Further Coronavirus Bill will extend some special powers
A new Coronavirus Bill, extending some of the emergency provisions enacted at the start of the pandemic for up to a further year, will be presented to the Scottish Parliament before the summer recess, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has confirmed. Mr Swinney told the Parliament that the Scottish Government remains committed to expiring or suspending specific provisions as they become no longer necessary. "Nevertheless, it is clear that some provisions in the Acts will be required after the current expiry date of 30 September this year, in response to the ongoing threat that COVID poses to public health in Scotland...To ensure that public services are able to discharge their functions in the way that was intended, a Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill has been prepared, with a view to its being introduced later this month to allow scrutiny by Parliament before the summer recess."
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland
Lords committee criticises scrutiny of COVID laws
New laws introduced to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic have not been subject to adequate parliamentary scrutiny, with UK Government guidance and ministerial statements often failing to set out the law clearly, misstating the law or laying claim to legal requirements that did not exist, according to the House of Lords Constitution Committee. The third and final report of the committee's inquiry into the constitutional implications of COVID-19 relates concerns including the extensive use of secondary legislation, strained relations between the UK Government and the devolved administrations, and confusion about the legal status of some new restrictions. Recommendations include a presumption in favour of using sunset provisions in all regulations introduced during a national emergency; and a stipulation that any approach adopted in response to the pandemic must not be used to justify weakened parliamentary scrutiny of Government action in response to future emergencies.
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland
Transform your client experience online
Digital communication tools and mobile apps are changing how lawyers work, communicate, win business, and retain business. In 2021, how can your law firm remain relevant to your audience, an audience almost permanently connected online?
The pace of change is so rapid that it can be easy to think that things have always been as they are now – we are used to relentless technological change, but it wasn’t always this way. To understand how to communicate online today, it is important to understand the way the online communication landscape has evolved, and what is now valued and rewarded.
Every practice in Scotland faces a battle to remain relevant and change must be embraced. Law firms and lawyers who are agile of thought and action are the ones who will continue to prosper.
Read more here.
Trial backlog could take a ‘number of years’ to clear
Scotland’s new justice secretary has conceded that it may take “a number of years” to clear the trial backlog. However, Keith Brown praised remote jury centres within cinemas, and said the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) had “risen to the challenge” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Brown said “certain elements” will continue to be implemented once out of the pandemic to make the court process more efficient. He explained: “So, for example, the giving of evidence remotely will be much more widespread in future, I’d imagine. And also some of the benefits that we’ve seen here, so the adjourning of a court which can sometimes take 15-20 minutes, there are ways that we can truncate that in future.” The justice secretary said that by September there should be 20 remote jury centres running across the country.
MSP attacks 'back covering and secrecy' in Scotland's justice system
A Scottish Conservative MSP has condemned Scotland's justice system as he recounted his ordeal after being targeted in an acid attack. Russell Findlay, who was elected to Holyrood last month, criticised the "bad faith, back covering and secrecy" within Scotland's justice institutions. The West Scotland MSP changed careers after 27 years as an investigative journalist, having spent much of his career investigating organised crime. In 2015, he was the victim of an acid attack from a hitman, an incident that inspired him to get involved in politics. In his maiden speech at the Scottish Parliament, Mr Findlay said that injustice was "rife" in Scotland, with legal regulation such as police complaints, judicial complaints, and parole boards "not fit for purpose". He also attacked the SNP and nationalism, stating that Holyrood "has the power" to fix the issues facing Scottish justice, "but the SNP prefer to dupe our citizens with a relentless diet of manufactured grievance and dishonestly blaming all our ills on Westminster."
Daily Mail (Scot)
Scottish Building Society in climate change partnership
Scottish Building Society and climate change analyst Ambiental are working together to examine the potential flood impact on around £400m
worth of mortgages. Paul Denton, chief executive of SBS, remarked: “We are delighted to partner with Ambiental, a world leader in the field. Their predictive
technology, combined with expert analysis models the risk of different
climate change scenarios on our £400m mortgage portfolio, whether from flooding or coastal erosion.”
BTO launches free Fertility Law Advice Service
BTO’s Family Law team is launching a new free Fertility Law Advice Service for couples and individuals who are embarking on their fertility treatment journey. The advice service is designed to answer initial questions potential parents may have regarding the fertility treatment process and navigating the route to legal parenthood. Free signposting and generic information about fertility law will be provided by lawyers who have a genuine understanding of fertility law and the complicated landscape in which it operates. Lesley Gordon, Head of BTO’s Family Law team, said: “We are here to ensure that everyone, no matter what their family makeup, is armed with knowledge of their rights when becoming parents".
Woman wins tribunal appeal over transgender tweets
A woman who lost her job after saying that people cannot change their biological sex has won an appeal against an employment tribunal. Maya Forstater lost her original case at a tribunal in 2019, but a High Court judge ruled her "gender-critical" beliefs fell under the Equalities Act as they "did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons". Baroness Falkner, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the case was important because: "Some may see the beliefs of others as questionable or controversial, but people must be free to hold them.” Monica Kurnatowska, employment partner at Baker McKenzie, said the ruling meant that "individuals are entitled not to be discriminated against because of gender critical beliefs... and gives those beliefs the same legal protection as religious beliefs. Employers will be watching closely for any guidance on how to handle employee conflict fairly and lawfully.”
London Evening Standard
The Independent UK
Gillian MacLellan: 'Pursuing ESG agenda need not be pipe dream'
CMS partner Gillian MacLellan looks at the progress of the fair work agenda over the past few months, with the adoption of the Fair Work First criteria in regulated procurement and grant funding processes. The idea is that those organisations that receive public funding have a role to play in providing fair working conditions and a decent standard of living for their employees. Similarly, she notes, interest in the environmental social and governance agenda (ESG) within the private sector has grown in the last year. The drivers here come from corporate governance reform, growth in sustainable finance, and interest from investors and shareholders in sustainability. Research has shown that companies that adopt ESG standards financially outperform their competitors in the long term.
Ex-Brewdog staff allege culture of fear at brewer
Former staff at Brewdog have alleged a "culture of fear" at the beer firm with a "toxic attitude" to junior employees. In an open letter, signatories said a "significant number" of former staff had "suffered mental illness as a result of working at the Scottish brewer and pub chain. The open letter, which was posted on Twitter and signed by more than 60 former staff, made a number of allegations, including a culture where staff were afraid to speak out about concerns. According to the letter, toxic attitudes towards junior staff had "trickled down" throughout the business "until they were simply an intrinsic part of the company". It also questioned Brewdog's commitment to sustainability after "years of vanity projects" and use of a private jet. “Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act", said co-founder James Watts in response.
Councillor awarded £22k for unfair dismissal from police
Labour Dundee City Council member Cllr George McIrvine has been awarded more than £22,000 for unfair dismissal after being accused of filing “illegitimate” timesheets while working for Police Scotland. An employment tribunal has concluded there were no reasonable grounds for believing that Cllr McIrvine was guilty of misconduct in relation to the timesheets, which had detailed his attendance at political events including the 2017 STUC conference, a Labour link conference, and the election of Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour leader.
The Press and Journal
Amazon faces huge fine for ‘data breach’
Amazon could be fined more than €350m by Luxembourg’s data protection commission over its collection and use of data across the European Union, the Times reports. The news comes after it was reported that Amazon could face an investigation in the UK after the Competition and Markets Authority analysed how Amazon uses data collected on its platform and how the global tech giant decides which merchants appear in its “buy box”.
The Daily Telegraph
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Argyll and Bute pays highest proportion of earnings in council tax
Analysis by specialist mortgage platform Haysto has found that council tax payers in Argyll and Bute pay the highest proportion of council tax in relation to their earnings – an average of £1,281 per household, just over 5% of the average salary of £25,421. In East Renfrewshire, residents paid an average 3.69% of their average salary of over £42,000 – the highest in Scotland, while in the Western Isles, average council tax payments of £888 represent just 3.33% of average earnings of £26,684. Across Scotland, an average of £1,195 was payable for each home, around 4% of the average salary of £29,980. Paul Coss from Haysto said that while “Scotland is deemed the fairest nation when it comes to council tax percentages, it’s understandable why there are calls for action on reforming Scotland's council tax system”.
Scotland's first patients prescribed legal cannabis
Scotland's first medical cannabis clinic has begun prescribing to patients suffering from chronic pain conditions. The Sapphire Medical Clinic in Stirling was approved by regulators in March and received hundreds of inquiries. The private clinic provides unlicensed cannabis-based medicines for people with conditions that do not meet the criteria for NHS-prescribed cannabis products. So far, only three products have been licensed by the UK-wide Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). These are Sativex, which is used to treat severe spasticity in MS patients, Nabilone for chemotherapy-induced nausea and Epidyolex for rare forms of childhood epilepsy. Only Epidyolex can be prescribed by the NHS in Scotland.