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Society calls for close scrutiny of Scotland Bill

21 January 2011

Support for the Scotland bill, coupled with a call for close scrutiny of some of its key provisions, has been expressed by the Law Society of Scotland in its submission to the Scottish Parliament, delivered today.

The Society agrees with the majority of proposals contained in the bill, but has called for greater consideration to be given to some areas, including the tax provisions and the power to prescribe drink driving limits. Devolving the latter power to Scotland, it says, could essentially create a situation where different drink drive limits are set between Scotland and England, with potential problems arise for drivers crossing the border. The Society recommends liaising with key representative organisations before this legislation is implemented.

The Society agrees with many of the constitutional changes contained in the bill. The legislative competence provision would mean that any person submitting a bill would have to certify how it fitted with the competence of the Scottish Parliament from the outset. In addition, the partial suspension of acts clause would mean that any issues raised by law officers regarding any part of a bill could be raised with the Supreme Court in isolation, allowing the rest of the bill to progress to royal assent. The Society feels that both measures would enhance public confidence in the bill process.

Technical

Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform at the Society said: “This Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation to have affected the Scottish legal system since the Scotland Act 1998. The Society is keen to ensure that the proposed legislation will comply with human rights law, with existing Scots law and that consideration is given to how the legislation can be effectively implemented. There are many technical reforms in the bill which will improve arrangements regarding constitutional law in Scotland.”

Technical aspects of the taxation issues, involving the devolution of income tax and stamp duty land tax, have been considered by the Society’s Tax Committee. Committee convener Isobel D'Inverno said: “The tax provisions contained in the bill are extremely complex and we are of the view that more information is required on how the Scottish rate of income tax will be administered and the cost for the taxpayers, employers and Scottish Government. Also the definition of Scottish taxpayers may need to be amended to ensure clarity and to avoid potential compliance issues.”

The Society also agrees with the insolvency measures contained in the bill, which would see this area re-reserved to Westminister.

The Society will present oral evidence to the Scotland Bill committee on the tax and insolvency clauses on Tuesday 25 January, and on the remaining clauses in the bill on Wednesday 2 February.

Click here to access the full submission.
 

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