The Crown appeal in the beef-in-the-bone case (see No 33, below) was upheld on 26 June 1998. The Court of Criminal Appeal decided that Sheriff Paterson’s ruling that the Beef Bone Regulations 1997 were absurd or uncertain was ill-founded in law. The court also held that the sheriff had failed to rule on three other points made by the defenders and remitted the case back for him to make these rulings. It now appears likely that the case will continue for a considerable period of time.
The Scotland Bill has completed its progress through the House of Commons and was introduced in the House of Lords on 17 June 1998. The provisions on the appointment and dismissal of Court of Session judges (clause 89 – see (1998) 2 Edinburgh Law Review 128) have been amended so that dismissal can only be on grounds of unfitness by reason of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour. Most of the rest of the Bill is as first submitted to the Commons. Meantime the political parties have been selecting their candidates for the Scottish Parliamentary elections to be held in May 1999. Of its present Westminster cohort the Scottish Labour Party has chosen six (Malcolm Chisholm, Donald Dewar, Sam Galbraith, John Home Robertson. John McAllion, and Henry McLeish). Not all of the 56 Labour MPs applied for selection; and of those who did, not all were selected, notably Dennis Canavan, MP for Falkirk, who may seek judicial review of the decision against him. Donald Dewar will be Labour’s candidate as First Minister. All six SNP MPs will be Scottish Parliamentary candidates (Roseanna Cunningham, Margaret Ewing, Alasdair Morgan, Alex Salmond, John Swinney and Andrew Welsh). Alex Salmond will be the SNP candidate for First Minister. The Liberal Democrat selection process is not yet complete, and only Jim Wallace of its Scottish MPs has so far been selected as a candidate for Holyrood. The Conservatives, who have no Scottish MPs, have only made a small number of decisions so far about their Holyrood candidates but they include Phil Gallie (formerly MP for Ayr), and Lord Selkirk of Douglas (formerly Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, MP for Edinburgh West). David McLetchie, an Edinburgh solicitor, has been elected leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.
On 11 May 1998 the German newspaper Der Spiegel published a list of rankings of European law schools based upon the quality of their teaching. Edinburgh was placed sixth out of 36 in these rankings, bested only by Tilburg, Cambridge, Oxford, Leuven and Passau. No other Scottish law school was listed. The Times of 13 May 1998 ranked the top 20 UK law schools using factors such as official teaching and resaearch rankings, entry grades (based on A-level requirements), and expenditure on facilities such as libraries, computing, and accommodation. Edinburgh was the leading Scottish university in these rankings at 19th, with Aberdeen 20th. It is possible that the emphasis on A-level entry requirements skewed these figures to some extent. The overall ranking of universities by The Times published on 15 May 1998 placed the Scottish law faculty universities as follows: Edinburgh (7), Glasgow (20), Aberdeen (33), Dundee (38) and Strathclyde (42). The Financial Times has also produced an overall ranking of universities, and the Scottish placings are as follows: Edinburgh (8), Glasgow (21), Dundee (33), Aberdeen (38) and Strathclyde (41).
Allan McPherson, a riot policeman with a strong Glasgow accent, lost his claim of racial discrimination against the Metropolitan Police before an industrial tribunal sitting in Woburn on 7 May 1998. McPherson claimed that his employers refused to make him a dog-handler because the dogs could not understand his accent. The tribunal found that dogs respond to voice tones rather than words, and that McPherson’s accent was too monotonous for the purpose. McPherson also claimed that he was the victim of other forms of discrimination as a Scotsman which put him under stress during the dog-handling course: for example, his Yorkshire-born sergeant referred to him as a juvenile jock and a sheep-shagger and accused him of being concerned only with money. The tribunal found that these were isolated incidents which did not amount to a continuous course of conduct constituting racial discrimination.
On 21 April 1998 Sheriff James Paterson at Selkirk rejected the first prosecution under the Beef Bone Regulations 1997, under which it is an offence to use any bone-in-beef in the preparation of food or ingredient for sale direct to the ultimate consumer. The Regulations were introduced as part of the Government’s drive to eradicate health risks posed by the presence of BSE in cattle (so-called mad cow disease). Since the risk of contracting the human equivalent of BSE through eating beef on the bone is minimal, the Regulations have been much derided. A prosecution was brought against James Sutherland, proprietor of the Lodge Hotel at Carfraemill near Lauder, who is now known as the Beef Warrior. He had served 180 local farmers with beef on the bone at a Christmas feast in the hotel on 22 December 1997, five days after the Regulations came into force. But Sheriff Paterson ruled that the Regulations, made under the Food Safety Act 1990, were ultra vires and void. Since the Act’s definition of preparation would mean that every caterer will, by merely chilling a carcass or part of a carcass of beef, be guilty of the offence under the Regulations, and since therefore in one short sentence in a piece of subordinate legislation Parliament has destroyed the present system of meat distribution, the Regulations were manifestly absurd and could not stand. The Crown has indicated that it will appeal against Sheriff Paterson’s decision. An account of the proceedings in Selkirk Sheriff Court by Mr Sutherland’s solicitor, including extracts from the sheriff’s judgment, can be found in D. Kidd, Preparation is everything, (1998) 43(5) JLSS 23-26. Meantime the Court of Justice of the European Communities has held that the 1996 decision of the European Commission to ban the export from Britain of bovine animals, meat and derived products to other Member States in an effort to contain the spread of BSE was valid, not being clearly in excess of the Commission’s discretion, an abuse of its powers, or in breach of the principle of proportionality (Cases C-157 and 180/96, UK v Commission; R v Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food ex parte National Farmers Union, The Times, 6 May 1998).
On 6 April 1998 at Greenock Sheriff Court Sheriff Simon Fraser refused to grant an eviction order sought by Argyll and Bute Council against the Faslane Peace Camp. The campers are protesting against the Faslane nuclear submarine base, and were granted a lease of a plot of land off the A814 at Helensburgh by Strathclyde Regional Council (now deceased) in 1982. The Argyll and Bute Council, successors to Strathclyde, now want to terminate the lease. The action was dismissed as incompetent because the eviction writ described the campers as an unincorporated body. Sheriff Fraser held that the campers could only be described as an unincorporated body if they were carrying on a business at the site, and although there was a caravan used as an office at the site, he found that there was no business activity conducted there. Sheriff Fraser’s judgment was over-turned on appeal by Sheriff Principal Robert Hay on 1 July 1998, the Council’s writ having been amended to call on the campers’ solicitor to identify the parties whom he represented. It remains to be seen what steps the Council will now take to evict the campers.