration system, ending free movement.
The committee has concerns with what appears to be a difference in treatment of nationalities based on whether the country in question is “low risk”. This requires a proportionate justification to be lawful. It requested clarification of what “low risk” means, how this definition has been arrived at, and why it is a proportionate justification for the difference in treatment.
It also welcomed the decision not to cap the number of skilled workers who can enter the UK, and the commitment to review the administrative burdens on employer sponsors.
The Policy team can be contacted on any of the matters above at firstname.lastname@example.org