Scot of the Antarctic

AntarcticaThere has been much commentary this week on the new Scotland Bill.  Many have concentrated on the new tax raising arrangements and new legislative competences proposed for the Scottish Parliament.  But it’s not all one way traffic…

I wish to draw your attention to the shocking plans to strip Holyrood of its powers with regard to Antarctica.  You heard me, Antarctica.  Section 14 of the Bill adds to the list of reserved matters the “Regulation of Activities in Antarctica”.  And the Scottish Government seems perfectly content to see these powers disappear without so much as a whimper!  Call themselves nationalists?

As the explanatory notes explain:

Clause 14: Antarctica

60. This clause re-reserves the regulation of activities in Antarctica. 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.

61. Subsection (2) provides that the amendment to Schedule 5 takes effect retrospectively, so that it is regarded as having effect from the date that Schedule 5 came into force. The effect of this provision is that executive functions in relation to the regulation of activities in Antarctica are regarded as never having transferred to the Scottish Ministers under section 53 of the 1998 Act (where they would otherwise have been exercisable within devolved competence) and always having been exercisable by Ministers of the Crown.

So, there is a short window of opportunity to legislate in this important area.  But what laws should be passed?  I asked my 8 year old son what new rules he would make if he was put in charge of the South Pole.  Here are his ideas:

  1. build lots of new ice houses and ice hotels so that people have somewhere nice to live, built by properly secure ice builders with boots (or ice skates);
  2. all ice houses and ice hotels must be equipped with blankets, and people staying in them must keep their clothes on in bed (unless they have warm pyjamas);
  3. everyone in Antarctica must have a pet husky dog, and they must ensure that the dog’s claws are sharp enough to grip on the ice – their sledge must also be grippy and have good reins in case of a bad accident;
  4. all husky dogs must wear special collars to let their owners know if they have been behaving or not; and
  5. everyone must wear proper warm clothes with sheepskin or animal fur, so they don’t catch a rash.

Not sure how the last one would go down with the animal rights people, but it’s a harsh environment down there and it calls for bold legislative action.  My son’s stated ambition when he grows up is to be Ruler of the South Pole.  I think he’d do a good job.

What rules would you make.  Please, keep on thinking.  The future well-being of the Antarctic may depend on it.

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11 Responses to Scot of the Antarctic

  1. Tim Macdonald says:

    Why is this necessary given section 29(2)(a) of the Scotland Act 1998?

    29 Legislative competence

    (1) An Act of the Scottish Parliament is not law so far as any provision of the Act is outside the legislative competence of the Parliament.

    (2) A provision is outside that competence so far as any of the following paragraphs apply—

    (a) it would form part of the law of a country or territory other than Scotland, or confer or remove functions exercisable otherwise than in or as regards Scotland

    • Very good point, Tim. I’m not really sure…

      • Tim Macdonald says:

        Do you fancy writing to Michael Moore to ask him? I think you’d be more likely to get a response than a mere undergraduate law student.

      • You do yourself a disservice, Tim – it is a keen observation that you make. I have e-mailed the Secretary of State and will post any reply I receive. Thanks again for your interest.


        PS. My son would like to know if you like his ideas for Antarctica legislation (assuming they are competent, that is)?

      • Tim Macdonald says:

        Clause 1 of the draft Antarctic (Scotland) Bill 2010 is definitely necessary if the territory is to be populated. Using local building materials (ice) is cost-effective and environmentally friendly, but I hope due consideration has been given to the possibility of thawing walls in the summer months (i.e. round about now).

        Clause 2, 3 and 5 are a little on the paternalistic side, but health & safety is very important in a harsh climate with little in the way of emergency services, so this is probably justified.

        Clause 4 could provoke objections from animal rights groups and raises the question of who monitors dogs’ behaviour other than owners themselves, and what purpose this monitoring serves. I think this clause is in need of review. Perhaps the onus of collar choice could be shifted to owners, as a warning/commendation to third parties?

        All in all a very good first attempt at parliamentary drafting: 15/20. Has your son considered a career in the Scottish Youth Parliament in a few years’ time?

  2. Hector MacQueen says:

    It is a pity that this bit of legislative competence is to go, otherwise your son could have suggested his law reforms in this area for the Scottish Law Commission’s next Programme. The laws seem like ones that might have been useful on the M8 and other Scottish motorways this last week, so perhaps he could develop their territorial scope a little?

  3. Just to let you know that I have now received a response from the Scotland Office, which is posted on the blog under the heading “Scot of the Antarctic 2”!

  4. Stephen says:

    I’ve always kind of thought, deep down in my heart of hearts, that the Miscellaneous heading of the legislative competencies of the Scotland Act was a bit of a ridiculous thing anyway. Remember, we’re already stopped from legislating on nuclear weapons, time and outer space.

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