Business Experts and Law Forum report on Scots law

A Business Experts and Law Forum (BELF) set up by the Scottish Government to consider how high quality legal and dispute resolution services might contribute to the Scottish economy and business reported on 3 November 2008.

The report has many points of interest.  The Justice Secretary set up the Forum “with a remit to see what could be done to enable and encourage businesses, so far as appropriate: to choose Scotland as the seat of their business and legal activities; to look to Scottish lawyers for their advice; and to look to the Scottish courts as their dispute resolution forum of choice.”  Again, “Scotland's legal system and profession matters to our country's economic goals because:

• the profession in itself contributes around £1bn a year to Scotland's economy;
• high quality legal services are a key factor in a supportive business environment, particularly in encouraging firms to maintain head office functions in Scotland;
• being able to resolve disputes as effectively as possible is an important contributory factor to success in many areas of business."

Further, and “paradoxically”, “increasing harmonisation of Scots and English Law (driven, in part, by EU harmonisation) makes it more difficult to "sell" Scots Law where there is a choice between the systems.”  And “the procedural terms used by the Scottish courts are distinctive and historic, but arguably alienate those unfamiliar with Scots law. They may hinder the creation of an impression among businesses (both local and international) of the Scottish courts as modern, accessible and user-friendly. The fact that Scotland is an English language jurisdiction should give it a competitive advantage over many other international jurisdictions as a dispute resolution forum; retaining archaic procedural terminology could limit this potential advantage.” 

Much else in the report to provoke thought; and it is worth noting with regard to dispute resolution and the attraction of business to Scotland that an Arbitration Bill was promised in the First Minister’s legislative programme announced on 3 September 2008.  While taking the anti-harmonisation point, Scots Law News notes that the European Draft Common Frame of Reference published in February 2008 is not very far from Scots contract law in content but contains a clear and thoroughly modern system of terminology.