(56)  Scottish Parliamentary election results

The results of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, held on 6 May 1999 and using an Additional Member System of voting, were as follows: Party Constituency MSPs and %age vote Regional List MSPs and %age vote %age vote in whole election Total seats Labour53 (38.8%)3 (33.6%) 36% 56SNP7 (28.8%)28 (27.3%) 28% 35Conservative0(15.6%)18 (15.4%) 15% 18Lib-Dem12 (14.2%)5 (12.4%) 13% 17Others1 (3%)2 (11.3%) 6% 3 The consequence is that no party has an overall majority in the Parliament. The turnout was 58.7%. Of the 129 MSPs, 81 are men and 48 women. The three others are Dennis Canavan (Independent Labour), who took the constitutency of Falkirk West although rejected as a candidate by the official Labour Party, Tommy Sheridan (Scottish Socialist Party, elected on the list in the Glasgow region), and Robin Harper (Green Party, elected on the list in the Lothians region). Mr Harper is the first ever elected Green in British parliamentary history. The Parliament met for the first time on 11 May. Lord Steel of Aikwood, henceforth to be known again as Sir David Steel, was elected as the Presiding Officer.

(54)  Lockerbie trial: enter the accused

As expected (see No 52 below), on 5 April 1999 the two Libyans accused of planting the bomb aboard the Pam Am jet which exploded over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 (Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah) were given over to the custody of Scottish authorities at Kamp van Zeist near Utrecht in the Netherlands. On 6 April they were accused of murder and remanded in custody before Sheriff Graham Cox, and committed for a trial which will take place in the Netherlands before three Scottish judges and in accordance with Scots law. The prosecution is expected to apply for an extension to the 110-day rule, under which the trial would normally commence within that period. News is still awaited of which three judges will be appointed to hear the case, together with the name of a fourth to act as substitute in the event of death or illness of one of the appointed three (which will twist on its head the footballing phrase for substitution, coming off the bench). (6 April 1999)

(53)  South African authorities in Edinburgh Sheriff Court

The Scots Law Times of 19 March 1999 reports at 1999 SLT (Sh Ct) 10 the decision of Sheriff D J B Robertson in First National Bank plc v Bank of Scotland, 2 September 1997, a case about the liability for negligence of a collecting bank to an issuing bank. Sheriff Robertson’s judgement includes the following comments (at 12G-I, 15H): Counsel for the defenders .. referred to two South African cases .. as having persuasive effect. The South African cases were Yorkshire Insurance Co Ltd v Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd 1928 WLD 251 and John Bell & Co Ltd v Esselen SA Law Reports, February 1954 (1) 147. He placed particular emphasis on these cases because of the similarities between South African law based on Roman-Dutch law and Scots law based on Roman law. The tort of conversion was unknown in either system, but in South Africa there was a statutory provision in similar terms to s 82 [of the Bills of Exchange Act 1882] providing similar protection to a collecting bank. Counsel commended the approach taken by the judge in Yorkshire Insurance Co Ltd, which was to treat the statutory provision as superfluous as it simply provided a defence to a tort which did not exist in South Africa, and could not be taken as imposing any liability on the collecting banker. The case of John Bell & Co v Esselen, though not directly in point because it did not involve a collecting bank, was an appeal court decision in South Africa and confirmed that the doctrine of conversion was unknown. The action was a claim under the condictio indebiti on the basis of unjust enrichment where a company’s cheque had been fraudulently used to pay a personal debt. There was no allegation that the payee knew of the fraud and was in bad faith, and it was held that he had no duty to restore the sum involved to the company. Counsel again suggested that a Scottish court would take a similar approach. … I accept that the South African decisions were of interest as demonstrating the approach taken in analogous situations to the present case in a jurisdiction where the doctrine of conversion is unknown and whose legal system also derives from Roman law. These cases .. were of persuasive effect.

(52)  Lockerbie trial: new developments

On 19 March 1999 President Nelson Mandela of South Africa announced in Tripoli that Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, had written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, agreeing to surrender to him for trial the two Libyans (Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah) accused of bombing the Pan-Am jet over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. The handover is to occur on or before 6 April 1999. UN sanctions against Libya in respect of the country’s failure to hand over the suspects will be lifted within 90 days of compliance. The trial will take place in the Netherlands under Scots criminal law and before a panel of three Scottish judges from the High Court of Justiciary. (20 March 1999)

(51)  Scottish Courts online

The Scottish Courts Administration launched their new website on 24 February 1999. All Court of Session and High Court judgments are now available online from 2 pm on the day they are issued. Cases from the end of 1998 have also been posted to the site. The website, which is searchable, is at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk. (2 March 1999)