Recent work of the Law Reform Department, including assisted suicide; smoking in cars with children present; fatal accident inquiries; charities

Assisted suicide

The Health & Medical Law Subcommittee submitted a briefing for MSPs in advance of the stage 1 debate on the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill (which was defeated following the debate), reiterating its concerns that a lack of clarity on definitions in the bill and its ambiguity might give rise to difficulties in enforceability, and the Society’s opposition to a blanket provision enabling solicitors to act as proxies to sign a request for assisted suicide.

Smoking in cars

The Health & Medical Law Subcommittee also submitted stage 1 written evidence on the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill. The committee supports the policy intention behind the bill but has pointed out the practical difficulties of enforcing the legislation, which would make it an offence to smoke in a vehicle in which there is a child and which is in a public place. It also highlighted the lack of complementary proposals focusing on education and prevention of smoking, as it is generally acknowledged that a combined approach is more effective in changing patterns of behaviour and promoting tobacco control. 

Fatal accident inquiries

The Civil Justice Committee responded to Holyrood’s Justice Committee’s call for evidence on the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Etc (Scotland) Bill. The committee welcomed the policy objective of reforming and modernising the law governing fatal accident inquiries, but was disappointed that the bill did not take forward the recommendation in Lord Cullen’s 2009 review, that relatives of the deceased should not have to justify the reasonableness of the granting of legal aid for their representation at an inquiry.

OSCR charity test guidance

The Charity Law Committee has responded to a Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR) consultation on its new draft version of the charity test guidance, which is designed to help both prospective and existing charities and their advisers to understand the requirements of the charity test and how to pass it. 

The committee thought the draft guidance a clear improvement on the existing version and that the use of illustrative case studies was helpful, though it raised some queries about some of the examples, as it did not think they were clear in their intent. The committee also met senior representatives from OSCR to discuss the implications of the Smith Commission’s devolution recommendations on charities.

Queen’s speech 2015

The new UK Government has set out its legislative agenda for the parliamentary session ahead. Among the various measures are the Scotland Bill, based on the cross-party Smith Commission agreement on Scottish devolution; the EU Referendum Bill; and an Immigration Bill, which will include a series of measures to control immigration and target illegal migration. The Law Reform team will provide a fuller analysis of these and other relevant legislative measures set out in the Queen’s speech, as committees consider them in detail.

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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