Recent work of the Law Reform Department, including home reports; Historic Environment Scotland Bill; energy law; carers; criminal justice

Home reports consultation

In February, 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 many instances of sellers not being able to market their properties due to the upfront costs being too high. This, combined with a difficult selling market, has in the committee’s view contributed to the rise in both repossessions and distressed sales.

Historic Environment Scotland

The Planning Law Committee submitted written evidence on this bill in April. The bill establishes Historic Environment Scotland as a new lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, sustaining the functions of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The committee raised three main points: there is no listed function under s 2(2) for specifically promoting the “maintenance” of the historic environment’s listed buildings; s 2(2) may not permit Historic Environment Scotland to exercise a discretion not to object to the demolition of a listed building as a measure of last resort, as Historic Scotland may at present; and, while the committee supports the right of appeal against listing, it would not be available for existing listed buildings.

Energy Law Committee

The newly formed Energy Law Committee has had a busy month and has submitted three consultation responses. The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) updates the EU’s legal framework for pursuing energy efficiency up to and after 2020. A consultation considers proposals for the transposition of article 14(5)-(8) via amendment of the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012. The committee is generally supportive of the proposals but has 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), and suggests that guidance should be provided by regulatory bodies.

Along with the Privacy Law Committee, the committee is generally supportive of the policy intent and objectives behind proposals in a further consultation to help consumers access and identify more competitive energy tariffs by providing personal energy tariff data in machine readable format. It has a concern about making the data available via a QR (quick read) code accessed via a smartphone, as 49% of adults do not own a smartphone, and would therefore not have easy access to the data and may not be able to take advantage of the benefits. This would particularly include the elderly, those with vulnerable characteristics and those on low and limited means.

Finally, the committee is generally supportive of proposed processes outlined in a consultation on directions by the Secretary of State to the counterparty in contracts for difference, which help to encourage low carbon and reliable electricity generation.

Carers legislation

A Scottish Government consultation proposes to afford more protection for carers and young carers in Scotland. The Society’s Mental Health & Disability Committee welcomes the focus on 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 that framework to be overlooked for the support they need. The committee also suggests that easy-read guides to help carers and young carers understand their rights, as well as signposting of local support services, would be welcomed.

Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill

The Society welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to delay 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 by the review group. 

Full details of the above and further information on the current work of the law reform department can be found at
The team can be contacted on any of the matters above through, or follow us on Twitter: @lawscot
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