Public Law

The Scottish Government last week unveiled its legislative programme for the forthcoming Parliamentary session and, as usual, quantity seems to be the priority. Of the 16 prospective Bills, a few are of particular interest to us (which is not to say that they are interesting in the ordinary sense of the word!).

The SNP had said previously that it intended to reintroduce the minimum pricing of alcohol, and sure enough that appeared as one of the flagship Bills for the coming year. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), we haven’t changed our mind about the legality of minimum pricing – we still believe it would be outwith the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence, for more than one reason. The SNP majority makes it extremely unlikely that the Bill will not be enacted. It therefore seems to us almost inevitable that this particular piece of legislation will be the subject of a court action in the near future.

Also sure to cause controversy will be the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill (so named despite its potentially all-encompassing scope). The Bill was hastily introduced and then even more hastily delayed in June, and is making its way through Parliament at the moment. This Bill is also not free of potential competence issues, given that it seeks to regulate communications over the internet (the internet being a reserved matter under the Scotland Act) in addition to raising European Convention on Human Rights questions about freedom of expression and whatnot.

The other announcement piquing our interest is of a Bill that would make the first substantive changes to the FOI (Scotland) Act since it was enacted in 2002. Information on the detail is (ironically enough) rather scant, with the Government, disclosing no more than that the amendments will “add strength and clarity to the Act”. While that suggests more than the minor changes announced earlier in the year, we shall simply have to wait with bated breath until the content of the Bill is revealed. Needless to say, we will comment once we know more (feel free to bate your own breath in the meantime).

Charles Livingstone

Partner at Brodies LLP
Charles works with a broad range of commercial, public sector, charitable and individual clients, advising them on public law issues including judicial review, human rights, information law and the powers and duties of local and other public authorities. He is named by Chambers & Partners in both Competition Law and Administrative & Public Law.
Charles Livingstone

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