Recent work of the Law Reform Department, including Referendum Bill; land and buildings transaction tax; intellectual property; civil courts reform; regulatory reform

Scottish independence referendum

The Society provided oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Referendum Bill committee. Michael Clancy, Director of Law Reform, said the legislation was “well drafted” and “tailored to Scottish conditions”. Asked about the “purdah” period leading up to the referendum, he stated that the Scottish Government had a statutory obligation to abide by the 28-day rule. While the UK Government was not subject to the same statutory obligation, any infringement would have “political” consequences.

Land and buildings transaction tax

The Society provided written and oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee on the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland) Bill – in particular, on the complex issues surrounding commercial and agricultural leases, partnerships and licences to occupy land and buildings. Isobel d’Inverno, convener of the Tax Law Committee, said that it had been challenging to give these issues the proper consideration that they required within the timescales involved, and a working party should be set up to further consider the application of LBTT to partnerships. She added that, if the legislation was to work in Scotland, it should not incorporate any English legal terminology from the stamp duty land tax legislation, as this would give rise to difficulties in interpretation.

Intellectual Property Bill

The Society submitted an amendment to peers concerning the Intellectual Property Bill, recommending that the Court of Session retains its jurisdiction over patent cases under the new Community Unitary Patent system. The bill, once enacted, will pave the way for establishing a Unitary Patent Court system in the UK. The Society said that it considers it important that Scotland is allocated one of the (up to four) possible local divisions of the court. This would ensure that businesses operating in Scotland are not unduly disadvantaged by no longer having a local option to enforce or defend their rights.

Civil courts reform

The Society responded to the Scottish Government consultation on the draft Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. It agreed with increasing the threshold for cases to be raised in the Court of Session, but considered £150,000 to be too high a threshold, stating that it would prefer to see the limit set at no more than £50,000. This would allow cases with a lower value, but which still raise complex issues of fact or law, to continue to be heard by the Court of Session.

Regulatory reform

The Society provided written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee on the general principles of the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill. It welcomed the Scottish Government’s drive towards the simplification of complex regulation. It also supported the adoption of measures aimed to reduce inconsistency and streamline environmental protection regimes.

For full details of the above, and further information on the Law Reform Department, visit
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