While Mr McCormick is correct to say (Journal, December 2018, 6) there is no specific mention of Scots law in our annual plan objectives, I’d like to offer assurance that respect for the integrity of Scots law underpins all our work. The annual plan sets our new objectives, which are in addition to what we do each year as part of our “business as usual” work and policies.
The Society’s policy committees work in the interests of Scots law and ensuring that it is fit for the 21st century. It’s important that we, alongside such organisations as the Scottish Law Commission, endeavour to ensure Scots law is modern, flexible and has the scope to respond to changes across society and business and meet people’s requirements and expectations. For example, we supported and commented on the Contract (Third Party Rights) (Scotland) Act, which came into effect at the start of 2018. The Act means there is no longer a need to rely on English law to create contracts which grant enforceable rights to third parties.
In other areas of work, we have ongoing discussions with Registers of Scotland and have also been in discussion with Legal Marketing Services (LMS) as regards assisting our members with any difficulties that they have encountered with panel membership.
Where law is determined at UK level, for example in relation to aspects of commercial law, we engage with Government such as the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), seeking to ensure that new frameworks are compatible with Scots law and do not disadvantage Scottish stakeholders. In the area of dispute resolution, we are looking at how we might be able to promote specific aspects of Scots contract law in the burgeoning area of legal tech.
In addition to promoting Scots law at home, we have emphasised the importance of recognising Scotland as a distinct jurisdiction with its own law, court system and separately regulated legal profession throughout the Brexit negotiations. It is important that this is considered in pursuing trade agreements, including negotiations with the EU and other countries. This is set out under “influence” in terms of the objective to promote trade in legal services (action 4.4).
We are also looking at how provisions in the recent Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Act, once in force, could bring more international work to Scotland, and working with others to promote the commercial court in Edinburgh. We were recently represented at a high-level conference on international commercial dispute resolution in Hainan, China promoting the advantages of Scotland as an alternative destination to London among other UK attendees. And, following the launch of Scottish Legal International last year, we will be developing plans in 2019 to pilot an international trade mission for our members, which, if successful, we hope will become a regular feature.
Separately, we will be examining what the impact of Brexit might be on Scots law to enable us to take action to ensure that once the UK leaves the EU, the Scottish legal system and its practitioners are not disadvantaged.
While this is not exhaustive, I hope this offers some reassurance to Mr McCormick and our members who are concerned with promoting the use of Scots law at home and overseas.Alison Atack, President