April 2014

Disabled Persons' Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill

The Society's Equalities Committee submitted written evidence and David Cabrelli, member of the committee, gave oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Regeneration Committee on March 26. The aim of the Bill is to tackle fraudulent use and strengthen the enforcement powers of the Blue Badge scheme, which affords parking concessions to disabled persons. The committee is generally supportive of the policy intent behind the Bill, but has concerns around the introduction of a strict liability offence, which they believe to be disproportionate, and the review process of any decision being restricted internally to the local authority.

Read the full response.

Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill

The Law Society sent a briefing to MSPs ahead of the stage 3 debate; we welcomed Scottish Government amendments to remove interim recall from the Bill and also recommended that the proposed increase in the debtor contribution order from 36 to 48 months should be closely monitored in its implementation and if problems arise the Scottish Government should act swiftly in order to rectify them. We voiced concerns about the removal of judicial involvement in areas where the legal rights of the debtor and creditors are directly affected and also questioned the new, unnecessarily lengthy, appeal process.

All Society documentation pertaining to the Bill can be found here.

Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Bill

The Society's Tax Law Committee gave oral evidence on 12 March to the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee on the Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Bill. Among the points we made, we emphasised the importance of having an independent advisory panel to give clear guidance on acceptable and unacceptable tax avoidance; we expressed the view that legal professional privilege is not relied on as a means of creating tax avoidance schemes; and that the focus of Revenue Scotland should be to collect the correct amount of tax as far as individual taxpayers are concerned, rather than the largest amount of tax.

All Society documentation pertaining to the Bill can be found here.

Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill

The Society gave oral evidence on the above Bill in March. The Society's main concerns centre around the proposals to reform the Scottish courts system, which could adversely affect access to justice due to the insufficient resources being allocated to implement the major reforms. The Society also has concerns around the proposal to introduce a £150,000 threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session. This would be a dramatic increase from the current £5,000 threshold and would result in a large transfer of cases from the Court of Session to the sheriff courts.

The Society is concerned that although more cases will be heard in the sheriff courts, there will be little increase in the number of sheriffs. This is likely to lead to delays in cases being determined and could adversely affect access to justice.

Whilst the Law Society backs an increase in the sheriff courts' jurisdiction limit, as it is recognised that costs are lower where disputes are litigated at the most appropriate level, the Society would prefer the limit to be set at around £50,000.

The full written evidence on the Bill can be found on the website.

Economy, Energy & Tourism Committee's inquiry into Scotland's economic future post-2014

As part of this committee's inquiry into Scotland's economic future after the referendum, regardless of the outcome of the vote, Director of Law Reform Michael Clancy gave oral evidence along with representatives from the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and PricewaterhouseCoopers on the taxation, spending, borrowing and debt implications of either independence or greater devolution of tax-raising powers to Scotland.

Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill

The Health and Medical Law Committee has formed a working group along with members of the criminal, mental health and disability and professional practice committees to prepare written evidence on the above Bill. Their first meeting will be held in early April.