A number of criminal cases before the Scottish courts are raising the first issues about the European Convention on Human Rights and its application under the Scotland Act 1998 to the Lord Advocate as a member of the Scottish Executive. Under s 57 of the Act, members of the Scottish Executive may not do any act incompatible with Convention rights. The Lord Advocate is exempted as the head of public prosecution in Scotland insofar as he could not have acted differently as the result of one or more provisions of primary legislation. The particular challenge arises under Article 6 of the Convention (right to a fair trial and to legal representation). Section 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act allows the police to hold a suspect for up to six hours without access to a lawyer, and is challenged as incompatible with Article 6. A ruling is awaited.
The committee investigating reform of local government in Scotland under the chairmanship of Neil McIntosh, former chief executive of the former Strathclyde Regional Council, issued its report on 22 June 1999. Amongst its recommendations were systems of proportional representation for council elections, electronic voting, an immediate inquiry into local government finance, salaries for councillors, cabinet-style structures rather than committees, and the extension of the community council franchise to 16-year olds.
The First Minister, Donald Dewar, announced the first legislative programme of the Scottish Parliament on 16 June 1999. There will be eight Bills. Three will deal with land issues: one on rights of access and the community right to buy, one on the abolition of feudalism, and one for national parks and sustainable development. There will also be a Local Government (Ethical Standards) Bill, an Incapable Adults Bill, a Transport Bill (providing for road-charging), a Financial Procedures and Auditing Bill (aimed at the accounting and auditing of the Scottish executive itself), and an Education Bill (designed to raise standards in local authority schools). It appears, however, that there will be no Scottish Freedom of Information Bill in the near future, although such a Bill for England and Wales has been introduced at Westminster.
On 14 June 1999 Glasgow Caledonian University won its appeal against a decision of an employment tribunal to order the reinstatement of its dismissed Principal, Professor Stan Mason. The University had already appointed a new Principal. The decision of the tribunal was described as perverse by Lord Coulsfield giving the opinion of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. For comment on the earlier decision, see H L MacQueen and L J Macgregor, Specific implement, interdict and contractual performance, (1999) 3 Edinburgh Law Review 239-246 at 245.
The European Parliamentary elections on 10 June 1999 produced in Scotland a turnout of 24.83% of the electorate. Under the list system of voting in use, Labour (28.68% of the vote) won three seats, the SNP (27.17%) and the Conservatives (19.76%) two apiece, and the Liberal Democrats (9.81%) one. Of the other parties, the most successful were the Green Party (5.78%) and the Scottish Socialist Party (4.02%). Amongst the successful candidates were Elspeth Attwooll (Liberal Democrat), formerly lecturer in Jurisprudence at Glasgow Law School, and Neil MacCormick (SNP), Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at Edinburgh Law School.
Donald Dewar was elected as the first First Minister of the Scottish Parliament on 13 May 1999. Following agreement of a coalition programme between the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties, Mr Dewar was sworn in by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on 17 May 1999, and began to appoint the Scottish Executive. Jim Wallace of the Liberal Democrats was appointed as Deputy First Minister and Minister for Justice. Other appointments included Henry McLeish as Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning; Sam Galbraith as Minister for Children and Education; Jack McConnell as Minister for Finance; Wendy Alexander as Minister for Social Inclusion, Local Government and Housing, Susan Deacon as Minister for Health and Community Care, Sarah Boyack as Minister for Transport and the Environment, and Ross Finnie as Minister for Rural Affairs. Lord Hardie of Blackford and Mr Colin Boyd have been reappointed as Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland respectively. Meantime, Dr John Reid MP was appointed to succeed Donald Dewar as Secretary of State for Scotland, and Lynda Clark QC MP (see No 3 and No 17 below) was made the first Advocate General for Scotland, the first woman to be a Law Officer.