Committee Updates March 2015

Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill

Our criminal law committee submitted written evidence on the above bill.  The committee welcomed the policy intent of the bill and in particular the desire to prevent and tackle human trafficking and exploitation in Scotland.  The committee acknowledged the complex and multi-faceted nature of trafficking human beings for exploitation and welcomed the commitment by the Scottish Government to work in partnership with relevant agencies on an international and UK level in order to make Scotland a hostile place for traffickers and to better identify and support potential and confirmed victims.   On the basis that the Scottish Government favours a victim centred approach to human trafficking, the committee also stated the bill should also set out the obligations that public authorities have in providing support and assistance to victims of human trafficking.    The committee also reflected on the fact that the Scottish Government favours a victim-centred approach, and suggests more consideration is needed on the specific support that should be available for victims, beyond the duties on Scottish Ministers already included in the bill.  The Society has been invited to give oral evidence on 24 March. 

The full written evidence is available on our website

Mental Health (Scotland) Bill

The Society’s mental health and disability committee submitted a stage 1 briefing on the above bill.  In the briefing the committee reiterated its concerns highlighted in its written evidence on the proposed extension of short term detention pending determination from 5 days to 10 days.  The committee highlighted that although this proposal is based on recommendations of the McManus report, this extension is, in the committee’s’ view no longer necessary, and that the problem associated with the 5 day period would be alleviated by a 10 day period.  The committee also highlighted its concerns that the bill does not provide patients detained in a low security hospital the right to appeal against conditions of excessive security.  Confining the right of appeal to patients in medium secure facilities is, in the Society’s view, restrictive and discriminatory. 

The full briefing is available on our website

The Future of Land Reform in Scotland

The Society responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation which lays out proposals for a potential Land Reform Bill and the setting up of a Land Reform Commission.  The Society has called for any land law reform to be ‘coherent, clear and workable,’ and pre-existing legislation must be taken into account.  The Society states in its response that the setting up of a Land Reform Commission appears to be a sensible way to progress land reform, however that there appeared to be a lack of clarity within the consultation as to how any such commission would be structured or what its remit would be.  The Society also suggested that stakeholder engagement was key and that any commission must remain independent of executive influence and represent the interest of all stakeholders, such as agricultural tenants, crofters and charities.

The Society also highlighted concerns around the proposals to increase transparency and accountability of land ownership in Scotland by limiting those who can own or take a long lease over land to legal entities registered in an EU Member State.  In the Society’s view restrictions such as these could be easily by-passed by non-EU companies setting up shell companies in the EU, not necessarily fulfilling the Scottish Government’s policy objectives of achieving greater transparency regarding the real land owner.  This could have an affect not only commercial land, but residential and agricultural land as well, thus having a potentially serious impact on business, and reducing investment.

The full response is on our website

LBTT – Sub-sale Development Relief and Multiple Dwellings Relief) (Scotland) Order 2015

On 25 February, Isobel d’Inverno, convener of the Society’s Tax Law Sub-Committee, gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee on the Scottish Government’s proposals in relation to sub-sale development relief and multiple dwellings relief for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax.  Ms Isobel welcomed the Scottish Government’s policy shift so that the sub-sale development relief will now be claimed and given at the outset, subject to it being withdrawn or partially withdrawn in the event a “significant development” does not take place on the acquired site within 5 years. The original proposal, whereby the relief could only be claimed when the “significant development” had completed, would potentially have resulted in a commercial disadvantage for Scotland and led developers to build in England instead where the relief is more widely available.  Isobel also welcomed the wider definition of “significant development” now proposed by the Scottish Government but suggested that the 5 year period for the “significant development” to take place should be subject to an extension on cause shown for a further reasonable period determined by Revenue Scotland.