Sound and fury deferred

The US Senate hearings on the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from Greenock Prison in August 2009, due to be held on 29 July 2010, have been "postponed" as a result of inability to compel the attendance of any of the witnesses originally called.

The declining witnesses included Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, Dr Andrew Fraser of the Scottish Prisons Health Service, Tony Hayward (Chief Executive of BP and Edinburgh University geology graduate) and Jack Straw (UK Foreign Secretary at the time of the UK-Libya "deal in the desert" in 2007).  Perhaps surprisingly the British Prime Minister (Tony Blair) who actually signed the Libya deal was not called.

Perhaps (a big perhaps) the US Senators may now proceed through  less public channels if they seriously want to talk any of those mentioned in the previous paragraph.  They might also care to read the already extensive material publicly available and focus their questions a bit more sharply.  There are questions to be asked and answered.

Postscript: It now appears from media reports that members of the US Senate committee wish to visit Britain in September and speak then to the reluctant witnesses.  This still doesn't seem to be the right approach, save perhaps for the audience back home; why should the witnesses speak to the Senators here any more than they would in the USA?  A little less public posturing and finger-pointing, and something useful might still emerge.  But somehow we doubt it.  (2 August 2010)

Sound and fury in Washington

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, and Barack Obama, the US President, are in "violent agreement" that last year's compassionate release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber by the Scottish Justice Secretary was a mistake.

The curious phrase – did Cameron and Obama perhaps have an arm wrestle in which neither was able to gain the advantage, or something even more serious? – was uttered by the Prime Minister during a joint press conference with the President after their summit meeting in Washington DC on 20 July 2010.

Mr Cameron has apparently committed to a review of UK Government papers relating to the UK-Libya deal in 2007 (for which BP admittedly lobbied) to be carried out by the UK Cabinet Secretary, while President Obama will not press for the full inquiry sought by four US Senators and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.   But since Mr Cameron apparently knows already that the Megrahi release was not BP's fault, the review seems most unlikely to offer new insights into the whole matter.

The conjunction of BP's unpopularity in the USA after the Deepwater Horizon oilspill, Cameron's Washington visit, the approach of mid-term elections to the US Senate in November while Obama's approval ratings slump, and of course Megrahi's continued survival, has led to this early revival of the story (Scots Law News had thought it would probably hot up nearer the anniversary of the release).  The projected inquiry on 29 July by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee should now keep it going a while longer.

Words from the Scottish play come irresistibly to mind:

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


Wheelie bins and the New Town – again

The prospect of wheelie bins in the World Heritage site of Edinburgh's New Town has reared its ugly head once again, according to a report in The Herald for 16 July 2010.

Long-time readers of Scots Law News will recall that back in 2003 New Town residents led by members of the Court of Session judiciary residing in Heriot Row fought off an attempt by Edinburgh City Council to install wheelies in their elegant Georgian streets, preferring to continue to put out their rubbish on the pavements in the black poly bags the Council had hitherto provided for the purpose.  The joy with which the success of this resistance was greeted by New Town seagulls, foxes and rats was somewhat tempered by the cunning ploy which the humans used to deny them their plastic-coated repasts, viz hanging the black poly bags on the Georgian railings protecting New Town basements from the sudden arrival of careless passers-by, there to await the arrival of the presumably co-operative bin-men for collection.

Now, after seven long years of reflection, the Council has returned to the attack, proposing corrals of wheelie bins at locations to be determined after determination of how far the residents will be prepared to walk carrying their black bags for disposal.  One guesses that street corners will be the likeliest locations of the corrals.  The judges are reported to be mustering the forces of resistance once more, however.  But Scots Law News thought the most significant quote in the Herald piece came from the Cockburn Association, sworn upholder of the architectural integrity of the New Town: "“The fact the council are being sensitive and are trying to address everyone’s concerns is very positive.”  Sounds suspiciously compliant …


Scotland at the International Congress of Comparative Law

For the first time Scotland will be represented as a separate jurisdiction at the quadriennial International Congress of Comparative Law, taking place in Washington from 25 July-1 August 2010.

Hitherto Scotland has been entirely subsumed within the United Kingdom submissions to the conference, but now a group of reporters has been assembled to cover separately topics which could be reported on from a Scottish perspective.  This results from an initiative of Professor David Carey Miller (Aberdeen Law School) and the relatively newly formed Scottish Association for Comparative Law.  There will still be a UK submission on a number of topics (as can be seen from the Congress programme) but, for the moment at least, nothing on English law.

The list of Scots law reporters and topics is as follows:

1A. Legal culture and legal transplants; Esin Örücü

IB. Religion and the secular state; Frank Lyall

ID. The role of practice in legal education; Elaine Tyre 

IIA. Catastrophic damages – liability and insurance; Gordon Cameron

IIB. Recent private international law codifications; Janeen Carruthers

IIC. Cost and fee allocation rules; Greg Gordon 
        Class actions; Sarah Bleichner

IID. Climate change and the law; Colin Reid

IVC. Are human rights universal and binding?; Jim Murdoch

VB. The exclusionary rule; Fiona Leverick


Bank charges and small claims: too difficult

The Herald for 15 July 2010 reports a decision by Sheriff Andrew Cubie of Glasgow to remit to the court's ordinary roll a small claims action by a bank customer in respect of what she says were six years' worth of unwarranted charges made by her bank (Santander), on the ground that the legal issues raised were too complex for determination in small claims procedure.

The effect of the decision is to expose the pursuer to the risk of unlimited expenses unless she is eligible for legal aid, whereas in small claims the maximum expenses liability is stated as follows in the official guidance on the Scottish Courts website

If the value of the claim is £200 or less, and the case has been defended, there will normally be no award of expenses. In this situation, any court fees paid will not be recoverable.

If the value of the claim is between £200 and £1500, and the case has been defended, the maximum amount of expenses which can normally be awarded by the court to the successful party is £150.

If the value of the claim is between £1500 and £3000, and the case has been defended, the maximum amount of expenses which can normally be awarded by the court to the successful party is 10% of the value of the claim.

Even the successful legally aided in ordinary actions have to make a contribution to their own expenses which, if it exceeds the sum being sued for, renders the action pointless.

Scots Law News has no information on what may be the pursuer's grounds of challenge to the fairness of the bank charges, although presumably the avenue of attack provided by the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 has been closed off by last winter's Supreme Court decision in Abbey National v Office of Fair Trading [2009] UKSC 6.  Sheriff Cubie's judgment is not yet available on the Scottish Courts website, nor is there any immediate comment from the Govan Law Centre which is representing the pursuer.  The Centre's website does however contain a good deal of material about its continuing campaign on the bank charges issue.  The Herald quotes Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre as saying, "The [banks'] strategy is clearly designed to deliver a death blow to consumers' claims."

Meantime Scots Law News is reminded of the failure of Ian Hamilton QC to persuade a sheriff in Oban that his claim against Royal Bank of Scotland for fraud or negligence was simple enough to be a small claim, noted previously here.

PS Further thoughts on this subject on Gavin Ward's Scots Law Blog here, drawing on personal experience (!), but also highlighting some pertinent comments about the small claims procedure in the Gill Review of Civil Justice.

Blood as well as oil in them thar deep waters?

BP's difficulties in the USA following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico have led to a revival of American questions about the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber.

The Herald for 15 July 2010 reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to look into the concerns raised by four Democrat Senators that Megrahi's release from Greenock Prison in August 2009 was part of a deal between the UK and Libya to facilitate BP oil exploration in Libya.  It is the case that BP's position in Libya was arranged in 2007 and that part of the arrangement was a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya in which Megrahi's name appeared as a potential transferee.  One of the agitated Senators is quoted as saying:

"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it just might be a corrupt deal between BP, the British Government and Libya."

The Senator's logic is not immediately apparent from this quotation.  The concerns he and his colleagues express seem anyway to ignore the facts that (1) Megrahi was released, not under the prisoner transfer agreement, but the rules of Scots law on compassionate release of sick prisoners; and (2) the release was made by the Scottish Government, which was not a party to the 2007 UK-Libya deal and indeed objected to it at the time.

There is also American concern about Megrahi's survival, now far longer than the three months which is the rule of thumb life expectancy for prisoners compassionately released on the basis that they are terminally ill.  However the Herald for 14 July carried a fairly detailed story saying that Megrahi was now receiving only palliative care for his cancer, chemotherapy having been given up, and that he might be carried off if he caught so much as a cold.

Postscript 17/7/10: there will be a Senate hearing on the issues on 29 July.

The height of good manners, but no recovery

Elevated to the bench in May 2010 as well as receiving a CBE in June for services to the administration of justice as President of the Bars and Law Societies of Europe, Lord Tyre came back to basics in Wallace v City of Glasgow Council [2010] CSOH 88.

The unfortunate facts of the case are succinctly stated in the opening paragraph of Lord Tyre's opinion:

[1] On 13 June 2007 the pursuer was employed by the defenders as a clerical assistant at Kirkriggs School, 500 Croftfoot Road, Glasgow. She was then aged 60 and was due to retire in two months' time. On that morning the pursuer was assisting with preparations for a visit by staff and pupils to Strathclyde Country Park. In her evidence to the court, she described the circumstances in which she came to sustain injury as follows. At around 10am she required to use one of the ladies' staff toilets in the school. Having done so, she wished to open the window in the toilet cubicle in order to air it as a courtesy to the next user. The pursuer is approximately 5ft 1ins in height. In order to reach the window to open it, the pursuer stood on the ceramic bowl of the toilet. As she opened the window, the toilet bowl capsized to the left and became detached from the floor. The pursuer fell to the left and landed heavily on her left heel. The toilet bowl then fell on top of her left foot. She sustained injuries to her foot including a displaced fracture of the posterior tuberosity of the calcaneum from which she has not made a full recovery.

The pursuer's action for damages against her employer, founded upon claims of breach of statutory duty under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 , was however unsuccessful, Lord Tyre accepting, after careful analysis of the evidence, that the accident was caused by the pursuer's own fault.  While the defenders had a duty to ensure that "No window, skylight or ventilator which is capable of being opened shall be likely to be opened, closed or adjusted in a manner which exposes any person performing such operation to a risk to his health or safety", "likely" in this context meant "more likely than not" and not just "foreseeable possibility".  To impose a higher duty on employers would be to create a requirement of the elimination of risk altogether.  The pursuer had had alternative means of getting the window open available to her.

The evidence shows that there was something of an "officers and other ranks" division in the use of the school's available toilets (para 4), and that the head and deputy head were unaware of the difficulty in reaching the window ring pull in the "other ranks" toilet which the pursuer had used, never having had difficulties themselves nor having representations on the matter made to them by the staff who did.  Lord Tyre notes:

[7] The pursuer stated in her evidence that prior to the accident she had "often" stood on the toilet bowl to open the window. Four of her colleagues gave evidence that they, too, had stood on the toilet to open the window. All of these ladies were around 5ft 1ins-5ft 3ins in height and were unable to reach the metal ring while standing on the floor. How frequently they had stood on the toilet was not fully explored, but what does seem clear is that it was only after the pursuer's accident that each discovered that others had been doing so too. Mrs Convery gave evidence that she was unaware that anyone was standing on the toilet to open the window. She had been a teacher in the school prior to being appointed as its deputy head, and subsequently its head, and was familiar with the cubicle where the accident occurred. She was 5ft 41/2ins tall and could open the window by stretching up and pulling the metal ring, even when not wearing heeled shoes. Prior to the accident she had never received any complaints or reports of difficulty in opening the window.

One wonders a little, however, why it had not occurred to her to ask herself if shorter women might have greater difficulties than she did.  Perhaps the understandable reticence of the pursuer and her colleagues about raising the matter with higher authority cost the former dear in the end.  At least, it appears that the cubicle in question is now provided with a window pole (para 6).


Bouncing into the register

On 25th March 2010 at 5 am James Burden was on a trampoline in his garden in Falkirk. He was seen by a female neighbour who was going to the bathroom. She reported to police that he was naked and had

"a cigarette in one hand and his manhood in the other".

and described Burden 

"as being as bold as brass and purposeful".

The BBC reports that Burden told police

"he had taken to the trampoline, "just for the thrill of it"."

While the BBC report stops there, the STV report indicates that Mr Burden had indicated that he had not intended to be seen.

Burden pleaded guilty to shamelessly indecent conduct but it appears has attempted to change his plea to not guilty. STV reports that his agent indicated that

"his client claimed to have "only pled guilty to avoid the embarrassment of a trial"". 

The attempt to change his plea has been rejected today by Sheriff Craig Caldwell in Falkirk Sheriff Court.

Burden has now been placed on the sex offenders register (joining those referred to in an earlier post). He will be sentenced later this month.

For those that do not know what a trampoline looks like STV helpfully publish a picture in their on-line report. They have used this picture in earlier coverage of the case too. It is not clear from the reports if this is Mr Burden's trampoline. It is hoped that this will be cleared up when sentencing is reported later this month.

Justice of the Peace removed for misbehaviour

Under section 71 of the Criminal Proceedings etc Reform (Scotland) Act 2007 (as amended) it is provided that a Justice of the Peace can be removed by a Tribunal established by the Lord President of the Court of Session. This tribunal is to be chaired by a sheriff principal, and as well as the sheriff principal is to include among its three member panel a solicitor or advocate with at least 10 years experience, and another person. The tribunal can recommend removal from office under s 71 (6) of the 2007 Act if

"after investigation carried out at the instance of the sheriff principal for the sheriffdom for which the JP is appointed, it finds that—

(a) the JP is—

(i) unfit for that office, or

(ii) unfit for performing judicial functions,

by reason of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour,

(b) the JP has inadequately performed the functions of a JP,

(c) the JP has, without good reason, failed to meet a condition imposed under section 68(2)."

Henry Dedecker, a justice of the peace in Dingwall, was convicted of speeding in December 2008 and fined £200 and given four points on his driving licence after a trial. However, Mr Dedecker did not attend during the first tiral and was subsequently charged with and convicted of "deliberately failing to attend court as an accused person". He was again fined £200.

The Herald reports today that,

"A tribunal ruled that he was unfit to hold the office of justice of the peace due to "misbehaviour".

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Office for Scotland said Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young invited the Lord President to establish a tribunal to consider Mr Dedecker's fitness to continue to hold office.

She added: "The tribunal, having investigated the fitness for office of Henry Dedecker JP and being satisfied that he is unfit by reason of misbehaviour, made an order removing Mr Dedecker from office as of June 29, 2010.""

The terms of section 71 (9) mean that Mr Dedecker is barred from being a justice of the peace in future.

The Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill and the curious incident of the unopposed opposition amendment

The Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish _Parliament on 1st July 2010. It is an important piece of legislation that will transform aspects of crofting law addressing issues of crofter absenteeism, and neglect and misuse of crofts; the introduction of elections for membership of the Crofting Commission; new rules on common grazings; and new rules on succession of crofts; as well as – controversially – the introduction of a new map based register of crofts. The original model of register introduced at Stage 1 (which appeared to be heavily based on the much criticised Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979) has been tempered by substantial amendments duiring the parliamentary process.

For students of the Scottish parliamentary process the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill will be remembered for other reasons. For only the second time in the history of the Scottish Parliament proceedings were suspended mid-session (on an emergency motion). The first instance involved a protest by Scottish Socialist Party MSPs. This time the matter that prompted the suspension came from the chair.

At Stage 3 of the Bill there were around 230 amendments. The timetabling within the Parliament meant that these 230 amendments had to be dealt with in around 3 hours. For a teacher of statutory interpretation – where textbooks and judicial statements proclaim that the reader is to discern the intention of Parliament (prompting some more cynical students to enquire as to the level of scrutiny the legislative end product receives) – the consideration of Stage 3 of the Crofting Bill will be a useful case study. At the commencement of the debate the Presiding Officer pronounced,

 "The first division will be a 30-second division, following a five-minute suspension. Thereafter, there will be a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate and the voting period for all other divisions will be 30 seconds. We are incredibly tight for time, so, to begin with, I ask no speaker to speak for more than one minute." (col 28046)

To those not in the chamber or viewing the live feed of the crofting debate from Holyrood TV the first sign that something was awry was on Twitter from the leader of the Green Party. Patrick Harvie tweeted at 11.11 am

"Holyrood descends into shambles as the DPO ignores MSP's demands to vote against an amendment."

And in response to a query from Tweeter skvodahl79 Mr Harvie replied,

"I didn't mean the DPO voted – she refused to let anyone vote! Majority was against, but she accepted the amendment and moved on."

While racing through the amendments, Trish Godman, the Deputy Presiding Officer, allowed an opposition amendment to pass through without noting the objections.

The relevant passage in the Official Report is here:

 "Amendment 93 moved—[Peter Peacock].

The Deputy Presiding Officer: The question is, that amendment 93 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

That is agreed.

Amendment 93 agreed to.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call amendments 94 to 97, in the name of the minister—

Roseanna Cunningham: Sorry, we said no to amendment 93.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead): We said no.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: One of the clerks heard it, but I can assure you that I did not hear it, so perhaps you should shout a wee bit louder next time.

The question is, that amendment 93 be—

Members: No! [Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer: As I had already called amendments 94 to 97, as far as I am concerned the vote has been taken. [Interruption.]

Roseanna Cunningham: I appreciate that you did not hear me say no, Presiding Officer, but the clerk did and so did members here. I really must ask that the vote be taken on amendment 93.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am sorry, but I am in the chair. The clerk said that she heard it after I had called the next amendments. I did not hear you—[Interruption.]" (col 28102)

The video footage of the debate is available on-line until the end of July. The relevant passage is at 1 hour 33 minutes to around 1 hour 43 minutes.  Passing over the issue of the Deputy Presiding Officer failing to realise that an opposition amendment would be likely to face objections (given that every previous amendment proposed by Peter Peacock MSP had been opposed and voted down during the Stage 3 proceedings) it is apparent that the Deputy Presiding Officer  appeared ready to ask the question again until there were objections from within the chamber. As the Deputy Presiding Officer then refused to let a vote proceed things became heated and argument between the parties then proceeded.

"Alasdair Allan: On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Minister for Parliamentary Business (Bruce Crawford): On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call Alasdair Allan.

Alasdair Allan: With the greatest respect to the chair, Presiding Officer, we are not responsible if the only person in the chamber who did not hear was you. [Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Can I just answer that? That was not a point of order—[Interruption.] If members would quieten down, they might hear something. That was not a point of order, but I was not the only one up here who did not hear. There are three people sitting here; two did not hear.

Karen Gillon: On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Under standing orders, I understand that, as you have called another vote, we should therefore proceed and the vote stands.

Bruce Crawford: On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I realise that this is a difficult situation—I fully understand that. However, you have just conceded yourself that a member of the clerking team heard a no being called in the Parliament. Therefore, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn—that a no was clearly called from the Parliament. In those circumstances, you must accept that.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am sorry, Mr Crawford, but it is not clear. That is the problem: it is not clear—[Interruption.] I have moved on. I did not hear it, and I intend to move on.

Bruce Crawford: Under these circumstances, Presiding Officer, I call for an adjournment.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I do not see any reason for an adjournment, as I have already called the next set of amendments. I did not hear it, and I am moving on.

I call amendments 94 to 97—[Interruption.]

Tricia Marwick (Central Fife) (SNP): On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Alasdair Allan: On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am not sure who was first but, if it is the same point of order, I call Tricia Marwick.

Tricia Marwick: No was clearly said, but the point of order is this, Presiding Officer. You may have gone on to the next set of amendments, but Ms Cunningham did not move them. Therefore, no vote has been called and you are quite within your rights to go back to amendment 93 and take a vote on it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: No, that is not the case—[Interruption.]

Alasdair Allan: On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Mike Rumbles: On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call Alan Alexander again.

Members: Alan Alexander?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Alasdair Allan—sorry, Alasdair.

Alasdair Allan: I ask for the record whether it is the Presiding Officer's view that the clerk who heard those words imagined them. [Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Mr Allan, this is a very serious moment. I really do not feel that you should make that kind of comment. I call Mr Rumbles.

Mike Rumbles: With respect, Presiding Officer, having taken informal soundings among three of the four business managers—I hope that the fourth business manager would agree—I think that it is in everybody's interest if we could suspend standing orders for the moment and have an adjournment until we sort this out.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am in the chair and the business managers do not run what we are going through.

The Minister for Housing and Communities (Alex Neil): On a point of order, Presiding Officer. We have been in a similar position before, when a Presiding Officer did not hear and was about to move on but then took the vote. I suggest that we follow precedent.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I point out again that I had moved on. I had already called out the next set of amendments when I was told that someone had called out no—I do not know who it was.

Bruce Crawford: On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I would like to move a motion to suspend.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: You cannot have a motion to suspend. [Interruption.] I am sorry but, if you all shout at me at once, I cannot attend to you.

Karen Gillon: On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I understand that, according to the standing orders, if the Presiding Officer has made a ruling and we have moved on to a different set of votes, then another vote has been called and we should proceed to that vote. That is what the standing orders say. If the Government wishes to bully the Presiding Officer—

Members: Oh!

Karen Gillon: That is what it is seeking to do. The Presiding Officer has called the vote and we should carry out that vote.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I make it absolutely clear that I do not think that I am being bullied. I have given you a ruling. I genuinely did not hear anyone say no. I have moved on and the vote has been taken.

Paul Martin (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab): On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I appreciate that there might be discrepancies in what has been heard. However, we know that audio recordings are taken of proceedings in the chamber. I think that it would be helpful to have an adjournment to allow the audio tapes to be interrogated to clarify whether the Minister for Environment did, in fact, say no in respect of the amendment. We have been able to interrogate tapes in the past in that respect.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am sorry, but I have made a ruling from the chair. I did not hear anyone say no, and I moved on to the next set of amendments. I intend to continue with those." (cols 28102 – 28105)

An emergency motion to suspend proceedings was then put by Bruce Crawford and – after some time – agreed to by the chair.

On resumption it was not apparent to the watching public what had happened. However, BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor enlightened the curious:

"I understand the controversy was resolved as follows. The contentious Labour amendment (number 93, if you're still following this) was designed to insist upon a further affirmative resolution before part two of the Bill takes effect.

Part Two deals with a proposed new register for crofting. Labour dislikes the plan and, in effect, was seeking to thwart it or, at least, facilitate second thoughts.

My belief is that Mr Crawford secured agreement from others that they would permit the new register to go ahead, on affirmation.

Job done, row over. "

Occasionally commentators are critical of legislation. Sometimes such criticism is directed at drafting. Sometimes at policy. But typically such criticism has to take into account that the legislation (particularly within the Scottish Parliament) has been subject to an extensive Stage 1 process where evidence from interested parties and experts is gathered by a specialist committee – prior to line by line scrutiny in later stages. However, is all well in the manner in which legislation is dealt with by the Scottish Parliament?

For example, on the day of posting, the manner in which the Scottish Parliament implemented the recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission's Report on Title to Sue for Non-patrimonial Loss (Scot Law Com no 187) are criticised in the Outer House in Mykoliw v Botterill [2010] CSOH 84.

The procedure in the Scottish Parliament last week means that those affected by legislation in their day to day lives can take little comfort in the scrutiny of legislation given by parliamentarians. That the 230 Stage 3 amendments to the Crofting Bill were dealt with in under 3 hours; and the nearly 200 amendments considered at Stage 3 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill were dealt with in similar time; and that speeches on what can be technical and important amendments are limited to 1 minute duration, with divisions taking either 30 seconds or 1 minute, does not reflect well on the Scottish Parliament – and it is astonishing that in those circumstances that problems of the type that arose in relation to Peter Peacock's amendment 93 do not occur more frequently.

The writer endorses the pertinent question asked by Brian Taylor,

"Is it right that time for final decisions on this legislation is so truncated that the amendments have to be read out at the speed of a bingo caller?"

One trusts that those in control of timetabling legislation in the Scottish Parliament (at Stage 2 and Stage 3 in particular) take account of last week's debacle. Surely it is better to get legislation right, than to get it right now.

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