It’s no secret that I’m immensely proud of the Scottish Parliament so when there was a debate in certain newspapers last year about its efficacy in terms of legislative reform I was quick to make my views clear.
I stand by these opinions today and think the Scottish Parliament and the very positive force that it has been for legislative reform, particularly in relation to civil justice matters, is something we should all be proud of. The Scottish Parliament has proven itself to be accessible, capable of listening and able to move with legislative fleet of foot.
A number of very positive pieces of legislation have been enacted by the Scottish Parliament including the Rights of Relatives (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Act 2007, the Damages (Asbestos Related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 and the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, to name but a few.
The long awaited and recently published Scottish Government consultation on Civil Damages explores the issues arising from Scottish Law Commission Reports which had been sitting on the shelf for some time, and which everyone expected the report to cover, in relation to timebar and psychiatric injury. In a very surprising move, the consultation document also seeks views on legislative reform generally and asks consultees to particularly consider how well the three pieces of legislation mentioned above are working. It also asks consultees if they believe the legislation has met the intended purposes and if their impact has been positive, negative or had any side effects.
This approach begs the question of whether this is the start of the process of questioning and reducing the accessibility of the Scottish Parliament. If there are moves afoot, whether that is within the civil service or at the incidence of anyone else, to move the Parliament away from single issue Bills and therefore its ability to act with the speed it has shown itself capable of acting with in the past, this would be an entirely retrograde step. The Parliament, democracy and the Scottish legal system would all be weaker for that and should the Parliament’s purpose be challenged defending it would prove far more difficult.