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 issued a briefing on the Fisheries Bill ahead of the second reading debate in the House of Commons on 21 November 2018.
The Bill creates common approaches to fisheries management between the UK Government and devolved administrations, which are known as ‘Fisheries Administrations’. We believe that strong collaboration between the Department for Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the devolved administrations is particularly significant. We welcome the collaborative approach taken by the Bill.
Following the UK’s exit from the EU, regulation of fishing in Scotland should fall within the ambit of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Acts 2007 and 2013. In line with the marine planning envisaged by these Acts, 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 Acts is comprehensive.
Our Constitutional Law Sub-Committee responded to the House of Commons Procedure Committee inquiry on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
We welcome the UK Government’s commitment in the White Paper on Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement to parliamentary scrutiny of the process of withdrawal from the EU but note that there is no reference to engagement with the devolved legislatures in paragraph 138. It is likely that the devolved legislatures and administrations will have a vested interest in all legislation which implements the Withdrawal Agreement and it is crucial that there is sufficient engagement to take into account the views of the devolved legislatures so that we have a workable, certain body of law following withdrawal.
Our Trade Policy Working Group responded to four consultations from the Department for International Trade (DIT) on future trade relationships and negotiations. DIT was consulting on negotiations with New Zealand, Australia, and the United States and asking for views on the UK potentially seeking to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Trade agreements can be used to effect a wide range of changes in the relationship between states and regions. In many such agreements provisions are a means to promote or reinforce the application of the rule of law. Trade negotiations should take into consideration the need to ensure minimum standards or norms and respect for the rule of law and the interests of justice and access to justice.
We emphasised the importance of recognising that Scotland is a distinct jurisdiction with its own law, court system and separately regulated legal profession. This should be considered in pursuing trade agreements including negotiations with the EU.
We believe that a whole of governance approach should be taken when considering trade negotiations. In the context of devolved competences this is particularly relevant where international agreements would bind domestic legislatures to effect changes to domestic law.
Our Property Law Committee and Property and Land Law Reform Sub-Committee responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the draft regulations to establish a new Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land.
We note concerns about the widespread nature of the proposed duties and the impact of these duties on a potentially wide range of individuals and bodies. There appears to be no differentiation between for example, a local sports club and a large commercial organisation, or between small family partnerships and major pension fund trusts. There is a lack of comprehensive information about trust or partnership property available on public registers, and so there is no ability to produce a proper estimate of how many properties, or people, are likely to be affected by requirements of the regulations.
We believe that it is it is crucial that the new Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land is properly and timeously maintained and therefore, vital that the Keeper has adequate resources to implement and maintain the register.