June 2014

Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill

In its written evidence to the Health and Sport Committee, the Society raised a number of concerns on the bill, including the lack of a definition of 'assisted suicide'.  The Society suggests that a very clear and unambiguous definition of what it is to 'assist' suicide be laid out on the face of the bill to avoid any difficulties in interpretation.  There is also a lack of definition of the role of a 'licenced facilitator'.  The Society also raised concerns around the age limit specified in the bill, which is stated as 16.  While the Society has not gone as far as suggesting the age limit be raised, it has made the point that under the current provisions of the bill, it would be possible for a 16 year old to request assisted suicide and another 16 year old to act as licenced facilitator.  Other issues raised include the 14 day time period a person has to commit, or attempt to commit, the act of suicide from the date of the second request; the storage and safekeeping of the drugs, and the ability of solicitors to act as proxies.

Read the Society's full written evidence.


Housing (Scotland) Bill

The Society submitted stage 2 amendments to the Bill in May.  The bill proposes to require Scottish Ministers to establish and maintain a register of letting agents and grants them the power to issue a code of practice. Proposals also provide Scottish Ministers with the power to remove a registered letting agent from the register if they are satisfied that the person is no longer a fit and proper person to carry out letting agency work.  The Society is supportive of the proposal to regulate letting agents, however suggested it should not be compulsory for solicitors to be part of the regime, as they are already subject to stringent rules of admission and practice and detailed rules covering professional ethics and conduct.   The Society was successful in tabling amendments to the bill to remove the compulsory inclusion of solicitors to the register, however the amendments were defeated 4-3 at stage 2.

Read the full amendments.


Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill

The Society's Licensing Law Committee welcomed the introduction of the bill in May.  The committee broadly agrees with the measures proposed in the bill, but question whether or not it will have the desired effect of properly regulating the use of air weapons in Scotland.  Where the bill proposes a single air weapon certificate should cover all air weapons held by an individual, the committee suggests that such a certificate should hold a list of all the weapons held by that individual otherwise the police will not know how many are in circulation.  The committee also suggest that there should be an incentive scheme to register or pass on unwanted air weapons to the police to remove them from circulation and avoid the potential for a surge in sales of air weapons before the licensing scheme comes into operation, with the result that many of these weapons may end up in the wrong hands.  The committee also support the tighter licensing of scrap metal dealers and the introduction of timescales with regards to alcohol licensing applications which are currently open ended.  The Committee will be considering the bill in full detail and will be submitting written evidence to the Local Government and Regeneration Committee in due course.

Documentation will be available on the Society's website.

Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill

The Society submitted its stage 1 brief in May.  The bill proposes to introduce a £150,000 threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session, and the Society's concerns centre around the dramatic increase in the threshold from its current £5000, which is likely to cause a surge in cases and delays in the sheriff courts.  The Society would welcome a rise in the threshold to £50,000, which will ensure that the majority of serious and complex cases will continue to be heard in Scotland's highest court.  The Society also has concerns around the introduction of a three month time period in which to bring a judicial review application which is, in the Society's view, overly restrictive and will adversely affect access to justice.  The Society will be preparing stage 2 amendments to the bill in June.

Read the full documentation on the bill.

Disabled Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill

In its stage 1 brief the Society's Equality Committee reemphasised its general support of the policy intent behind the bill to tackle fraudulent misuse of the blue badge scheme.  Misuse of the blue badge scheme can already be prosecuted under the common law offence of fraud, meaning this new offence duplicates existing law.  The new offence is also one of strict liability meaning someone may find themselves being prosecuted for a genuine error or mistake in using a cancelled blue badge unintentionally.  The Committee also raised some concerns surround the introduction of non-uniformed enforcement officers, citing that this may give rise to confrontational situations, and that the public will have no way of knowing if any identification card shown is genuine.  The Committee will be submitting stage 2 amendments to the Scottish Parliament in June.

Read the full documentation on the bill.