May 2014

Consultation on home reports

In February this year the Property Law Committee responded to the Scottish Government's consultation on home reports. The committee does not believe that the home report is meeting its original objectives, and anecdotal evidence from solicitors has shown that there have been many instances of sellers not being able to put their properties on the market due to the upfront costs simply being too high. The combination of this with a difficult selling market has in the view of the committee contributed to the rise in both repossessions and distressed sales.

The full response can be found here.

Historic Environment Scotland Bill

The Society's Planning Law Committee submitted written evidence on the above Bill at the end of April. The purpose of the Bill is to establish a new lead body for Scotland's historic environment, to be known as Historic Environment Scotland, which sustains the functions of two predecessor bodies, Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). The committee raises three main points in its response, the first being that there is no listed function under s2(2) for specifically promoting the 'maintenance' of the historic environments listed buildings. Secondly, at present Historic Scotland may choose not to object to the demolition of a listed building as a measure of last resort. The committee is concerned that this discretion may not be able to be exercised by Historic Environment Scotland who may be bound in terms of its functions under s2(2) which all point to conservation and enhancement. Thirdly, the committee supports the right of appeal against listing, however note that this would not be available for existing listed buildings.

The Society's full response can be found here.

Energy Law Committee

The newly formed Energy Law Committee has had a busy month and has submitted three consultation responses.

Transposition of Article 14(5)-(8) of the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) in Scotland

The EED updates the EU's legal framework for energy efficiency, pursuing the target of saving 20% of the EU's primary energy consumption by 2020, and of making further energy efficiency improvements after 2020. The consultation considers proposals for the transposition of Article 14(5)-(8) via the amendment of the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012. The committee is generally supportive of the proposals and that it is appropriate to include the transposition of Articles 14(5)-(8) within an existing and well established regulatory framework. The committee does have a concern relating to district heating and cooling networks, which may not be directly regulated by the PPC regulations but which will be affected by Article 14(5)(d). The committee suggests guidance should be provided by regulatory bodies to parties seeking to develop any such networks.

A consultation on proposals to amend domestic energy supply licence conditions - requiring provision of key energy data in a machine readable format

Along with the Privacy Law Committee, the committee is generally supportive of the policy intent and objectives behind the proposals which is to help and encourage consumers to access and identify more competitive energy tariffs by providing their personal energy tariff data in an accessible, portable and user friendly format. Their main concern however is around the proposal to make the data available via a QR Code (Quick Read) for access by consumers with the reading technology downloaded to their smartphones. While the consultation stated that 51% of UK adults own such a device, the committee is concerned that that immediately excludes 49% of adults who do not own a smart phone, and would therefore not have easy access to the data and may not be able to take advantage of the benefits.  Another objective of the proposal is to help consumers identify the most affordable energy tariff. The committee believes that those needing help the most are the elderly, those with vulnerable characteristics and those on low and limited means. These 'vulnerable consumer groups' are those most unlikely to own a smart phone, tablet computer or have any other means to access the technology required to read the data contained within the QR Code.

Electricity Market Reform (EMR): Contracts for Difference regulations

EMR will create a new mechanism to provide long-term revenue stabilisation to incentivise investment in low-carbon generation - Contracts for Difference (CfDs). CfDs will help to ensure that low-carbon and reliable electricity generation is an attractive investment opportunity. The consultation considers proposed regulations that will cover the process by which the Secretary of State can direct the CfD Counterparty to offer a CfD. The committee is generally supportive of and agrees with the processes outlined in the consultation.

All three responses can be found here.

Carers legislation - consultation on proposals

This Scottish Government consultation proposes to afford more protection to improve outcomes for carers and young carers in Scotland. The Society's Mental Health and Disability Committee welcomes the focus on supporting the estimated 750,000 carers in Scotland but is concerned over the introduction of an 'eligibility framework' which has the potential for those who fall outwith of that framework to be overlooked and not provided with the support they need. The committee also suggests that materials such as easy read guides to help carers and young carers understand any new legislation and their rights, as well as signposting of local support services would be welcomed.

The full response can be found here.

Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill

The Society has welcomed the Scottish Government's decision to delay the stage 2 consideration of the Bill until after Lord Bonomy has reported on his review findings. The Criminal Law Committee has consistently called for a full review of the law of corroboration alongside all other aspects of the criminal justice system and this delay will allow the Justice Committee to consider the Bill as a whole, including any recommendations made by the Bonomy Review Group.