(223)  GAELIC LANGUAGE BILL PROMISED

Amongst the Bills which fell at the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament on 31 March 2003 because it had not been passed in time was Mike Russell’s Gaelic Language Bill (see No 204).  However, on 1 April it was reported by The Scotsman that, during a campaign visit to Stornoway, the First Minister, Jack McConnell, had pledged to introduce an Executive Gaelic Language Bill in the first year of the next session of the Parliament, aiming to have it passed before the 100th Royal National Mod in October.  This will give the language a secure legal status”.  The commitment also appears in the Scottish Labour Party manifesto

(231)  BYE-BYE HOUSE OF LORDS, HELLO SUPREME COURT?

The Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, announced a Cabinet reshuffle on 12 June 2003 which also included a number of constitutional innovations and reforms.  From a legal system point of view the most important change was the abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor and an announcement that there was to be consultation on whether the House of Lords as a judicial body should be replaced by a Supreme Court which did not also form part of the legislature.  There will also be a judicial appointments commission for England and Wales.  The office of Secretary of State for Scotland also ceased to be a separate one, with Transport Minister Alastair Darling being made responsible for Scottish affairs within the Cabinet also.  A new Department of Constitutional Affairs was also created, under Lord Falconer (who had hastily to be appointed Lord Chancellor as well, when it was discovered that that office could not simply be abolished by Prime Ministerial fiat).  Overall, the new arrangements appeared to be a success for the senior Law Lord, Lord Bingham, who had been arguing the separation of powers case for a supreme court wholly distinct from the legislature and the executive (in the form of the Lord Chancellor, a government minister who could also preside in the House of Lords as a judicial body).  See in particular Lord Bingham’s Spring Lecture to The Constitution Unit, University College London, delivered on 1 May 2002 and entitled A New Supreme Court for the United Kingdom” (accessible at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/files/90.pdf).

 

Debate immediately ensued about how the new supreme court would relate to the Scottish legal system.  Lord Hope of Craighead

(234)  GARDEN LEAVE IN THE TABLOID WORLD

On 19 May 2003 Bruce Waddell resigned as Editor of the Scottish Sun in order to take up the position of Editor at the Daily Record, the Sun‘s greatest rival in the Scottish tabloid newspaper market.  Mr Waddell’s salary was to be doubled.  The Sun sought to enforce a clause in Mr Waddell’s contract requiring him to give 12 months’ notice, continuing his salary, but not requiring him to perform any duties, and preventing him from working for the Record during the notice period.  On 11 July News Group Newspapers (NGN), publishers of the Sun, were granted an interim interdict to prevent Mr Waddell taking up his new position until 19 September, which amounted to a period of four months’ gardening leave”.  Lord Drummond Young held that NGN had a significant interest to protect

(235)  DEFAMATION ON THE INTERNET: LORD ROBERTSON v THE SUNDAY HERALD

On 12 July 2003 The Scotsman reported that Lord Robertson of Portgower, Secretary General of NATO, would be suing The Sunday Herald in respect of what were said to be defamatory statements made by a contributor to a forum on the Herald‘s website in February 2003 about disclosure of certain police documents relating to the 1996 Dunblane School shootings (see No 217).  Lord Robertson claims that the material remained on the website for three weeks after its appearance, and was seen by 600,000 visitors to the site.  The Sunday Herald claimed in its issue of 13 July 2003 that it had acted expeditiously” to take down the statement in question

(238)  CORRECTION

 

In no 231 (Bye bye House of Lords Hello Supreme Court”) it was said that the Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf had proposed that the holder of his office should preside in the proposed new Supreme Court.  In fact the suggestion was made by Lord Alexander of Weedon.  For an answer to Lord Alexander’s suggestion

(239)  THE CAR IN FRONT IS A JUDGE’S …

A salutary holiday story for those taking the A9 Perth-Inverness road into the Highlands this summer.  On 21 July 2003 Andrew Humphrey, driver of the Dumbarton FC team bus, was convicted in Inverness Sheriff Court of careless driving  while taking his bus to Inverness where Dumbarton were due to play Inverness Caley Thistle on 8 December 2001.  Evidence was given in the case by the judge Lord Nimmo Smith as well as Mr Humphrey.  The bus driver’s evidence was that, travelling at the speed limit of 60 mph, three times he had attempted to overtake Lord Nimmo Smith’s car on the A9 and each time had not been able to complete the manoeuvre because the judge had speeded up.  Lord Nimmo Smith said in evidence that the bus had attempted to overtake just prior to Spey Bridge.  I saw at least one car coming in the other direction at the other end of the bridge.  I could see that this was an extremely dangerous situation.”  Mr Humphrey

(240)  LOCKERBIE: COMPENSATION DEAL IN PLACE

After a delay caused by the temporary closure of the UN building thanks to a major power cut in New York City, on 15 August 2003 Libya handed over to the UN a letter formally accepting responsibility for the bombing over Lockerbie of PanAm flight 108 in December 1988.  The letter said:  Libya as a sovereign state has facilitated the bringing to justice of the two suspects charged with the bombing and accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials.”  A sum of $2.7 billion (£1.7 billion) is to be paid by Libya into a swiss bank account

(241)  A STEELY EYE ON THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

 

Giving the second National Library of Scotland Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 18 August 2003, Lord Steel of Aikwood, the former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, offered some thoughts on the future development of Scottish governance.  They included the provision of revenue-raising powers for the Parliament (possibly through the reintroduction of a dog licence, prompting The Times to headline its coverage Steel tells Scotland to go to dogs for revenue”); the total abolition not only of the post of Secretary of State for Scotland

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