Martin Hogg draws our attention to Dowager Countess of Cawdor v Earl of Cawdor 2007 CSIH 3, issued on 10 January 2007. The case discusses the unique Scots law doctrine of unilateral promise, with Stair’s Institutions being the main authority relied upon. The Countess’ claim that a promise had been made to her fails, for reasons summarised thus by Lord President Hamilton giving the opinion of the court:
 It is undoubted that the law of Scotland will recognise as obligatory a promise duly made. Delivery to or acceptance by the promisee is not necessary to the constitution of a promise (Stair – Institutions of the Law of Scotland I.10.4), though, in my view, the presence or absence of communication to the other party may be an adminicle of evidence in the question whether the statement amounts to a promise in law. Stair (op. cit.) I.10.2 distinguishes three acts of the will, namely, desire, resolution and engagement. Only the third is obligatory. Having dealt with desire, Stair continues:
Neither is resolution (which is a determinate purpose to do that which is desired) efficacious, because, whatever is resolved or purposed, may be without fault altered, unless by accident the matter be necessary, or that the resolution be holden forth to assure others;
Neither of the two exceptions mentioned applies here. In my view, although this was a formal meeting at which the trustees proceeded on the basis of professional advice, they went no further than the stage of resolution referred to by Stair.
2006 produced some vintage material for Scots Law News, although we are aware of a few loose ends left hanging round by our less than intensive approach to researching stories for our readers’ delectation. What happened to Charlie the anti-social cockerel, for example? See No 595. Charlie was due in Selkirk Sheriff Court again on 3 November, but no word has come our way about his fate. Similarly, what about the sentence of Andrew Barron, the only person convicted so far under the Protection of Wild Mammals etc (Scotland) Act 2002, whose sentence was deferred for six months back in May (see No 565)? The current whereabouts of Steve Gough, the Naked Rambler jailed for seven months back in August (No 576) are also unknown to us, and his website (http://nakedwalk.org) provides no further information.
We do know what happened to smoking in Scotland in 2006 (see Nos 546 and 591), and that Tommy Sheridan won a famous victory in a defamation action against the News of the World (see No 587), but the consequences of that are still being worked out (see e.g. Nos 589, 590, 592 and 599), and may provide us with some more interesting material in the coming year. There is much else to look forward to in 2007. Will the tercentenary of the Anglo-Scottish Parliamentary Union of 1 May 1707 be marked by an SNP victory in the Scottish Parliamentary elections on 3 May heralding its early demise – or will the party’s current high standing in the polls have evaporated by then, as so often in similar situations in the past? Again, will the tercentenary of the Edinburgh Law School (see http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/tercentenary for the programme of events and other details) be marked by the abolition of the LLB degree as a professional qualification following a Law Society of Scotland consultation on the future of legal education and training (see http://www.lawsocietyofscotland.org.uk/training/consult/Introduction.aspx for the details, plus No 583 previously)? Will the Law Society itself be challenged in any way, not only by the new Complaints Commission under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill (see No 593), but also by the rumoured creation of a Scottish Bar Association, linking together all the country’s disgruntled criminal and civil legal aid solicitors (see for the background to the lack of gruntlement Nos 561, 564, 567, and 581)? There must also be some tension around the proposed introduction of sellers’ surveys in March, given their demise in England (see No 584) and the resignation just before Christmas of Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm, begetter of the policy supporting their introduction. Also of probable considerable significance are the Scottish local government elections (also in May), the first to be held under a proportional representation system and thought likely to lead to major changes in the local political landscape around the country.
Keep tuning in to Scots Law News to find answers to these and other burning questions of the day. No doubt old favourites will return once more to the fore during 2007 as well, and there will be some new ones helping keep Scots Law News rolling along. Meantime, however, a good New Year to all readers!
Scots law names catching the eye in the Honours list published on 30 December 2006 were Alexander McCall Smith, Emeritus Professor of Medical Law at Edinburgh (but a CBE for services to literature rather than law – why not both?), and Richard Henderson, chief solicitor to the Scottish Executive (Companion of the Bath – lucky him). Apart from these, the most interesting award is to Audrey O’Neill, an MBE for services to baton twirling.
The appeal by the father of Misbah Rana (also known as Molly Campbell) against the court order to return his daughter from Pakistan to Scotland (see No 612) was adjourned by the Islamabad Supreme Court on 8 December 2006 without any decision being taken. Misbah will therefore remain in Pakistan for the time being. The court will resume the case in the second week of January 2007.