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MSPs seek leave for bills on post mortem rights; outside work curbs

18 January 2019

Time limits on the right of defence counsel for a person accused of homicide to instruct a post-mortem examination of the alleged victim; and restrictions on the non-parliamentary work, and earnings, that MSPs can enjoy, are the subject of two proposed members' bills at the Scottish Parliament now out to consultation.

Gil Paterson, SNP member for Clydebank and Milngavie, has issued the former proposal, which seeks to minimise delays and uncertainty for victims’ families. In the foreword to his consultation he explains that there have recently been "a number of high-profile cases where relatives, bereaved in the most distressing of circumstances, have waited for what they consider to be an extended period of time for the victim’s remains to be returned for burial while a second post mortem examination is carried out". Sometimes this is for good reason, but "in some instances no reason is obvious". His bill "would give greater certainty as to when a decision on the release of the remains will be taken".

Under his proposals, there would be a time limit, perhaps 14 days, on the existing right of the defence to instruct a second post mortem, subject to a right to apply to the court for the period to be extended, any extension being similarly limited. At the end of that period, the body would be returned to the family. Time would run from the point at which the Crown post mortem has been completed, rather than when the final report of the examination is made to the procurator fiscal and shared with the defence.

The proposal can be accessed here; submissions close on 4 April 2019.

Meanwhile Neil Findlay, Labour member for Lothian, wants to ban MSPs from certain categories of remunerated work, restrict remuneration from any additional work, and limit the time spent on certain activities. He believes that limiting outside employment will help reduce the potential for MSPs holding conflicts of interest, as such employment is "perceived to engender conflicts of interest and/or neglect of the politician’s parliamentary duties".

His proposal would involve a complete ban on all long and short term additional employment, or self-employment, with no lower limit on the level of remuneration, irrespective of the time of year at which it is carried out, subject to exceptions for professionals such as nurses and teachers, who must carry out a number of hours each year to keep their professional credentials, writing for regular publications is a political capacity, working as a carer for friends or family, or voluntary charity work. There would also be a restriction on any outside remuneration, to a certain percentage of an MSP's salary; and a restriction on the time that could be spent on activities that MSPs have a financial interest in (including stocks, shares, dividends etc). Members would be required to report in the same way they report outside earnings currently, within one month of the relevant action.

Click here to access the proposal. The deadline for views is 2 May 2019.

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