Members of a football pools syndicate thought that they had won a £2.5 million jackpot on the Littlewoods pools, but then discovered that the Littlewoods collector had never passed their coupon on to the company and had stolen their stake-money. Littlewoods refused to make a pay-out. The collector was convicted of theft. The syndicate members raised an action against Littlewoods, but it was dismissed as irrelevant by Lord Coulsfield on 28 March 1996 (Ferguson v Littlewoods Pools Ltd 1996 GWD 21-1187; 1997 SLT 309). The primary ground of dismissal was the doctrine of sponsiones ludicrae, i.e. that a debt arising from a gambling transaction such as a football pool is unenforceable in the courts (McBryde, Contract, 577-581). The syndicate members reclaimed, and the appeal was due to be heard by a Court of Five Judges in December 1996. However a settlement was announced on 3 December. Although details remained confidential, it appeared that the syndicate members had exhausted their funds, and that Littlewoods had made no payment to them.
On 29 November 1996 James Baxter, a rope access technician, was convicted in the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh of inciting a workmate to murder his tenement neighbour in Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh. It appeared that for over a year the intended victim had objected to the proposals of Baxter and his other neighbours for common repairs and improvements in their building, which under the law of the tenement was sufficient to prevent them taking place (Stair Memorial Encyclopedia, vol 18, paras 244, 246). The plot involved abseiling from Baxter’s top-floor flat to the victim’s flat below. Baxter, an Aberdeen graduate in social anthropology and comparative religion, was jailed for four years despite testimonials to his character and criticism of the intended victim from his neighbours. The trial judge said that the victim “must have driven everyone mad by the way he behaved”. The Scottish Law Commission is currently reviewing the law of the tenement (see now No 30 ). For the dismissal of Mr Baxter’s appeal on the interpretation of the law of incitement, see Baxter v HMA 1997 SCLR 437; 1998 SLT 414.
The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Ross, announced his decision to retire in January 1997. He was succeeded by Lord Cullen, who became well-known through his chairmanship of the inquiries into the Piper Alpha disaster and the shootings at Dunblane Primary School. Lord Cullen was sworn in on 15 January 1997.
The Skye Bridge linking the island to Kyle of Lochalsh opened in 1995, replacing the former ferry. The ferry charge immediately before the opening of the bridge was £5.40 each way. On the bridge there is a summer and a winter toll for a one-way crossing by car: in 1996 the tolls were £5.20 and £4.30 respectively. This is to enable recoupment of the £25 million of private finance by which the bridge was built. A campaign of toll non-payment has been run since the bridge opened, the leading group in the campaign being Skye and Kyle of Lochalsh Against the Tolls (SKAT). Criminal prosecutions of non-payers have recently been occupying a large proportion of the time of Dingwall Sheriff Court. An appeal against a conviction in that court was heard in the High Court of Justiciary in November 1996. The appeal, which was refused, was based upon the illegality of the toll, in that its imposition involved ultra vires acts by the Secretary of State for Scotland and infringements of Community law (Anderson v Hingston 1996 GWD 38-2227; 1997 SLT 844). The matter may now go to the European Court of Human Rights. After toll-free crossings were allowed on Christmas Day 1996, the tolls were increased in January 1997 to £5.40 (summer) and £4.40 (winter). Mr Donnie Munro, the Labour Party’s Parliamentary candidate in the area (but better known as the singer in the folk-rock band Runrig), committed himself to the removal of the tolls should he and a Labour government be elected. Readers interested in boating to Skye should note that a small ferry still runs between Glenelg on the mainland and Kylerhea to the south of the island (one-way fare £5 in summer 1996).
On 12 July 1996, Hazel Aronson QC became the first woman to be appointed to a permanent seat on the Court of Session bench, taking the judicial title Lady Cosgrove. She had previously been a sheriff in Glasgow and, from 1993, a Temporary Judge of the Court of Session. Her appointment was criticised by Lynda Clark QC, who stated that “unfortunately [Aronson] chose to leave the Bar when she had gained only limited experience as junior counsel working almost exclusively in family law. She abandoned the challenge of a career at the bar at a time when many of the barriers and difficulties for women remained. It was left to other women to deal with problems and expand their expertise and experience into the full range of civil and criminal law. … I think [Aronson] would have found her new appointment easier and less cause for anxiety if she had chosen to spend long enough at the Bar to gain that experience which many people regard as indispensable.” Clark later denied that her comments were a personal attack or motivated by professional jealousy, pointing out that her career ambition is to become a Labour MP. “That, however, does not diminish my desire that the experience and expertise of some of the women at the Bar should be acknowledged by appointment to the Court of Session bench in the near future.” (Source: The Scotsman, 12 and 16 July 1996.) On 15 July 1996 it was revealed that Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, a Lord Ordinary in the Outer House of the Court of Session and former Solicitor General and Lord Advocate in the present Government, would become Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General on 1 October 1996. His predecessor, Lord Hope of Craighead, has been promoted to the House of Lords along with Lord Clyde, where they will succeed Lord Keith of Kinkel and Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle as the Scottish Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. Lord Rodger’s appointment was the subject of controversy, as some politicians commented on the apparent conflicts of view between Lord Hope and the Government over such matters as sentencing policy, and Lord Rodger’s previous occupation of Government posts.
On 4 July 1996 the Prime Minister announced the return to Scotland of the Stone of Destiny (the Lia Fail). Scottish kings were inaugurated on this stone at Scone near Perth until 1296, when it was removed to Westminster by King Edward I of England. Since then it has remained under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey, with the exception of a period in 1950-51 when it was removed from the Abbey by four young Scots. On 21 October 1996 it was announced that the returned Stone would be located alongside the Honours of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle, although the possibility of a return to Scone once a “kingship centre” has been established there is not ruled out. The Stone returned to Scotland on 14 November 1996, re-crossing the border at Coldstream. Following a service at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, on 30 November 1996 (St Andrew’s Day), the safekeeping of the Stone was given to the Commissioners of the Regalia at the Castle by Prince Andrew.