Responding to a petition (PE512) from Mr George Reid, a retired accountant, the Education, Culture and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament has recommended to the Justice Minister that the optimum shade of blue for the Scottish Saltire or St Andrews Cross flag be Pantone 300 (i.e. azure or sky blue): see its proceedings for 18 February 2003. Committee Convener Karen Gillon said: We should not try to restrict what flags are flown at football or rugby matches or anywhere else but … we should accept that Pantone 300 is the correct colour of azure blue for the saltire. Our proposal will be a voluntary code and will not be statutory. People will still be free to keep the flags that they have and will not need to throw them in the bin.” (col 3466)
Dolly the sheep, who became famous as the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, was put down on 14 February 2003 when she was found to be suffering from an incurable and progressive lung disease. Dolly, who was created by the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh and spent her entire life there, had contributed to the development of intellectual property law in respect of both patents and trade marks (see Nos 14, 42). Born on 5 July 1996, she was only 6 years old when she died, and having been cloned from the cell of a 6-year old sheep and having suffered arthritis from an early age, there was speculation about the link between her early demise and the age of the cloning source (sheep normally live for 11-12 years). The body is to be stuffed and exhibited in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
On a fishier note, the Times for 10 January 2003 reported the demise of another, unrelated and uncloned Dolly, a 15-year old salmon who lived at the Fisheries Research Salmon Rearing Station at Almondbank, Perthshire. The salmon was believed to be the oldest in the world, was nearly a metre long, and weighed 7 kg (15 lbs). It had spawned every year for more than a decade and was therefore believed to have produced over 70,000 offspring. Unfortunately this Dolly seems to be of no legal interest.
The feudal system of land tenure survives still in Scotland, some 200 years after it was dismantled in most other countries. But not for much longer. The Deputy First Minister has announced on 21 November 2002 that the feudal system is to be abolished on 28 November 2004. On that day there will be brought into force both the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000, and also the Title Conditions (Scotland) Bill, currently before the Scottish Parliament.
In addition, the Land Reform (Scotland ) Bill 2003 was finally passed in the Scottish Parliament on 20 January 2003. The Bill provides for rights of access to land, and for community rights (including crafting community rights) to buy land (see also Nos 48, 98).
On 13 November 2002 Mike Russell MSP (SNP) introduced the in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill requires certain public bodies to publish, maintain and implement plans to give effect to the principle that in the exercise of the functions of these bodies the Gaelic and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality. The plans will show the steps that the public bodies will take regarding the use of Gaelic in connection with their functions. The Bill specifies the minimum content of the plans and how the plans should be managed and reviewed. Initially the duty to prepare a plan will only apply to bodies exercising functions in certain areas of Scotland (i.e. the local government areas of Highland, Western Isles, that part of Argyll and Bute which is the area of the former Argyll and Bute District Council and the islands of Arran, Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae). The Scottish Culture Minister, Mike Watson, has indicated that the Scottish Executive does not support the Bill, although it has been reported that consideration is being given to legislation giving Gaelic speakers the right to have their children educated in that language where there is a demand for it (Scotland on Sunday, 6 Oct 2002).
On 20 January 2003 the Executive announced that existing road signs would be replaced with new bilingual signs on a number of trunk roads that pass through communities where Gaelic is spoken and which lead to west coast ferry ports. The new signs will be erected on the following routes:
A87 Skye Bridge to Uig A87 Invergarry to Skye Bridge A887 Invermoriston to A87 A830 Fort William to Mallaig A835 Ullapool to Dingwall/Tore A828 Ballachulish to Connel Bridge A85 Tyndrum to Oban A83 Tarbet to Kennacraig / Campbeltown A82 Tarbet to Inverness
On 13 February 2003 the Registrar General’s Report to the Scottish Parliament on the 2001 Census revealed that in 2001, 58,650 people aged 3 and over spoke Gaelic compared with 65,980 in 1991 – a fall of 11 per cent.
The Sexual Offences (Procedures and Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2002 asp 9 came into force on 1 November 2002. Under the Act, rape victims cannot be cross-examined by their alleged attackers. The accused must be represented by lawyers throughout the trial, and only these lawyers may question witnesses. The reform brings Scots law into line with the rest of the UK in this respect.