The Holyrood Inquiry chaired by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie (see No 259) opened on Tuesday 28 October 2003. Counsel to the inquiry is John Campbell QC. Amongst the early witnesses are the former Minister, Sam Galbraith, the former Scottish Office Minister Brian Wilson MP, the former First Minister Henry McLeish, and Wendy Alexander MSP, formerly an adviser to the late Donald Dewar when he was Secretary of State for Scotland. The inquiry opened to a background of controversy as it sought to obtain from the BBC unedited tapes of interviews with Mr Dewar and the late Enrique Miralles, architect of the Parliament building, which were recorded by the Wark-Clements production company in 2000 as part of the material to be used in an eventual documentary about the execution of the project. The BBC has refused to release the tapes on the basis of confidentiality agreements said to have been made with the participants. Sr. Miralles’ widow has however indicated that she would be prepared to waive the confidentiality agreement, and Lord Steel of Aikwood, the former Presiding Officer who was in charge of the project once it passed into the hands of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body, has already announced his waiver of the confidentiality. A further layer in the controversy arises from the fact that Kirsty Wark, one of the owners of Wark-Clements and a well-known TV journalist and presenter, was a member of the committee which chose the Miralles design for the Parliament.
Following the Scots Law News comment about the need for a female appointment to the House of Lords (see No 273), but no doubt coincidentally, Dame Brenda Hale was promoted to the House from the Court of Appeal in England & Wales on 23 October 2003. Dame Brenda will be known as Lady Hale, and will take up her post in January 2004. She will not have to wear a wig when sitting in the House, but has previously attacked the wearing of wigs on the ground that they deny women their femininity. Lady Hale was initially appointed to the bench in 1994, having previously been an academic lawyer and a Law Commissioner, well known in particular for her expertise in family law.
While we are dancing on glass ceilings, Scots Law News congratulates Dr Alison Elliot of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues on her appointment as Moderator of the General Assembly of Scotland: the first woman to hold the post, and also the first lay person for many centuries.
On 14 October 2003 the Scottish Charities Office took legal action to suspend the directors of Moonbeams Children’s Cancer Charity, following concerns over its financial affairs. The Scottish Charities Office can take court action where there is evidence of misconduct and mismanagement of a charity. Following an application made to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, all existing directors have been suspended and charity bank accounts have also been frozen. A judicial factor (administrator) has been appointed to manage the charity in the meantime. These orders were pronounced on an interim basis and the charity and those affected by the orders now have 21 days to decide whether to lodge answers to the petition. News of the case has reinforced pressure for the introduction of charities legislation as promised by the Scottish Ministers in the Partnership Agreement (see No 228).
A draft Gaelic Language Bill was published on 10 October 2003 in a Consultation Paper, and will be open for consultation until 9 January 2004. Speaking at the 100th Royal National Mod in Oban, First Minister Jack McConnell and Minister for Education and Young People Peter Peacock confirmed that the Bill was to be introduced to Parliament next summer. The key provisions of the Bill are:
Recognising in legislation Gaelic as a language of ScotlandEstablishing the Gaelic development body, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, on a statutory basis to promote the use and understanding of Gaelic Requiring Bòrd na Gàidhlig to prepare a National Gaelic Language Plan for approval by Scottish MinistersRequiring public bodies in Scotland to consider the need for a Gaelic language plan in relation to the services they offerThe Consultation Paper is available at