(45)  The Scotland Act 1998 and the Scottish Parliament

The Scotland Act 1998 completed its passage through Parlament and received the Royal Assent on 19 November 1998. The Bill underwent some major amendment in its later stages, in particular with regard to the controversial issue of the removal of judges (see (1998) 2 Edinburgh Law Review 127-128). Under s 95 of the Act a judge of the Court of Session may be removed from office only by the Queen acting on the recommendation of the First Minister. The First Minister may so recommend only if Parliament has so resolved. Before the First Minister can put a motion to the Parliament for the removal of a judge, the matter must have been investigated by an independent tribunal, determining whether the person in question is unfit for office by reason of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour. The tribunal will be chaired by a person chosen from among the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and peers or members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It is to consist of at least three persons. The Lord President may request the First Minister to appoint a tribunal (a provision apparently inserted at the request of the present Lord President). The Act also contains a rule that Acts of the Scottish Parliament which could be read in such a way as to be outside the Parliament’s legislative competence shall be read as narrowly as is required for them to be within competence if such a reading is possible (s 101). Parts of the Scotland Act (mainly those dealing with elections) came into force as soon as the Act came into force. Under the Commencement Order made on 16 December 1998 other provisions came into force on 25 January 1999, allowing secondary legislation for transfers of property. Further parts setting up the Scottish Consolidated Fund will come into force on 1 April 1999, while the main batch of provisions, dealing with the constitution, proceedings and operation of the Parliament, come into force on 6 May 1999, to coincide with the elections. The Lord Advovcate and the Solicitor General for Scotland will become members of the Scottish Executive on 20 May 1999 and will be transferred out of the UK Government. Most remaining provisions will come into force on 1 July 1999, apart from a few on accounting matters, which will be held over until 1 April 2000.