August 2015

Committee Updates for August 2015

Scottish Government consultation: Proposals for a Lobbying Bill

We submitted our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on proposals for a statutory register of lobbying activity in Scotland.  In the response, we reiterated the important and legitimate role of lobbying, and our support for full transparency of lobbying processes.  However, the consultation did not ask two important questions – ‘what is a lobbyist’ and ‘what is meant by lobbying activity’.  These are two fundamental questions which need to be answered to ensure that these terms are clearly and unambiguously defined in any future legislation, as they will be the basis upon which organisations will determine whether or not they will need to register.  We also raised concerns around proposals for individuals rather than organisations to register, which goes against recommendations made by the Scottish Parliament’s Inquiry into Lobbying, which would place a greater administrative burden on organisations with a number of staff who regularly meet with parliamentarians.  The proposals also seek to include only face to face meetings to be covered by the requirement to register.  Telephone conversations, emails and video conferencing would be excluded.  This seems at odds with the requirement for full transparency and openness and in our view opens the system up to criticism.  If the Government’s aim is to increase transparency and public confidence, then we have submitted that Ministerial diaries and minutes of meetings between Ministers and MSPs should also be included. 

Read our full response

English Votes for English Laws

Our constitutional law committee submitted two briefings on the UK Government’s EVEL proposals to change the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.  Due to the speed of the developing debate and the fast moving political environment, our briefings focussed on the fact that the changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons were of considerable importance. The debate has swiftly developed into a major constitutional issue. 

We detailed the legal questions arising from the proposed changes to the standing orders, and in particular on the role of the Speaker in deciding whether or not a particular bill would constitute an English or English and Welsh law for these purposes.  The decision to be taken by the Speaker would involve an assessment on whether or not the law in question constituted an English only or English and Welsh law, and whether or not it concerned matters that are devolved elsewhere in the UK.   Whether a bill applies only to England is not simply determined by looking at the extent provisions, it requires a significant constitutional and legal assessment of the measure, how it may operate in practice and what its legal effect might be.

Read our briefings

Smoking in Cars – supplementary Evidence

Following our oral evidence session at the Scottish Parliament on the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill, the Health and Sport Committee asked us to provide supplementary written evidence on a couple of points that were raised.  In this evidence we highlight our views on whether or not a person convicted under the proposed legislation may trigger a report to the child’s Named Person, under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, and whether or not whether such a report is a proportionate response. We also explore the possibility of such an event triggering a referral to a children’s hearing.  We also reiterate our concerns regarding the enforceability of the proposed legislation and whether or not it should be the driver of the vehicle that is held responsible.

Our full commentary on the Bill and links to our oral evidence sessions can be found on or website

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

In June, member of our Family Law Committee Professor Elaine Sutherland organised the third Annual International Colloquium on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Implementation Project, held in Edinburgh.  The colloquium provides an opportunity for experts from around the world to discuss and share information on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year’s colloquium focused on Article 3 of the Convention, looking at the ‘best interests’ and welfare principles.  Papers were presented on a wide range of topics, with themes including adoption, paramouncy v primacy, the role of best interests in decision making, structural/institutional/social influences on implementation, and challenges surrounding the development of ‘non-traditional’ family types (including reproductive assistance, and multiple parents). The ideas were developed from different disciplines, such as law, child development, and anthropology, as well as from different jurisdictions, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, and Nepal.