SKYE BRIDGE TOLLS TO END – SOON?
Possibly in response to the threats of judicial review on the matter (see No 354), or possibly not, on 5 June 2004 Enterprise Minister Jim Wallace made the following statement in the Scottish Parliament: This executive is committed to ending the discredited tolling regime on the Skye Bridge. Professional advisers have been appointed and discussions with Skye Bridge Limited have already begun. Having conferred with the minister of transport on this issue… I believe we can achieve our goal by the end of this year.
The Second Division issued its opinion in Adams v Scottish Ministers, the case challenging the validity of the abolition of fox-hunting in the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, on 28 May 2004. The court upheld the validity of the Act, and found that the petitioners’ human rights had not been infringed by the Act. The Scottish Parliament had had sufficient evidence before it of the cruelty of fox-hunting, and had been entitled to take the view it did in the Act.
A Court of Five Judges in the High Court of Justiciary has held that the offence of breach of the peace does not require that any person actually be alarmed by the conduct complained of, and that it was for the court to determine objectively whether or not the conduct was genuinely disturbing or alarming. With regard to breaches of the peace taking place in private there needed to be evidence of a realistic risk that the conduct would be discovered. The cases before the court involved inter alia protesters at the Faslane nuclear base and in the Scottish Parliament chamber, as well as various ‘neighbourhood’ incidents. See Jones v Carnegie 2004 GWD 15-325, 4 May 2004.
SUPREME COURT ON ICE (THIN OR THICK? – UNCLEAR)
Lord Falconer denied the Times story (published on 17 May 2004) that the Supreme Court plans are to be ‘put on ice for up to ten years’ following the Government’s failure to find a suitable new building to accommodate the court (see No 355). No amendment to the Constitutional Reform Bill, suspending the creation of the Supreme Court until appropriate accommodation is found, has yet emerged; but nor has a building. In any event, the Bill will not be amended until the Special Committee of the House of Lords has concluded its deliberations. The Committee has taken evidence from a number of Scottish voices, including Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Hope of Craighead, the Lord President Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland. Uncorrected transcripts of this oral evidence are available at the Committee’s website: (http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/reformbill.cfm).
Meantime the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament published its report on the Bill on 27 May 2004 (accessible at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/justice2/reports/j2r04-04-01.htm ). The Committee supported the creation of a Supreme Court in place of the House of Lords and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (dissentients Annabel Goldie and Nicola Sturgeon), exercising the present jurisdiction of the two bodies (dissentient Nicola Sturgeon), with no requirement of leave to appeal for Scots cases, but subject to a specific statutory guarantee that any English decision would not be determinative of Scots law. The Committee thought that statute should provide for a majority of Scots judges normally in Scottish appeals. It also asked for more thought on funding issues and Scottish financial contributions, but was content with the proposed judicial appointments system. The Scottish Parliament should bring forward a legislative guarantee of judicial independence in Scotland to match that in the Constitutional Reform Bill for England & Wales.
The Times for 17 May 2004 reports that the Supreme Court plans are to be ‘put on ice for up to ten years’ following the Government’s failure to find a suitable new building to accommodate the court. The shortlist had come down to the Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square at Westminster, but Lord Bingham, the senior Law Lord, rejected this possibility because the court room (a listed building) was laid out as a criminal court, with a dock and tiered public benches. Lord Bingham also refused to initiate the Supreme Court within the present quarters of the House of Lords. Lord Falconer, it is further reported, is to move an amendment to the Constitutional Reform Bill, suspending the creation of the Supreme Court until appropriate accommodation is found.