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:
Our Banking, Company and Insolvency Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s consultation on the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill which proposes the introduction of a register of the beneficial owners of overseas legal entities that own land in the UK.
We have called for further clarification on how the UK Government's proposed Register of Overseas Entities will operate alongside the Scottish Government's proposed Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land. We believe that there is an overlap and both administrations will need to address the potential for duplication and conflict in operating two separate systems.
We are also concerned that the proposed registration system as presented in the draft bill would add to the delays in the registration procedure already being experienced in Scotland. The Keeper of the Registers of Scotland would require additional resources to discharge her increased responsibilities and safeguard the integrity of the Scottish property registers and the accuracy of the information recorded.
Our Constitutional Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry on 20 years of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the Act).
We believe that the Act is a key component of our society and an effective tool for the protection of our rights through the domestic courts in the UK. The Act provides an effective means for individuals to challenge the actions of the State and seek redress in a more accessible, timely and affordable way than was possible before incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Act has also had a positive impact on the development of law and policy both in the UK and in Scotland and we support the retention of the Act.
Our Constitutional Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s White Paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The White Paper sets out how the Government will implement the final Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU in UK law.
We believe that a “whole of governance” approach should be adopted by the UK Government when proposing legislative or policy changes in connection with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. We reiterate that this is the best way to achieve legislation which is workable, practical and will achieve its objectives.
One issue missing from the White Paper is that of the consequences of there being no Withdrawal Agreement in place by 29 March. Notwithstanding the publication of Technical Notes which set out the Government position regarding withdrawal without a Withdrawal Agreement being in place, we expect that the Government will, if negotiation for the Withdrawal Agreement has failed, take immediate steps to consult on the contingency arrangements which will need to be put in place in the early part of 2019 in advance of exit day. These include important areas included in “ongoing processes and arrangements” which the White Paper notes include ongoing police and judicial co-operation in criminal civil and commercial matters e.g. pending criminal, civil and family cases which impact on the rule of law and the interests of justice and impact significantly on the Human Rights of those involved.
Our Marine Law Sub-Committee responded to the UK Government’s White Paper on a future approach to fisheries management.
We have called for Scotland’s fishing interests to be protected. Following the UK’s exit from the EU, we believe that the regulation of fishing in Scotland should fall within the ambit of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. In line with the marine planning envisaged by this Act, we feel that it is important that fishing is not looked at in isolation but that an integrated view is taken.
Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy creates an opportunity for fisheries to be looked at in detail alongside matters such as conservation, fossil fuel and renewable energy developments, aquaculture, and navigation. This will help to ensure that the system of marine planning envisaged under the Act is comprehensive, rather than having components of use of the sea treated separately.