Recent work of the Society's policy committees, including Planning (Scotland) Bill; organ donation; management of offenders; rural broadband inquiry.

The Society’s policy committees have had a busy month analysing and responding to proposed changes in the law. Key areas are highlighted below. For more information see 

Planning (Scotland) Bill

The Planning Law Subcommittee issued a briefing to MSPs ahead of the stage 3 debate on the Planning (Scotland) Bill. It warned that the heavily amended bill at that stage was unworkable and risked adding significant additional costs on local authorities, developers and communities.

The Society welcomed the final amended bill. The changes made at stage 3 have clarified many of the bill’s provisions and largely restored it in line with its original objectives. It now includes provisions on regional spatial strategies, local place plans, short-term lets, mediation, and training and performance requirements, while provisions on culturally significant zones, land value capture and brownfield land have been removed. Amendments for a third party right of appeal were not agreed, and the Society supports this decision.

Organ donation

The Health & Medical Law Committee issued a briefing and suggested amendments ahead of the stage 3 debate on the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill.

It believes that public awareness is crucial and was pleased to note that, following amendments at stage 2, there will be a duty on Scottish ministers to promote an information campaign annually. It was also pleased to note amendments introducing a duty on ministers to review and report on the impact of the introduction of deemed consent after five years. These amendments will strengthen the framework of the bill and allow it to be evaluated to ensure that policy intentions are achieved.

Management of offenders

The Criminal Law Committee issued a briefing ahead of the stage 3 debate on the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill. It supports the bill’s general principles in relation to electronic monitoring, disclosure of convictions, and reforms relating to the Parole Board and release on parole.

The bill has provided an important opportunity to look at ways of expanding and streamlining the greater use of electronic monitoring in a modern Scottish criminal justice system. It is vital to achieve an appropriate balance with offenders between prison and an opportunity to contribute to their communities. The committee also called for further public awareness around the proposals regarding electronic monitoring, and further support measures for offenders.

Rural broadband inquiry

The Rural Affairs, Consumer, and Competition Law Subcommittees responded to a UK Parliament committee inquiry into rural broadband and digital only services.

Access to connectivity and digital services remains an issue for rural communities. Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2017 Scotland report highlighted that only 6% of premises in Scotland still struggle to get decent broadband services. The Society believes all premises in Scotland should have access to this level of service. While improvements have been made in the availability of superfast broadband and coverage of full fibre services in Scotland, there remain areas where basic levels of coverage are not provided.

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The Policy team can be contacted on any of the matters above at Twitter: @lawscot
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