(202)  Lockerbie: new compensation deal?

US lawyers acting for American families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 claim to have negotiated a new settlement for compensation from Libya, said to be worth up to £6.4 million for each family.  The claim was treated with some scepticism by UK families, who recalled that a settlement had been claimed earlier (see No 178) but had not materialised.  See also No 188.  (30 October 2002)

(201)  Parliamentary petitions and minority languages

On 28 October 2002 the Scottish Parliament Procedures Committee announced that public petitions to the Parliament might be presented in languages other than English or Gaelic after the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body agreed to fund appropriate translation facilities.  There had been concern that the existing rules discriminated against ethnic minorities.  Public information leaflets about the Parliament will also be produced in a number of languages, including Arabic and Urdu.

(200)  Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba

Duncan Ferguson, Rector of Plockton High School, has been appointed the first Chair of – the new Gaelic Development Agency – it was announced by the Scottish Executive on 11 October 2002.  The establishment of Bord na Gaidhlig, which was announced in June 2002, was an initial response to the recently published report from the Ministerial Advisory Group on Gaelic.  The report A Fresh Start for Gaelic argued that a board was necessary for the future of the language.  (See No 174.)  will be a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) and the Board is appointed by, and accountable to Scottish Ministers. The Chair and Members of will have a duty to promote the Gaelic language, to draw up plans for Gaelic and to co-ordinate activities in support of Gaelic. will receive annual funding of some £2 million from the Scottish Executive.  It is expected to meet for the first time in January 2003.

(199)  Wigs stay on

The Faculty of Advocates’ consultation on whether wigs should continue to be worn in court by members of Faculty (see no 182 for the background) has resulted in affirmation of the tradition.  80% of the Faculty responding were in favour of its continuation.  The Times 15 October 2002 quotes the Vice-Dean of Faculty, Roy Martin QC, as saying: Our members agree that court dress provides advocates with an obvious symbol of their professional identity in the mind of the public and represents a positive link with the best traditions in the practice of the law.  (16 October 2002)

(198)  Debts not to be forgiven in Scotland

By 80 votes to 4 with 28 abstentions, the Scottish Parliament on 19 September 2002 approved the principles of the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Bill, by which the Scottish Executive proposes various schemes of debt arrangement and an exceptional attachment order as a last resort procedure for the enforcement of debt in Scotland.  This will replace poindings and warrant sales, the abolition of which under a previous Act promoted by Tommy Sheridan MSP takes effect after 31 December 2002.  See Nos 90 and 122 previously.

(197)  Smacking kids

From our family law correspondent, Lilian Edwards:

This perennial chestnut rolls on. Following the ECHR case of A v UK 1998 Fam LR 118, [1998] EHRLR 82, where the UK had its wrists slapped for allowing a 9-year old boy to be savagely beaten by his step uncle without a successful subsequent prosecution of that assailant; and the Consultation Paper, Physical Punishment of Children in Scotland (February 2000); we now have an actual clause (cl 43) in the Criminal Justice (Sc) Bill 2002, which only ten years late, more or less attempts to implement the recommendation of the Scottish Law Commission formed back in 1992, that no hitting of children with implements (such as sticks and canes), no blows to the head, and no shaking of children, should be allowed as reasonable chastisement. Clause 43 also proposes to give a list of what criteria a court deciding on what is reasonable chastisement should pay attention to, based very much on the judgement in A v UK.

These provisions have been relatively uncontroversial and look likely to go ahead, as of the last Report of the Justice Committee on September 13 2002. The real stushie has been around the proposal to place a total ban on physical punishment of children under 3. Some of the overwhelming public horror at this totalitarian intrusion into the family can be found reflected in the submissions available on the Scottish Parliament website. The main criticisms seem to be that (a) such a law will inevitably criminalise normal, loving parents and (b) such a law would be completely unenforceable. To this non-parent (who clearly does not get a vote) these objections seem mutually contradictory. However on September 13 the government caved in to public pressure and Jim Wallace announced that this part of the Bill (clause 43(3)(a) would be dropped. The right-fearing folk of Scotland can breath easy again, safe in the knowledge that no one is going to stop them hitting children too small to crawl out of the way. Meanwhile, six days later, a report has arrived from the Central Research Unit on Disciplining Children: Research with Parents (Simon Anderson and Lorraine Murray for NFO System Three Social Research, and Julie Brownlie of Stirling University), whose executive summary declares that 80% of parents feel smacking should not be used below a certain age. One wonders how many of those parents found the time to write to the Scottish Parliament. Interestingly, only four in ten parents favoured banning smacking of children under 3, 48% favourd a ban for children under 2, and a majority, 52% favoured banning smacking of children undr 1. Perhaps the Executive should have waited to read the report before entirely junking clause 43(3)(a)?