Scots Law News has never been shy of old news and is accordingly more than happy to go back to a leading case of the 1960s which some readers may remember from their days of studying contract law, McCutcheon v David MacBrayne Ltd 1964 SC (HL) 28. Fewer may recall that it arose out of the sinking of the good ferry ship Lochiel in West Loch Tarbert in October 1960, and the resultant question of the liability of the owners (MacBrayne’s) to Mr McCutcheon for the loss of his Ford Popular car which the ship was carrying from Islay to the mainland. Lots of exciting legal issues about the significance of not signing contract notes, exclusion clauses in notices posted on the wall, and courses of dealing, but the law report, while not without human interest, doesn’t convey the full flavour of events on the day of disaster. Steve Cranston who, aged 13 months, was also on board the ill-fated ferry, but happily survived, unlike the Ford Popular, is now working on a blog about the incident and has gathered together some excellent material, including film of cars and other vehicles being winched into the Lochiel before it sails off into the Western Isles sunset. All is accessible at the following URLs, brought to our attention by roving reporter Scott Wortley: http://groups.msn.com/Kintyre/lochielssinking.msnw and http://www.lochiel1960.blogspot.com/.
Scots Law News particularly enjoyed the following bit of the story, beautifully combining elements of the Titanic sinking, Whisky Galore and Para Handy:
The bar was in those days in the forepart of the vessel, the part which was disappearing under water. The valiant barman stuck to his post, with water nearly up to his armpits, salvaging the contents of the bar and handing out bottles of booze to all comers although the sea was lapping their waists, prompting one daily paper to headline the event ‘Drinks for All As The Ship Goes Down’.
Lots of other stuff well worth reading, and no doubt more to come in due course.
SCOTTISH MINISTERS 0 (nil) FREEDOM OF INFORMATION 1 (won)
The Scottish Information Commissioner won two cases against the Scottish Ministers in decisions handed down by the First Division of the Court of Session on 23 January 2007. One concerned a planning application for a waste disposal site at Trearne Quarry in Ayrshire, the other the non-implementation of rights of non-lawyers under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 to conduct litigation in the Court of Session. In both the Ministers attempted to invoke exceptions provided by the FoI legislation to prevent disclosure – release prejudicial to the conduct of public affairs in both cases, and additionally material relating to the framing of public policy in the non-lawyers’ rights one. The court rejected these claims, although the opinions do not use the sweeping language already noted in the only previous FoI decision, also won by the Information Commissioner (see No 615). It is thought likely that the Ministers will appeal to the House of Lords. The court opinions can meantime be read at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2007CSIH08.html.
EDINBURGH IP/IT CENTRE WINS 5 MORE YEARS’ FUNDING FROM AHRC
The Edinburgh Law School Intellectual Property/Information Technology Law Research Centre, founded with the support of Shepherd & Wedderburn in 1999, was one of only two successful bidders for renewed funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, it was announced in January 2007. Having first gained AHRC Research Centre status in 2002, when funding of nearly a million pounds was obtained from the Council, the Centre will now be supported to the tune of nearly two million pounds until 2012. Professor Graeme Laurie will take over as Director in April 2007 as the new money kicks into place. For the Centre’s work see its website, http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/ahrc/, and note in particular its latest offering, the Personality Rights Database Wiki.
The custody case about Molly Campbell/Misbah Rana (see previously Nos 612, 617) came to an end on 18 January 2007, when the girl’s parents reached an out-of-court settlement. The terms were that Misbah would remain in Pakistan in the custody of her father, while her mother would have access rights with the cost of her travel to Pakistan being met by the father.
The 300th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament’s decision to ratify the draft Treaty of Union came and went on 16 January 2007 without rioting on the streets of Scotland, but plenty of debate about the circumstances in which it came about, the benefits it may or may not have brought to Scotland, and the issue of its future; all sharpened by the apparent strength of the SNP in opinion polls ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections upcoming in May. Interestingly, the tercentenary of the Treaty actually coming into force will be 1 May, just a couple of days before the election (a fact that clearly worries the Labour Party). This observer has also been greatly impressed by the ever more vocal unionism of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressed in language inconceivable for the young man who edited The Red Paper for Scotland and other works back in the 1970s. What worries him more, we wonder? – being seen as too Scottish to be accepted in England as Prime Minister of the UK, or the danger that Scottish Labour might not be the majority party in the next Scottish Parliament? It all gives the May elections a degree of savouriness which, one hopes, will improve the turnout compared to 2003 (see No 226).
Perhaps also worth noting here that the Brownie” – the £2 coin commemorating and celebrating the Union (see No 574) – was issued for the first time on 16 January. Will watching for the first one in your change be like listening for the first cuckoo in spring? For more on this see the Royal Mint website: http://www.royalmint.com/RoyalMint/web/site/Corporate/Corp_pr/txt_preciousGold.asp.