Scottish law snubbed by Parliament, say Lib Dems

WESTMINSTER has treated Scottish law with contempt by ignoring its uniqueness, according to the Liberal Democrat Scottish leader Jim Wallace.

Speaking at a lawyers' fringe meeting during the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, Wallace said a new Scottish parliament would end 300 years of neglect of its legal system.

Earlier the conference had endorsed joint Labour and Liberal Democrat plans for a Scottish parliament drawn up by the Scottish Constitutional Convention.

And in his keynote address to conference, leader Paddy Ashdown said Scotland now had a practical plan for a parliament whose powers would not be diluted.

In a fringe debate held by the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association, Wallace said a Scottish parliament would play a key reforming role.

He attacked Westminster for the way it had dealt with law reform claiming it had persistently failed to recognise that Scotland had a different legal system.

He cited the new law of aggravated trespass as an example of how a law addressing English problems had been foisted on Scotland where hunt saboteurs were “non-existent”.

And he said the new law had been pushed through Parliament despite strong opposition from Scottish MPs – an example “of the way Scottish law has been treated with contempt”. He added: “With a Scottish parliament in place, Scottish law would develop in a way which has not been possible for 300 years.”

The second speaker in the debate was Scottish Nationalist Party activist Professor Neil McCormack, professor of law at Edinburgh University.

He said a parliament along the lines envisaged by the Scottish Constitutional Convention would make an important contribution.

But he warned of the dangers that European Union law would erode any attempts to protect the Scottish legal system from being undermined.

He said a parliament which did not have access to the European Union would not be “master of its own house.”