RELIGION IN PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONTINUING FOR EASTER
The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) has lost its claim in the Court of Session to take over the property and assets of the Free Church of Scotland (see No 393 for the background of the claim). Lady Paton’s opinion, issued on 24 March 2005, is available on the Scottish Courts website (http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2005CSOH46.html), Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) v General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland 2005 CSOH 46.
A draft Crofting Reform Bill was published on 21 March 2005. The Bill de-regulates crafting to some extent, by reducing the need to go through the Crofting Commission whenever control of a croft changes, and enabling transfers to take place between unmarried partners, whether or not of the same gender. The power of landlords over crofts is also reduced, by requiring them to object to crofters’ proposed actions rather than being able to block by simply doing nothing. Crofters will be enabled to sub-let and to diversify into non-agricultural use (such as wind-farms). The creation of new crofts will be encouraged by enabling new crofters to waive their right to buy the croft. But the crofting counties – currently Argyll, Inverness, Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland – are not to be extended. The draft is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/consultations/rural/dcrsb-00.asp.
On the day before episode 3 of The Gathering Place (16 March 2005), the European Commission announced that a letter had been sent to the UK Government requesting information and explanations of possible breaches of EU public procurement rules, not only with regard to the contract tendering process (already the subject of litigation in the Court of Session – see Nos 413, 428), but also with regard to the procedure for appointing the project architect (Enric Miralles); the problems in the latter case being the insufficiency of Miralles’ insurance cover to meet the requirements of the design competition, and the lack of independence from the client (the Scottish Office, as it then was) of the committee deciding the competition, since its membership included not only two Scottish Office civil servants but also Donald Dewar, then Secretary of State. For the text of the Commission’s press release, see http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/05/314&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en.
The Gathering Place itself continued in episode 3 to reveal the stresses and strains within the design team as the project developed in 2002. The final episode will be shown on 22 March 2005. Better news for Holyrood came on 18 March: the building has won the Edinburgh Architectural Association’s Centenary Medal, as a work of outstanding architectural merit.
Having the doubtless old-fashioned view that TV series’ run on a weekly basis, and not being so addicted to the delights of the box as to have it permanently switched on, Scots Law News missed the second episode of The Gathering Place, the BBC2 series on the building of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, which was broadcast, not on Thursday 17, but on Tuesday 15 March 2005. Other media coverage of the programme since confirms that once again Donald Dewar was notable by his absence, and that the focus remained on the troubles of the design team – Enric Miralles’ widow and business partner, Benadetta Tagliabue, receiving a less than flattering treatment – while MSPs came out this week as slightly more responsible (in the good sense of the word) than in episode 1. Watching out for when episodes 3 and 4 are to be broadcast could become as exciting as watching the price of the Parliament spiral over the last few years, especially as the TV schedules are bound to be disrupted by Holy Week and Easter. The sort of cavalier approach to the humble viewer that stopped Scots Law News watching cricket and rugby highlights programmes years ago.