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Legal Matters Scotland
Wednesday, 28th July 2021

A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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Removing juries in sex cases is 'a risk to justice'
Tony Lenehan, President of the Scottish Criminal Bar Association, criticises the Scottish Government Justice Secretary's announcement last week, which raised the spectre of removing the public from sitting as juries in some serious sexual cases. He notes that there has been an accelerating appetite for judges to limit what evidence can be led in front of a jury in such cases, but there is a widespread view that "we have gone beyond that stage of natural balance", and the warning against over-swing needs urgent consideration. It is against that backdrop that the proposal to strip citizens out of participating in some serious criminal trials is "of enormous concern". Mr Lenehan argues that if the present trajectory is allowed to continue then we will have serious sexual offences tried with ever more limited access to defence challenge, and by judges alone without the benefit of any citizen's advice or experience.
The Herald  


East Renfrewshire tops property enquiry table
A new report from We Buy Any Home has named East Renfrewshire as the most desirable area to move to in the UK, with house sale enquiries up 500% over the last year. The study, which looked at three and a half years of property sale enquiry trends, found that the City of Edinburgh and the Shetland Islands have also seen big increases in enquiries. On the other side of the spectrum, Angus, Argyll and Bute and Perth and Kinross all saw the biggest decrease in enquiries since 2020, with Angus seeing the most notable decline at -63%. The study also found that the main reason most Scottish homeowners enquire about selling their home, is to sell a second home. In second place, is the desire to upsize.
Daily Record   Herald Scotland  

Fears of social housing evictions persist
Local authorities and housing associations issued a total of 6,996 "notices of proceeding" for social housing tenants between June 2020 and March 2021. The legal notices must be issued before eviction court action to remove tenants, and despite the previous ban on evictions, social landlords continued to issue hundreds of notices a month, predominantly for rent arrears. A Scottish Government spokesperson said it is "totally wrong and inaccurate to suggest a strong correlation between a notice of proceeding and an eviction", with evictions forming "only a very small percentage of the total and a social landlord will make every effort to engage with a tenant on arrears and offer practical support".
The Daily Record  

Concerns over fire safety in modular buildings
The BBC looks at concerns raised over the fire safety of modular buildings, following two significant fires in Shetland - at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory in 2019, and at the Moorfield Hotel in 2020. Both buildings, less than 10 years old, were made from factory-built units shipped to Shetland by sea. Ian Abley, a technical designer with the Fire Protection Agency, said there could be issues of fires "getting into the cavity between the modules", and travelling "from one compartment to another through unseen spaces within the compartment walls and floors".
BBC News  


EU pauses legal action against UK
The EU has paused its legal action against the UK for alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Brussels said it was doing so to create the "necessary space" to consider UK proposals for reforming the deal and “find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol”. The UK last week published proposals for the protocol, which amounted to a request for a major renegotiation. It also asked for a standstill period that would see the legal action paused and grace periods extended.
BBC News   Financial Times   The Daily Telegraph  


TLT aims for £140m annual turnover by 2025
TLT has reported an 11% increase in turnover to £110m in the 2020-21 financial year, continuing a rise in turnover from £42m in 2011 to £98.8m in 2020. The company has adopted a four-year strategy to exceed £140m by 2025, through initiatives such as its FutureLaw programme and the further development of legal and near law capabilities. Investment will continue across its seven sectors, which include clean energy; digital; financial services; leisure, food and drink; public sector; real estate; and retail and consumer goods. Managing partner John Wood said growth had been consistent across all services, sectors and locations, though each sector had faced very different challenges "triggered by the pandemic and the ongoing disruption that it has accelerated".
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland  

Glasgow solicitor fined for showing statements to accused client
The Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal has fined Glasgow solicitor Leon Kondol, of McBride Kondol & Co, £2,000, for professional misconduct. A client he was defending defending on sexual offence charges was allowed to see detailed witness statements from the child complainers, and a defence medical report containing sensitive information, in breach of the practice rules and undertakings given to the Crown. The accused made notes on the statements and wrote detailed letters to Mr Kondol replying to the allegations made. The matter came to light when the accused made a complaint to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission following his conviction. 
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland  

Property associate hire for Balfour+Manson
Balfour+Manson has added to its Property team with the appointment of Sylvia McCullagh as an associate. Ms McCullagh qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and has worked for Moray Council, McEwan Fraser Legal, Your Conveyancer and Gilson Gray. Head of Property, Ken Robertson, said: "We're delighted to welcome Sylvia to the team at a very busy and exciting time for the property sector. There is lots going on just now and we are very happy to have an experienced and personable lawyer like Sylvia to strengthen the team".
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland  


Labour vows to make flexible working the ‘new normal’
Labour would legislate to make flexible working the default, with Shadow Future of Work Secretary Angela Rayner saying the party would deliver a scenario where “work fits around people’s lives instead of dictating their lives”. While employees already have the right to request flexible hours, Labour says it would widen the definition of flexible working. Ms Rayner said that if the party wins power, it will also give employers a legal responsibility to accommodate flexible working unless they can show it is not workable. She said: “The new normal after this pandemic must mean a new deal for all working people based on flexibility, security and strengthened rights at work”.
Daily Mirror   The Guardian   London Evening Standard   The Independent UK   The Scotsman  

Air traffic controllers strike to shut six Hial airports
Six Scottish regional airports - Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh - are to close for 24 hours on Thursday due to a strike by air traffic controllers. The Prospect union members are in a dispute with Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) over plans to centralise services. Prospect says Hial's plans would see a reduction in staff at its island airports in Lewis, Orkney and Shetland. Air traffic service posts could also go at Dundee Airport.
BBC News  


Gender violence support groups receive £5m funding
Groups supporting women and girls who have suffered gender-based violence are to receive £5m of funding from the Scottish government. The cash is to help the groups with the increased demand for their services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The bulk of the funding, announced by Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie, will go to Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland. The two organisations will share £4.5m of the money. The remaining £500,000 will be split between 12 specialist groups offering support services.
STV News   BBC News   The National  


'Hope' for end of restrictions amid 'dramatic' fall in case numbers
National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch has said that Scotland's COVID-19 infection rate is "dramatically falling" - and that the country has gone from having five areas out of the top 10 with the highest infection rate in the UK in July to having none in the top 150. "We've now seen hospitalisations fall", he said, "Around 3% of positive people get admitted to hospital but they are now younger, relatively healthy and discharged quicker." "But some stay", he cautioned, "and we've had many deaths over the last few days." Prof Leitch's comments came as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hailed a "new milestone" for the vaccination programme, with over 4m people having received at least their first dose. Just over 3.1m have had their second dose. There are now "strong grounds for hope" that Scotland will be able to remove the majority of remaining restrictions next month, she said.
BBC News   Herald Scotland   The Daily Record  


Forth Ports plans Firth of Forth green port bid
Forth Ports has set out plans for a green port bid to the Scottish Government, incorporating key ports, industrial complexes and logistics centres along the north and south shores of the Firth of Forth, including Port of Leith and Grangemouth. The bid, which is backed by Fife Council, is "underpinned by our belief in the government policy behind it to create economic zones for investment and regeneration", according to Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond.
The Courier  

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