Scottish legislation’s coming home

The Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Bill, introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 16 June 2009, promises rather more than it seems to deliver. 

As the Explanatory Memorandum makes clear, this is a highly technical Bill, broadly restating in one primary legislative source rules for Acts of the Scottish Parliament that have hitherto been found in UK statutory instruments.  A homecoming for Scottish legislation, if you like.  It’s about such things as commencement, the effects of repeals, the meaning of certain standard phrases like “enactment”, “civil partner” and “devolved Scottish public authority”.  We’re told that words in the singular include the plural, and vice-versa; but alas! – male does not embrace the female, or vice-versa.  We leave that sort of thing to the national bard.  Expressions of time (such as auld lang syne) are to be read as references to Greenwich mean time subject to section 3 of the Summer Time Act 1972 (you will have to check that one yourself).  But nothing about whether or not interpretation is to be purposive or literal; no attempt at a modern restatement of the Golden Rule.  The judges (and others) can relax.

Professor John Blackie of Strathclyde, who drew our attention to the Bill, is interested by the provision that references to pre-1707 Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland are to be read as referring—

“(a) in the case of old Scots Acts included in any revised edition of the statutes printed by authority, to that edition,
(b) in the case of old Scots Acts not so included but included in the edition prepared under the direction of the Record Commission, to that edition,
(c) in any other case, to the old Scots Acts printed by the Queen’s Printer of Acts of Parliament, or under the superintendence or authority of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.”

This means that the St Andrews University Records of the Parliaments of Scotland (RPS) project, which provides online the authentic texts of what the pre-1707 Parliament enacted (often different from the printed versions mentioned above in the draft Bill), are not to be referred to.  As Professor Blackie says, “we have the result in law that a version different from that enacted is the version that is the law!”