Reviews of The Governance of Scotland; Evidence: Cases and Materials

The Governance of Scotland – a Saltire Guide (2nd edition)

Constitutional reform in all its varieties has created a need for up-to-date, accessible books to which practitioners can easily refer.  Electoral systems and parliamentary procedure may once have been distant details of long forgotten constitutional law lectures, but there is now a real need for solicitors to be informed and alert.  The Saltire Guide will help to fulfil that need.  For those routinely involved either in or advising on the legislative processes that affect Scotland, the Saltire Guide is perhaps a little too basic, although it is very handy to have a wide range of information collected in one place.  For those who need a comprehensive reference to governance in Scotland at different levels, this is a useful volume.

The Guide covers the workings of the institutions at Holyrood, Westminster and European levels.  The emphasis is on Scotland and the Scottish Parliament is considered in much greater detail than the European institutions.  The European overview is helpful and those seeking a quick refresher course are likely to benefit.  However, the real strength of the book is its coverage of the UK and Scottish dimensions.  There are only limited references to local government in Scotland, although public authorities merit a chapter, and it might be that there is a place for some treatment of that often neglected tier of government in a guide of this sort.  A chapter, for example, on the Scottish electoral system which gives no hint of the discussions current and future on the subject of proportional representation in local government is perhaps incomplete.

The Stationery Office has wisely opted for a looseleaf format.  The high turnover of information will demand very regular updating.  For example, membership lists of the committees of the Scottish Parliament, which are subject to change at short notice, are included, and an unexpected Cabinet resignation or reshuffle requires a swift response to maintain accuracy.  It is good that the format makes that possible.

Much of the information in the book is readily available elsewhere, free of charge.  This is true in particular of the section on Scotland: the Scottish Parliament website is an excellent resource and gives easy access to the Parliament’s Standing Orders and guidance on legislation, among other things.  In at least this respect, the Scottish Parliament has lived up to the expectation of being open and accessible.  The Saltire Guide provides essentially the same information, but condensed and collated and that has its value.  These are early days and there is, as yet, little scope for real commentary.  However, as patterns emerge and precedents begin to accumulate, no doubt the provision of factual information will be enhanced by analysis and critical comment.  That is what really gives added value.

This is a helpful guide which brings together a wide range of information from a variety of different sources and having it available will certainly save time over combing through a range of materials.  Through updating, it promises to develop further.  It is clear and easy to use and will be of benefit to many.

Morag Ross

Evidence: Cases and materials

The lot of the Scottish evidence student has improved considerably over the last six years.  Instead of having to contend with an array of increasingly dated texts, the student now has available an up to date textbook (the third edition of Field and Raitt’s Evidence), a casebook and revision guide and, for reference, a new edition of Walkers on Evidence.  (The last of these, of course, will have to be for library reference only – its price tag will place it beyond the reach of most students even if they have not spent the £79.45 which would be required to purchase a complete set of the other three texts). 

Much of the credit for this minor revolution is due to David Sheldon, the author of both the present casebook and also the LawBasics revision guide.  The second edition of his casebook follows six years upon the first, and its basic structure remains unchanged from the first edition.  Major new cases, ranging from Smith v Lees to Brown v Stott, have been added, whilst other extracts have been judiciously excised to make way for the new material.  The notes which accompanied extracts in the first edition have frequently been extended to take account of new material.  On the whole, the updating process has been skilfully exercised, and the new edition is likely to meet with as warm a reception as the first.

It is not, of course, a book solely for the student market, although that is its primary audience.  Neither is its sole function to provide a handy reference source for primary material (although it fulfils that function admirably).  The majority of the extracts are accompanied by helpful commentaries, which will be of use both to students and to other readers.

No review, of course, would be complete without some minor nitpicking.  It is unfortunate that most of the references to Cross (now Cross and Tapper), Walker and Walker, and Field and Raitt have not been updated to reflect the fact that new editions of those texts have appeared in the last six years.  Secondly, the extract from Cross and Tapper at the outset of the judicial knowledge chapter is rendered confusing by the removal of the headings found in the original text.  Finally, in the first edition, the extract from Rhesa Shipping Co. SA was accompanied by an explanatory footnote from Mr Sheldon on the issue of a presumption being used to surmount a burden of proof.  The use of footnotes has been avoided in this edition, however.  That is of little moment, but it is perhaps unfortunate that Mr Sheldon’s observations have instead been incorporated into the middle of Lord Brandon of Oakbrook’s speech.  No doubt it is to the author’s credit to observe that those unfamiliar with either the first edition or the case itself are unlikely to notice anything amiss.

James Chalmers

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