Our policy committees have had a busy month analysing and responding to proposed changes in the law. We do this to positively influence the creation of a fairer and more just society through our active engagement with the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments, Parliaments, wider stakeholders and our membership.

You can read more about some of the month's highlights below:

We are asking the legal profession and interested stakeholders for their views on the law providing rights for cohabitants. Our consultation aims to stimulate discussion within the legal profession and is seeking views in relation to reforming cohabitants’ rights.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 provides certain rights for cohabitants when cohabitation ends otherwise than by death (section 28) and on the death of a cohabitant who dies intestate and is survived by a cohabitee (section 29).

We are not undertaking a full review of the law relating to cohabitation but would welcome views and experiences on sections 28 and 29 of the Act.

Scottish solicitors and interested parties are asked to respond to the consultation by 10:00am on Monday 3 December 2018.

Our Consumer Law Sub-Committee, together with our Competition Law Sub-Committee responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on establishing a consumer body for Scotland.

We welcome and support the proposal to establish an independent consumer body in the form of Consumer Scotland which will represent and promote the interests of Scottish consumers.

The creation of Consumer Scotland presents the opportunity to create a genuinely consumer-centric independent body. We would support a more comprehensive advice service than is offered at present. Often a consumer will face more than one problem and it is important that advice takes account of all relevant factors if a proposed solution is to be effective. A coordinated approach could bring far greater benefits to consumers.

We also feel that it can be difficult to navigate the range of current consumer bodies. The creation of a “one-stop-shop” and effective signposting to the advice, or information required could also assist consumers and empower them to exercise their rights more effectively.

See our full response.

Our Brexit Policy Working Group responded to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee inquiry on the impact of Brexit negotiations on Scotland.

It is difficult to assess the impact which the article 50 negotiations have had upon individuals, businesses and organisations. In common with many organisations, we are aware of work by other bodies which indicates that there is significant uncertainty and that it is therefore difficult to plan for all eventualities.

We polled our members in late 2017. The results indicate that solicitors are more likely to think Brexit will have a negative impact on their business than a positive one. We have suggested that it might be helpful to identify the range of scenarios which might result from the Article 50 negotiations.

We have drafted four negotiating scenarios and their associated legislative activity based on current UK Government proposals and where no agreement is reached before March 2019.

See our full response.

Our Equalities Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Although the consultation is only considering changes to apply in England and Wales, as the current procedure under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 applies in Scotland, we have taken the opportunity to share our views on reform.

We support self-declaration with a significant reduction in the evidence required to be presented in an application for gender recognition. We believe that the process for granting legal gender recognition should be highly formal and acknowledge this is a serious, life changing decision with consequences.

We also believe that consideration should be given to providing for a period of reflection before finalisation of the process and the law relating to gender recognition for people under the age of 18 should be given careful consideration with a view to reform.

See our full response.

Influencing the law and policy

One of the main functions of our policy team, along with our network of volunteers, is to analyse and respond to proposed changes in the law.