Society welcomes inclusion of Scotland Bill in Queen’s Speech
The Law Society of Scotland has welcomed the inclusion of a new Scotland Bill in today’s Queen’s Speech.
The UK Government is set to bring forward a new Scotland Bill which will implement the Smith Commission recommendations, giving the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government more powers as agreed between the five political parties who participated in the Smith Commission process.
Alistair Morris, president of the Law Society of Scotland said: “The UK Government has the opportunity to deliver a devolution settlement that can truly stand the test of time.
“Last week the Prime Minister said that in addition to bringing forward legislation that will reflect the Smith Commission recommendations, the UK Government will also consider proposals for additional powers put forward by the Scottish Government. It will be important for there to be proper consultation on any powers that are a change to those recommended by the Smith Commission
“We expect the Scotland Bill to be published tomorrow, 28 May. The Law Society has commented extensively on the draft clauses and we will participate fully as the bill progresses, examining the constitutional, tax and other provisions that we expect to see in the bill."
Providing clarity on the UK’s membership of the European Union
The Law Society is not taking a position, either in favour or against a referendum on EU membership. Similarly, it will not advocate a particular outcome if the bill is approved by parliament and a referendum is held.
However, the Society is urging political parties to consider how they would maintain any economic benefits and barrier-free access to critical markets after any exit from the EU. The Society has also called for an analysis of whether the major policy, legislative and administrative complexities from an EU exit would have a detrimental effect on relations between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mr Morris said: “There are clearly strong and differing views about whether the UK should be a member of the European Union, differences which exist within the legal profession as well as the public as a whole.
“It is important for the UK Government to provide as much clarity as possible on the UK’s membership of the EU. Any ongoing uncertainty could lead to businesses, whether foreign or domestic, diverting or postponing investment into the UK.
“If there is a referendum then it is essential that the full economic, constitutional and legal aspects of EU membership are considered. In particular, it is important that the parties consider the impact of any further decentralisation across the UK and whether any exit from the EU would create constitutional problems in the devolved arrangements.”
Bill of Rights
Prior to the General Election the Law Society urged commitment from all political parties to protect human rights and to upholding the rule of law, by retaining the Human Rights Act 1998 and for the UK to remain within the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Mr Morris said: We understand that the Government intends to consult further this area of law before bringing forward any proposals for new legislation.
“Human rights are for everyone and ECHR is the most developed international human rights regime in the world. It has had significant positive impact, not just upon the Scottish legal landscape, but in helping to protect the rights of our citizens, such as the right to a fair trial, and paving the way for significant rulings such as the abolition of slopping out in prisons and ensuring people can access legal advice if held in a police station.
“It will be important for the Government to consult widely on such an important matter. There must be a commitment to the protection of human rights and to upholding the rule of law. We would also call on the UK Government to avoid taking any action which could impact on the legal framework of human rights in Scotland without the explicit consent of the Scottish Parliament.”
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