DLA Piper’s Glasgow office under threat

Glasgow Coat of Arms

The firm that never grew?

DLA Piper is thinking about closing its Glasgow office following a review of UK operations.

A DLA Piper spokesperson said:

“Following a comprehensive review of our UK business designed to ensure that we are operating in a manner, in the locations, and across the practice areas that support both our strategic objectives and the needs of our clients, we have begun a period of consultation in the UK that will consider the possible closure of our Glasgow office, the closure or divestment of our defendant insurance practice and the consolidation into one location of our current multi-site document production unit.”

I think this means that the Glasgow office, which has 85 employees including 10 partners, isn’t making enough money. Those affected will be subject to a consultation process to begin on 28 November and conclude “early in the new year”.

The possible redundancy package is said to include an “enhanced scheme that will be discussed with employee representatives” or – if staff are very unlucky – there could be transfers to Edinburgh.

DLA Piper puts 251 in consultation across UK as firm mulls Glasgow closure

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Focus on alcohol

Scotch Whiskey at the Pub

Scotch Whiskey at the Pub (Photo credit: cobalt123)

So, somewhat inevitably, the Scottish Government‘s minimum alcohol pricing laws have been challenged by the booze industry.

Specifically, the Scotch Whisky Association and two European bodies which represent producers of spirit drinks and the wine industry and trade are petitioning for judicial review of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012.

The basis of the challenge to the Act is on two grounds:

  1. the Act is outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, and
  2. that there is no evidence for the proposition that imposing minimum pricing would reduce harmful consumption of alcohol or improve public health.

The judicial review was heard at the end of October, but with a decision yet to be issued, but in this decision by Lord Hodge the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland have been permitted to intervene in the case in the public interest.

Scotch Whisky Association and Others, Petitioners 2012 CSOH 156

The court allowed AFS to intervene by way of a written submission (not exceeding 5,000 words) and granted an order which protected them from liability to expenses – on the basis that they would not intervene at all unless they had no risk of an award of expenses being made against them.

AFS receive substantial funding from the Scottish Government and so it was argued by the petitioners that they were not truly independent.  However, they indicated that did not intend to spend grant income on the intervention, rather they would spend money raised by charitable donations – and only £3,000 at that.  This reassurance was enough for Lord Hodge.

It remains to be seen if the intervention will have an impact of the final decision, but my prediction is that the petition will fail and then on to the Inner House.  Let’s see…

Posted in Court of Session, Scottish Government | Tagged | 2 Comments

Church of (an independent) Scotland – Part 3

Logo of the Church of Scotland.

Logo of the Church of Scotland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, sorry about the gap in posting.  I’m going to try and post a bit more often now.

In my absence, the Scottish and UK Governments have agreed the “Edinburgh Agreement” which will allow a referendum on independence to take place in 2014.  And while there has been recent controversy about the impact of independence on EU membership or the nuclear detergent currently located in Faslane, near Rhu; the major issue for this blog remains that of institutional religion.

Previous posts have tracked the lack of a reply to my very reasonable question to the Scottish Government – in the event of an independent Scotland, what (if any) will be the constitutional position of the Church of Scotland.  Previous readers will know that the Kirk has an interesting relationship with the state, guaranteeing some independences but still entailing some fairly close ties between Church and State.  They will also know my own personal preference for severing all ties.  I am (as I delight in typing) a disestablishmentarian!

It seems, however, that I was going about things all wrong.  What I ought to have done is make some big splashy headlines across BBC Alba about “provoking God”.  That is the approach taken (back in June) by Rev Allan MacColl of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.  The Treaty of Union currently guarantees Protestant religion and Presbyterian church government in Scotland, and Rev. MacColl raised concerns that a new independent Scotland, involving – necessarily – a change in constitutional arrangements puts that position at risk.

Education Minister Dr. Allan, stated – with clarity that the government e-mail has not provided this website (!) – “the SNP has no plans to alter the present role of the established church upon independence, and is respectful of the role of religion in Scotland.”

This has passed without too much comment, but I wonder whether this is, in fact, compatible with the liberal, multicultural Scotland we might plan for ourselves. Being respectful of the role of religion in Scotland is one thing, but in drafting a new constitution for Scotland is the SNP really setting forth a proposal that the Church of Scotland be the established religion of that new state?  And, if that is what is being said, will the people of Scotland be in favour of it to the same extent?  And, does it really matter any more?  As Brian Taylor of the BBC observed: “Few, I suspect, will fret about the establishment or otherwise of the Kirk. Fewer still, I suspect, will alter their views on independence on the basis of advice from the Free Presbyterian Church.”

Posted in Constitutional Law, Ecclesiatical Law, Scottish Government | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

law will eat itself

Tommy Sheridan dans un meeting de Solidarity, ...

Tommy Sheridan dans un meeting de Solidarity, près d’Edimbourg, en février 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very exciting news that the Tommy Sheridan pantomime is to continue. The former editor of the News of the World Scotland, Bob Bird, has been charged in connection with Tommy Sheridan’s defamation action.

He has been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice over Mr Sheridan’s successful action against the newspaper in 2006.  I don’t mean to worry anyone, but I think that we may have entered into some form of perpetual litigation machine – in which each round of court action is followed by at least one more.

As Mr. Bird intends to deny the charges, presumably there will be at least one more instance of perjury to follow up from this trial, which will allow Sheridan and/or News International to appeal again … ad infinitum.

And absolvitor will be there to report sporadic trivia.

Posted in Criminal Law, Defamation, News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Begone bastard!

English: Sir Walter Scott statue by Sir John S...

English: Sir Walter Scott statue by Sir John Steell on the Scott Monument, Edinburgh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael McMahon MSP has launched a consultation on his proposed Reform of Criminal Verdicts (Scotland) Bill which proposes abolishing the peculiarly Scottish “not proven” verdict in criminal trials – famously described by Sir Walter Scott as “that bastard verdict”.  It also proposes increasing the majority required to return a conviction from 8/15 to 10/15.

The consultation is open until October and invites the views of all and sundry.  To be fair, Mr. McMahon appears open to the proposition that the system be reformed by moving to a proven/not proven choice.

That, it would seem to me would be the better solution, as it more accurately describes the task of the jury.  Juries are not mindreaders, psychologists or gods.  They cannot know what foul deeds occurred at whose hand, nor weigh a man’s soul, nor pierce his heart.  They are selected at random to fulfil one duty, which is to weigh the evidence and to determine whether the charge is proven (or not).

To ask 15 ordinary men and women to make a choice between “guilty” and “not guilty” is just silly.

Posted in Criminal Law, News, Scottish Parliament | Tagged | 2 Comments

Independent Scotland “would have to reapply for Eurovision”

Following another dismal showing from the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest, Lord Graham of Norton, who was also in that Father Ted episode which had them enter “My Lovely Horse” as Ireland’s entry, said Scotland voting to secede from the UK would also mean leaving Eurovision.

This is because the United Kingdom is the existing Eurovision member and would continue to remain should Scotland decide to separate, he told Absolvitor.

His intervention is blow to Alex Salmond, who has claimed an independent Scotland would retain Eurovision membership and had hoped to be the first Scottish representative, singing his acclaimed version of “Bonnie Wee Jeannie McColl”.

Norton claimed: “The Scots would leave Eurovision when they left the union of the (British) island and they would need to apply.”

“To some extent, that would be a matter of form. The problem is that when you are applying all the existing members need to say yes, every one. That gives them an opportunity, if they want, to be obstructive in the voting.”

He warned that even if Scotland was admitted, it would lose the UK’s automatic entry to the final, raising the prospect of the Scottish artist being put out in the preliminary rounds by some minnows from Eastern Europe – as is the tradition already with the national football team.

But speaking at a conference in Edinburgh, Mr Salmond said yesterday: “The Eurovision Song Contest has been one area of scaremongering from ‘sources close to the UK Government’. In reality, of course, we would continue to be a full member of the Eurovision, trading cheesy pop songs freely with our neighbours.”

“Furthermore,” he added “Scotland has not done nearly as much as the UK to annoy the rest as Europe and should benefit from some politically motivated voting.” Mr. Salmond is understood to be optimistic about the Auld Alliance delivering a guaranteed 12 points every year.

Posted in Constitutional Law, Just for Fun | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

UK Govt: equality test score 6 out of 9

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published the findings of an investigation into whether the UK Government have complied with their public sector equality duties in various recent policy changes.  The answer?  Mostly yes.

To remind ourselves, at the time of the 2010 public spending review, public bodies, including the Treasury, were subject to race equality, sex equality and disability equality duties.  These obliged the Government to demonstrate that they had fully considered the potential effects of their decisions on women, minority ethnic groups and disabled people, and that any decisions with an effect on these groups could be justified.

The Review was the first time an assessment of this kind and scale had ever been undertaken. The methodology included “unprecedented access” to confidential documents from Treasury and other government departments and discussions with ministers, the chief secretary to the Treasury, and senior civil servants from the Treasury, Department of Work and Pensions, and Ministry of Justice.

In six cases the Commission concluded that the UK Government complied with their equality duties:

  • removing Child Benefit from households with a higher rate taxpayer;
  • reform of Legal Aid;
  • the £2.5 billion pupil premium for disadvantaged children;
  • removal of mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from claimants in residential care homes;
  • 10% reduction in Council Tax Benefit expenditure, and localisation; and
  • limiting the contributory Employment and Support Allowance to one year.

However, the Commission found that this was not the case in the following policies:

  • introduction of a household benefits cap (no gender analysis evident);
  • changes to bus service operators grant (no disability impact assessment);
  • replacing EMA with local discretionary funds (no reference to ethnicity, gender or disability).

Despite these failings, the Commission has decided that it would be “disproportionate” to take any further formal action in these three specific decisions, as the Government has undertaken to work with the Commission to address the issues raised by the report.

Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, of course…

The full report “Making fair financial decisions” can be downloaded in PDF here.

Posted in Discrimination, Legal Aid, News | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Gay Marriage – what’s next for Scotland?

Same Sex Marriage

Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Game, set and match to the equal marriage campaign – no?  Now that Obama has come out in favour of gay marriage in the USA, the liberal democracies of the western world (including Scotland) must surely follow?

As you will be aware, the Scottish Government are consulting on whether to open up marriage to same sex couples.  It strikes me that having a consultation is opening up the opportunity for people to complain about one side or other (or both) of the argument not being listened to – but there we are.

To summarise: the current position is that only male/female couples may marry – and that marriage may be civil or religious.  Only same sex couples may enter a civil partnership – which may not be religious.  The rights and responsibilities of couples within a marriage and a civil partnership are almost entirely the same.  In terms of the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for service providers to discriminate between the two in terms of service delivery etc.

Those in favour of same sex marriage argue that such discrepancies that do exist amount to discrimination and that equality in this field is nothing short of a human right.  Those arguing against say that there is already equality between marriage and civil partnership and that marriage is a religious estate which should not be redefined by the state – having been a mixed sex institution for some time now.

Regular readers of the blog will be aware of my church membership and fervent disestablishmentarianism, and it occurs to me that some of the difficulties arising could be resolved on both sides by insisting on a more rigorous separation of Church and State.

Why not, as the French do, make the whole thing a more prosaic matter of civil law?  Allow any two people (of whatever gender) to exchange promises and adopt standard rights and responsibilities towards and in respect of each other on a strictly civil matter.  We could call it a “civil union” or a “civil wedding” or – my personal favourite – a “state approved contract of mutual obligations”.  Strip out some of the weird historical anomalies – the State has no business insisting that any couple must have sex to remain a legal “item”!  Hey presto – equality for all.

Thereafter, if any given couple wish to celebrate their contract of obligations with a religious ceremony of some sort, then they are free to do so (assuming that they can find a willing religious body) and can call that part of it whatever they like.  In one fell swoop, the separation of Church and State is achieved – no more priests or rabbis or imams acting as agents of the Government in achieving social policy.

I like this as a solution, what do you think?

Posted in Discrimination, Family Law, Scottish Government | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

What’s in a name?

Cigarettes, not in plain packaging

The Scottish Government, along with its equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland and .. um .. the rest of the United Kingdom are consulting on proposals to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

Standardised packaging is likely to mean no branding, a uniform colour, and standard font and text for any writing on the pack.  Together with prominent safety warnings, I presume.

There have already been questions raised about whether this infringes the tobacco companies’ right to property in terms of their intellectual property bound up in the brand.  Robert Buchan’s article in The Journal discusses these, and similar legislation already faces legal challenge in Australia.  No doubt, we are therefore only months away from another entertaining escapade wherein the cigarette pedlars bleat about their human rights all the way to the Supreme Court.

However, I am more intrigued by the marketing challenges and possibilities now facing the cigarette giants.  Sure, they’ve ploughed millions into a particular brand and no doubt paid large sums of cash to ad agencies to mull over the niceties of colouring, sizes, typeface etc.  But soon, the name – just the name – will be all that sets them apart from their competitors.  What is the approach?

Benson & Hedges may be well recognised, but to a potential new customer – in 16pt Arial – it might as well be a firm of solicitors.  I imagine that this may herald a return to 1950’s style of advertising and brands called “Smooth & Husky” “Old Gold” “Cheap Fags” and “Feed your Addiction”.

I predict the brand names “Death” and “Camel” will stick around though.

Posted in Human Rights, Intellectual Property, News, Scottish Government | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Dundas & Wilson “not shooting staff”

David Hardie WS

Dundas & Wilson are letting some employees go – up to 30 according to The Herald.  But there is no need to go all “Jeremy Clarkson” on us in responding to press questions.

D&W Chair, David Hardie WS is quoted as commenting on the news by saying: “It is not that we have taken out 30 people and shot them.”

Good thing too.  It’s been a while since I did any employment law, but I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed – in front of their families or no.

Posted in Employment Law, Law Firms | Tagged | Leave a comment