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Legal Matters Scotland
Thursday, 29th July 2021

A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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Queen reported to have lobbied Scottish ministers for climate law exemption
The Guardian reports that the Queen's lawyers lobbied Scottish ministers to change a draft law to exempt her private land from a major initiative to cut carbon emissions. Her lawyers secured the dispensation from Scotland’s government five months ago by exploiting an obscure parliamentary procedure known as Queen’s consent, which gives the monarch advance sight of legislation. The exemption means the Queen is the only person in the country not required to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy. Research by the Guardian has identified 67 instances in which Scottish bills have been vetted by the Queen in the last two decades. They include legislation dealing with planning laws, property taxation, protections from tenants and a 2018 bill that prevents forestry inspectors from entering crown land, including Balmoral, without the Queen’s permission. Willie Rennie, who recently stood down as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, called for more transparency, adding: “The SNP government must come forward and share the full extent to which this process has influenced the laws we live under.” Royal courtiers and the Scottish government declined to say how many of these laws were amended as a result of the monarch’s lobbying.
STV   BBC News   Edinburgh Live   The Guardian   The Times   The Guardian   Daily Mail (Scot)   Helensburgh Advertiser   Herald Scotland   The Scotsman  


£70m announced for youth employment
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that £70m will be invested towards youth employment. This includes £45m for local partnerships to provide training, employer recruitment incentives, and mental health interventions for young people. A sum of £13.5m will be allocated for colleges, universities and the Scottish Funding Council to provide industry-focused courses, whilst there is £10m for the roll-out of new school coordinators and enhanced school provision, and £1.5m to increase places on volunteering and third sector programmes. The First Minister said: “The Young Person's Guarantee is a vital part of that support which aims to give all young people the chance to succeed despite the economic impacts of COVID-19."

Socio-economic background must become a protected characteristic
Alice Kinder, a social mobility ambassador for the Law Society of England and Wales and a lawyer at Anthony Collins Solicitors in Birmingham, argues that the Equality Act must be updated to add socio-economic background as a protected characteristic to strengthen workplace diversity. Writing in the Times, Kinder says that by omitting socio-economic factors from the list of protected characteristics, social mobility issues in the workplace are often neglected. "This means that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who do not possess another protected characteristic do not have the benefits of anti-discrimination legislation," she adds.
The Times  


House price growth slows as tax break winds down
Property prices have continued to rise but at a slower pace since the stamp duty holiday started to taper, according to Nationwide. Annual house price growth slowed to 10.5% in July, having hit a 17-year high of 13.4% in June. The average UK house price hit £244,229 in July, down from the £245,432 recorded in June. Nationwide said that the tapering of stamp duty relief is “likely to have taken some of the heat out of the market” but noted that “underlying demand is likely to remain solid in the near term”.
Financial Times   The Daily Telegraph   City A.M.   Daily Mail   The Times  

Plans backed for Scotland's largest net-zero housing development
City of Edinburgh Council has approved plans to create Scotland's largest net-zero housing development. The 444-home Western Villages development will form part of the Granton Waterfront Regeneration. The properties will be designed to the principles of Glasgow-based contractor CCG's newly-launched Net Zero Home housebuilding standard. Developed in collaboration with energy and sustainability consultancy Carbon Futures, Net Zero Home also includes solar PV renewables connected to a communal or landlord supply.
The Scotsman  


High Court to hear legal challenge to UK's North Sea oil plan
The High Court has agreed to hear a case by environmental campaigners claiming that the government's support of North Sea oil and gas companies conflicted with its plans to slash the country's carbon emissions by 2050. The legal challenge revolves around tax breaks oil and gas producers receive in order to help cover costs for decommissioning. The case names as defendants the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) which oversees the North Sea industry as well as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Kwasi Kwarteng. Leigh Day is representing the campaigners.
The Times   City A.M.   Daily Mail   Herald Scotland   The Independent UK  


CMS advises SNIB on space tech start-up investment
CMS has advised the Scottish National Investment Bank in relation to its investment into satellite-enabled connectivity start-up, R3 IoT Limited. Led by space technology experts Allan Cannon and Kevin Quillien, R3-IoT addresses challenges organisations face in digitising business operations, products, and services due to a lack of, or unreliable communications infrastructure. Other investors who participated in the round included venture capital fund Space Capital, and the University of Strathclyde. The CMS team was led by Glasgow corporate partner Graeme Bruce supported by associate Alastair McNaughton.
Press Release  


Police deny breaching FOI laws
Police Scotland have been accused of routinely marking documents as not disclosable under Freedom of Information (FOI), after officials at the force refused to tell The Scotsman how many documents were marked as not suitable to be published under FOI legislation, citing excessive costs. Police Scotland said "any such marking/comment would have no basis in law" and insisted there was no routine process whereby officers decide whether documents are disclosable under the legislation or not. All information held by public bodies is subject to FOI and can only be kept secret if particular conditions and exemptions are met. However, the paper says it is impossible to know how widespread the practice is at the force after it rejected the request for the number of documents marked as non-disclosable.
The Scotsman  


HMRC football tax probe scores £464m
HMRC has clawed back almost £464m from players, clubs and agents after a six-year probe into tax in football. In the past year alone, the tax office recovered £55.6m following investigations into 93 footballers over potential tax avoidance breaches, with it also shown that 23 agents and nine clubs are under investigation. Last year 246 players were under investigation, but the number of cases has fallen as HMRC focuses on helping businesses over the pandemic. The Revenue has collected £463.9m "by tackling non-compliance in the football industry" since 2015, with most of this stemming from settlements over allegedly unpaid taxes.
Daily Mirror  


Pandemic leaves majority of care grievances unprobed
New figures show how regulators investigated just 5% of complaints about care homes for older people last year due to Covid disruption. Just 122 of the 2,316 complaints were fully investigated by the Care Inspectorate in 2020/21, down from more than 600 in previous years. Highland Council member John Gordon, whose father John Angus Gordon died with COVID-19 at Home Farm in Portree, has called for an inquiry into how the inspectorate had overseen the sector.
The Press and Journal   The Scotsman  


650k UK firms in ‘serious financial distress’
The number of businesses in significant financial distress has increased by a quarter over the past year to 650,000, according to Begbies Traynor. The report says that while the easing of restrictions rolled out amid the pandemic has helped firms, "constant changes" to lockdown rules have left many struggling to survive. The study also flags a rise in zombie businesses which have taken on unsustainable debt through coronavirus loan schemes which they cannot repay. Companies received 14,460 county court judgments during April, May and June - almost double the number lodged in the same period last year. Begbies Traynor believes the number of businesses becoming insolvent is likely to increase in the latter months of this year and into 2022.
The Independent  


Industrial activity rises as Scottish economy opens up
Activity in Scottish industries is regaining speed as the economy emerges from lockdown, research indicates. The Scottish Business Monitor, produced by the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute for Addleshaw Goddard, found the net balance of companies reporting an increase in volumes was in positive territory in all the sectors it surveys. Activity levels had also improved in almost every area compared with the first three months of the year. Accommodation and food services showed the greatest improvement, from a -77% net balance for January to March to 46% between April and June.
The Times  

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