There was a bit of suspense about the Scotland Bill right up til the last minute yesterday – lots of media coverage of what was going to be in it but we only managed to find the Bill itself on the UK Parliament’s website at 5pm. That presented a bit of a challenge for the launch of our new Parliamentary Update Service, but the first edition is now out and contains some comment on the Bill and on other developments in the Scottish Parliament.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago speculating about what would be in the Bill. I was right to predict a proposed change to the way in which a Bill in the Scottish Parliament can be sent to the Supreme Court for a ruling on its legality before royal assent. There is not, though, any change at the moment to the mechanism for sending criminal appeals to the Supreme Court. That’s a very interesting non-development but I suspect the issue shouldn’t be treated as being quite dead yet.
Most of the focus for the next few months will be on the tax provisions. Those are too complicated for me to get my head around – for that I rely on our own quite awesome tax team (sorry, couldn’t resist) – so we’ll keep an eye on the other bits and pieces.
First off – the part of the Act which proposes to reserve to Westminster – and prevent the Scottish Parliament legislating on – the regulation of activities in Antarctica. The Explanatory Notes say, tantalisingly, that “the effect of this clause is that it will no longer be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament to pass Acts which relate to the regulation of activities in Antarctica. The Scottish Parliament has never in fact exercised this competence.” One can only assume, though, that someone thought it might. Scottish polar expeditions… this week perhaps not such a strange idea.
On December 1, 2010