A Story about Highland Titles, a DMCA Notice and US Copyright Law

I wanted this blog post to be funny. Not every post about law can or should be entertaining to read, but this post owes its existence to a curious, chortle-inducing Twitterstorm about an aspect of Scots land law that took place on 11 February 2015. I used a website called www.storify.com to digest those events. That “story” – that is to say, the collection of Tweets sent by Twitter users (including me) and links to websites, augmented with some commentary by me – has accrued approximately 20,000 views online. That is quite a lot of traffic for content created by an academic lawyer about a quirky aspect of his own relatively small jurisdiction. It certainly caught the imagination.

Entertaining and informative is certainly something to aspire to in many academic circumstances. I am afraid this post is going to eschew the entertaining, for reasons that will become clear. As for the original story, despite its comedic undercurrent, it seems some people did not enjoy it. In fact, it now transpires that someone does not want the story to be at the web address it has been publicly available at any longer.

I can only speculate as to why this is, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is something to do with the fact that the story effortlessly, comprehensively and comprehensibly deconstructs the claims one business in particular made about the sale of so-called “souvenir plots” in Scotland, with a sprinkling of humour in the process. The business model in question relates to the sale of small parcels of land in Scotland. Such souvenir plots cannot be registered in the Land Register of Scotland, owing to a specific provision in Scottish land registration legislation. No registration means no landownership.

How do I know someone does not want the post to be at its existing URL? It might be something to do with an email I received from the company behind the Storify site, which informed me that it had received something called a DMCA Notice – also known as a Takedown Notice – relating to the story I published with them. At that stage I was not sure who had served the DMCA Notice: heck, it was the first time I had met the acronym “DMCA”. A crash course in American intellectual property law followed, largely via internet research. (Incidentally, DMCA stems from US copyright law, and stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act”.)

A quick, oversimplified lesson in IP law

Intellectual property rights come in various non-physical shapes and sizes. We will meet two such IP rights in this blog post: copyright and trade mark (or, in the US spelling, trademark).

Copyright is the right that the creator of a work (perhaps a book, a tune or an image) has by dint of creating that work. No registration is needed (in the UK).

Registered trade marks are slightly different, relating as they do to brand-building and requiring registration in a public register to make them enforceable. A trade mark could be a logo or a slogan. (In some circumstances, an action can be brought for “passing off” even where no trade mark has been registered. That is not relevant to this post.)

We will return to the distinction between copyright and trade mark later, but for present purposes it can be noted that the person who holds either of these rights can take steps when someone else infringes them, perhaps by seeking to use a creative work without the permission of the originator of it or by piggy-backing on the brand of another business.

The implications of this DMCA Notice

It can therefore be seen that the chosen mechanism to get my story purged was intellectual property law. Although I might be thought of as more of a traditional property law specialist, I am well aware that IP law is important and serves legitimate policy goals. As such, I did my best to comply with the email that explained a DMCA Notice had been served. This detailed what I needed to do to reactivate my story: quite understandably, the people behind Storify also care about IP law and they did not wish to take any chances after receipt of a DMCA Notice. The first thing that happened was to put the story into abeyance (i.e. it was converted into a non-public “draft” story). I was told I had ten days to serve a Counter Notice, without which the story would be deleted. Guidance and certain forms of words were provided to me to allow me to draft that Counter Notice, which I duly drafted and sent by email.

That leads on to why this blog post is not going to be funny. Even where the possibility of litigation in a foreign jurisdiction seems remote, discovering your Counter Notice must contain declarations made under penalty of felony focus even a lawyer’s mind (or perhaps especially a lawyer’s mind). The email I received indicated and my own research confirmed that, as a non-US citizen, the jurisdiction any litigation would take place in would be the place where the website was based: in this case, California.

I have never been to California. I have no particular plans to do so in these circumstances. Accordingly, this blog post is going to do absolutely nothing to encourage or pre-empt any further legal manoeuvring that involves those who seek to wipe the story or related content from the web or waste more of my time in the process of doing that. What this blog post is designed to do is educate readers about: a) US intellectual property law; b) how law and the internet (and particularly jurisdiction) can interact; and c) the steps the company Highland Titles Limited has taken to suppress legitimate commentary on their business model.

Ah, yes. It was Highland Titles who were behind the DMCA Notice, using a company called DMCA.com to serve it. I suspect many of you would have suspected that anyway. I only had circumstantial evidence of that to start with, as I had not seen the DMCA Notice sent to Storify. My suspicions were all but confirmed when I heard a similar DMCA Notice was sent to Automattic, the company behind WordPress, in relation to this loveandgarbage.wordpress.com post.

That notice was rebuffed by Automattic without the need for a Counter Notice. The “fair use” provisions of Section 107 of the relevant US copyright legislation were deployed to politely but firmly tell the person serving that DMCA Notice to go away. Storify deployed a slightly more cautious approach to the DMCA Notice relating to my story, which I am not going to criticise here. I simply raise the issue of that separate notice to highlight: 1) a pattern of behaviour where posts critical of Highland Titles have been targeted with whatever legal apparatus might even vaguely suit that task; and 2) that I was heartened I had more than a stateable case that my content was not breaching US copyright law.

(People who have followed this saga closely may recall that my story was copied then subtly subverted by someone who engaged in a (rather ineffective) first wave response to the #HighlandTitlesDay Twitterstorm, as detailed on my blog here. Further, after Dr. Jill Robbie (of the University of Glasgow) and I published an article in the Edinburgh Law Review in September 2015 on this topic, very similar (albeit skewed) wording appeared in literature sympathetic to Highland Titles’ interpretation of Scots law. With that backdrop, there is a certain irony in Highland Titles claiming the author of loveandgarbage or I have breached intellectual property law.)

What happened next can be gleaned from this chain of Tweets. In brief, I eventually steered the Counter Notice to the relevant legal contact and the story was duly restored, albeit I was also asked to amend my Counter Notice to more closely track the wording prescribed by US legislation and keep Storify’s ISP happy. At that stage I asked explicitly for sight of the DMCA Notice so I could make the statement that was asked of me in good faith. (This is when I discovered beyond doubt Highland Titles was behind the DMCA Notice.)

The timing of this blog post reflects me waiting a few days to see if anything else would happen. Thus far, nothing has, and the story has been back online for a week. I will do all I can to keep it there.

And what was the offending content nestled in my story? Forgive me for not setting out exactly what was identified in the DMCA Notice or what I said in my own Counter Notice (and related correspondence to argue there was no infringement). Tactically, it would make little sense for me to set my thinking out in public or allow others (i.e. Highland Titles) to develop thoughts about this affair before I need to. What I will say is that Tweets sent by the @Highland_Titles Twitter account and the screen-grabbed images thereof were mentioned in the DMCA Notice. This is the kind of thing that could be covered by the fair use provisions mentioned above.

There was also a reference in the DMCA Notice to trademarked material. My cursory research of US IP law tells me DMCA Notices are not for trademark breaches (note I am back to the US spelling), so therein lies another reason to resist this particular enforcement step. (The distinction is made clear on DMCA.com’s own website.) For reference, the trademark referred to in the DMCA Notice is Highland Titles’ logo (which is a registered trade mark in the UK). That features in a couple of the Tweets captured and automatically previewed in the story. Notwithstanding the seemingly incorrect trademark enforcement action route of the DMCA Notice in this particular situation, I am confident I can take steps to argue the content in my story is not in breach of IP law in any future trademark enforcement action, or at the very least I could take steps to slightly amend the story to be doubly sure enforcement would not be necessary. That is for another day.

Final observations

I warned you this blog post was not going to be funny. Instead, this post is a relatively detailed synopsis of this particular incident. I hope this serves the purpose of enlightening people as to how intellectual property law and the internet can interact. It might have the tangential effect of informing people how Highland Titles operates.

I am hopeful this is the end of this particular episode for my Storify story. If it is not, or if separate action follows, I am confident this experience will serve me well and allow me to defend my position robustly. This particular episode has also encouraged a number of people to offer me support in the event any further action takes place. Pride comes before a fall and all that, so I don’t want to sound too bullish, but if anyone connected to Highland Titles is reading this they should note my friends and I will be tooled-up and ready for any future shenanigans.*

Away from the Storify story, I would particularly look forward to any attempt by Highland Titles to send a DMCA Notice or instigate some other enforcement action against the Edinburgh Law Review, that being the peer-reviewed journal that carried the article by Dr. Robbie and me. That article explained and critiqued the relevant Scots law rule about souvenir plots and some of the underlying policy for it. I also look forward to any similar steps that might be taken against the online, open-access academic forum The Conversation, which carried an article by me on the topic earlier this year.

Finally, this whole incident has reminded me of the so-called “Streisand Effect”. Whilst I would not say I or indeed the Scottish Twitterati as a whole had entirely forgotten about this story, the steps taken by Highland Titles have given a reason to remind everyone of the events of #HighlandTitlesDay and the underlying legal position that still provides – unequivocally – that those selling souvenir plots are not providing ownership of the land they purport to sell.

*As it happens, I will be in the company of three people who have critiqued souvenir plots hawkers this Friday, as Dr. Douglas Bain and Catherine Bury (PDF) plus the aforementioned Jill Robbie will be attending a conference I have organised about Scottish land reform. Although there is no formal session planned about the antics of Highland Titles, the topic might just be spoken about over coffee.

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A model for transparency of landownership in Scotland, drawing on letting agent registration

This is a quick and rather niche post on transparency of landownership in Scotland.

I have blogged on this topic before. As noted in that post, Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 has provisions about transparency, which aim to provide more information than (say) the name of an overseas company and the address of a postbox in that company’s home country. Regulations are going to follow on from that legislation to flesh out that publicity driven scheme.

This post is inspired by my recent interaction with a statute that deals with letting agents in the private rented sector, namely the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.

Section 30 of that legislation is about registration of letting agents. It provides that anyone who wants to be on that register must provide the Scottish Ministers with certain details. What an application must contain is extracted below. For present purposes, it is worth noting when an applicant is not a natural person (i.e. the letting agent is not a human being), the applicant must state “the name and address of the individual who holds the most senior position within the management structure of the relevant partnership, company or body”. Another stipulation for a non-human applicant is that the name and address of any other person (i.e. not just the senior position holder) who owns 25% or more of the applicant entity must be provided.

Might that be a workable model for non-humans seeking entry to the Land Register of Scotland?

For those that don’t know (and I hope all law students who have sat a module in property law are not in this camp), registration is a step that must be satisfied before ownership of land can be obtained in Scotland. (I have blogged and written about this before too, in the context of souvenir plots.) Making non-provision of that information something that denies entry to the Land Register would therefore deny the chance of landownership to a hypothetical information hoarder.

For reference, an extract of section 30, subsection (2) follows. According to that a letting agent application must:

(a) state the name and address of the applicant,

(b) state whether the applicant is—

(i) trading as a sole trader,

(ii) a partnership,

(iii) a company, or

(iv) a body with some other legal status,

(c) in the case where the applicant is a company registered under the Companies Act 2006, state the company’s registered number,

(d) in the case where the applicant is not a natural person, state the name and address of the individual who holds the most senior position within the management structure of the relevant partnership, company or body,

(e) state the name and address of any other person who—

(i) owns 25% or more of an applicant which is not a natural person, or

(ii) otherwise is (or is to be) directly concerned with the control or governance of the applicant’s letting agency work (whether or not the applicant is a natural person), and

(f) include such other information as the Scottish Ministers may by regulations prescribe.

It may be that someone has thought of this or a similar analogy already. (I had a cursory look around the internet using a well-known search engine and found nothing.) If anyone has done so, do point me towards such thoughts by commenting below.

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Land reform in Scotland: legal, historical and policy perspectives

This is a signpost blog post, to direct readers of this blog to details of an event on 26 August 2016 at the University of Aberdeen that will take an interdisciplinary look at Scottish land reform. Further information can be found here.

The broad and rather ambitious aim of the event is to consider where Scotland is at the moment, how it got there, and where it should be going next as regards its land regulation, distribution and use. Getting a variety of perspectives and specialisms under the one roof will, I hope, generate some stimulating discussion and ideas for the future.

The one-day conference will follow on from a public lecture on land reform and the environment the previous evening (details of that here). The plan is for the conference to look into matters in slightly more depth than that lecture, yet not in such a way as to exclude people from any analysis as a result of being in the “wrong” discipline. As such, and much as I love legalese, I will try to keep it light (although there will still be plenty in the day for the lawyers to enjoy, I’m sure).

If you fancy coming along, it would be great to see you there. (Booking details can be found on the University of Aberdeen website.)

Finally, if you have something land reform related that you desperately want to get off your chest, do please drop me a line and I might be able to find a place for you in proceedings. Two people have done so even without that invitation and I think the day will be better for that.

I imagine there will be a write-up of events afterwards, either here or on the aberdeenunilaw.wordpress.com blog. Assuming I am not rushed off my feet, I will tweet proceedings from the @RuralLaw account.

*Update* Some important material that could inform discussion on the day has just been released by the Scottish Government and is available here. A number of the contributors to that impressive body of work will also be contributing to the event on 26 August.

Aberdeen Uni

Old Aberdeen, the setting for the conference.

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Access to land, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly: the endgame for the #indycamp

The #indycamp at Holyrood is on borrowed time. That much is clear, now that the Court of Session judgment of Lord Turnbull has been published. (See also the BBC News report here.)

I think it would be fair to say that sympathy for the indycampers has dwindled since the camp was established in November last year. (In this vein, see the recent blog post by Andrew Tickell.) Whilst others were steering the intrepid campers to legal arguments that might be worth following (including me and, much more importantly, the judge in the case), the indycampers appealed to religion and seemed to suggest that neither Lord Turnbull nor indeed any other judge had authority over them. With the patience of a saint (that being an appropriate appeal to religion), Lord Turnbull has side-stepped those arguments and essentially given the all clear for the Scottish Parliament to recover possession of the land.

There is much to be found in Lord Turnbull’s words, in terms of legal analysis and perhaps even a slight undercurrent of humour. I heartily recommend reading those words yourself. For the purposes of this blog post, I will extract a number of concluding paragraphs, beginning at paragraph 58, on the interplay between articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly respectively) and the rights of the landowner. (Note that “respondents” means “indycampers”, while “petitioner” means “landowner”.)

[58]      In essence the respondents’ position seems to be that their rights under articles 10 and 11 should trump both the petitioner’s right to possession and the rights of others to enjoy undisturbed use of the grounds.  This rather selfish or even arrogant approach was well illustrated in two ways.  First, by the way in which the respondents felt able to hold a barbecue and social gathering in and around the area of the camp which they openly advertised on social media.  Second, the affidavits provided, as taken along with the photographs, make it plain that damage has been caused to the grounds of the Parliament by vehicles being parked on the grassed areas and by other means.  In production 6/29 there are a number of photographs showing a significant number of motor cars and other vehicles openly parked side-by-side on the grassed areas of the Parliament and near to where the campers tents and caravans are located.  The photographs show vehicles parked on different days in January of this year and in March of this year.  These vehicles are all parked on the other side of the roadway from a public car park.

[59]      No explanation has been offered to explain this, to my mind, quite remarkable conduct.  It would be perfectly obvious to anyone parking their vehicle on the grassed area of the grounds of the Scottish Parliament that to do so would cause damage.  That conduct displays open disregard for the rights of others to enjoy the grounds in their undisturbed form.  There is nothing in the nature of any of the respondents’ protests or vigils which required them or anyone else to park any, far less so many, motor vehicles on the grassed areas of the Parliamentary grounds.  The adjacent carpark, although requiring payment, provides entirely adequate and suitable parking facilities…

[60]      In the whole circumstances it is clear to me that the petitioner has now established that the respondents’ activities on its property are interfering with its own rights and duties and with the rights of the public and that the order sought meets a pressing social need.

[61]      The officials of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body have made it plain to the respondents that there are other opportunities for them to legitimately exercise rights of freedom of speech and assembly.  The officials remain open to negotiations with the respondents to permit the exercise of these rights through events such as meetings, vigils and protests, so long as these comply with the petitioner’s policy on such conduct.

[62]      The order sought by the petitioner does not substantially impair the ability to protest at the grounds of the Scottish Parliament.  It may interfere with the respondents’ wish to conduct their vigil in the manner and form of their choosing but they are mistaken in considering that they have an unfettered right to make this choice.

[63]      The interference with the respondents article 10 and 11 rights which would be caused by granting the order sought is targeted, limited and will not deprive them of the essence of their rights.  The balance which has to be struck in light of all of the circumstances I have identified comes down firmly in favour of holding that the interference caused by granting the orders sought is proportionate.

The emphasis (which is mine) at the end of paragraph 63 drives home that the one remaining string to the bow of the indycampers failed to twang. The (public) landowner was not being overzealous in seeking recovery in the circumstances. It was acting within the bounds of proportionality. As such, eight months of camping – if that is the correct word for it – is about to come to an end.

If Scotland ever does become independent from the rest of the UK, posterity might grant this episode of indycamping a footnote, but the real impact of it has been to provide entertaining column inches for the press and useful legal precedent for the future. For that, this blogger is grateful.

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Gotta catch ’em all, but what about the law? Access to land and #PokemonGO

Aberdeenunilaw

This post is by Malcolm Combe

Amidst all that is going on in the world just now, I bet you a Jigglypuff you will have heard someone talking about Pokémon. You might not exactly know what this is, but you can still be affected, as this church in Glasgow discovered. You might have been bemused by the idea of people wandering around, smartphone in hand, chasing imaginary creatures in the augmented reality world of Pokémon GO. Or you might be an avid fan, so much so that you can identify with those who crowded into New York’s Central Park when a Vaporeon popped up.

This advance into augmented reality is a fun development for many and, it appears, a profitable one for Nintendo. That being the case, as the app has been rolled out across the world (launching in its native Japan today, as reported by BBC News). That…

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Some reflections on the EU Referendum and a note on #indyref2

The UK has opted for Brexit, that much we know. There is still much that needs to happen before the UK extricates itself from the European Union. Domestic politics might yet intervene to stop Brexit. We shall see, but the current democratic situation is clear. 51.9% of voters wish to leave the EU.

I did not campaign in this referendum. I worked at the Aberdeen City count, so electoral law applied. Now that my duties are over, and in the interests of full disclosure for this blog post, I can safely share that I voted Remain.

There are many, many machinations of this vote to Leave. Here are a select few.

I look at Northern Ireland, which as a “region” voted to Remain, with more than a little concern. I have no particular expertise there so I will refrain from predictions of what will happen next for its people, other than a spike in their applications for passports issued by the Republic of Ireland.

There are machinations for higher education, as demonstrated by this statement by my employer.

There are machinations for law and legal research, as demonstrated by numerous conversations with Scots, English, Northern Irish, non-UK EU, and non-EU colleagues in the School of Law on the day after the vote. Dr. Kirsteen Shields of Dundee tweeted that she went to bed a human rights lawyer and woke up a historian. PhD students looking at aspects of EU law are probably thinking things less eloquent than WTF. There is also the matter of funding for research. (To stick to my own discipline, I understand law and legal studies gets 38.96% of its research income from the EU.)

There are machinations for the financial industry in the UK, and particularly London. Meanwhile, London’s position as a judicial centre for the the resolution of disputes is looking decidedly shoogly.

At a more human level, there are potentially unsavoury machinations for race relations in the UK. (I can offer one anecdote, which I hope a friend does not mind me sharing: she is of African descent and posted on her facebook that in the aftermath of the vote for Leave she now feels less able to shrug off any racist slurs thrown her way. The combination of racists being emboldened by the vote and people feeling less welcome really does not bear thinking about.)

The franchise for the vote itself even had implications, in terms of excluding many people who have made their lives in the UK from a decision that directly affects them. This point is explored thoroughly in a post by my colleague Heather Green.

And there are machinations for Scotland.

My introduction should make clear that the EU referendum result is about far more than Scotland. I don’t want to come across as parochial. What I do want to do is offer some thoughts on a topic I know a bit more about than Northern Ireland or the other things I have mentioned. As it happens, I have written about Scotland – and specifically Scottish independence – before.

What next for Scotland?

On 6 October 2014 I blogged about the Scottish independence referendum. Those of you who know me or know this blog will be aware I voted and indeed campaigned for Yes. Unless you have been living in a cave, you will also be aware Scotland voted No.

When you back the losing horse in a two-horse race, you tend not to be in a position to make any particular demands of those who backed the winner. As such, my post in the aftermath of the #indyref acknowledged the result, made a few observations, and quietly announced a hiatus from overtly political blogging. (Consider this post a suspension of that hiatus.)

In that post, I made a few observations about the Yes Alliance ticket that some people proposed should run at the 2015 UK general election. That did not come to pass. (What did happen was a thumping SNP performance as a de facto Yes Alliance, returning 56 out of 59 SNP candidates in the constituencies Scotland.) I did offer some thoughts about what might be next for the Scottish constitution, as follows.

Whatever the Smith Commission might come up with, independence is the one thing that is off the table. Sure, Salmond might not be the First Minister for much longer, but I think the SNP should assiduously stick to his line that the referendum would settle things for “a political generation”. Indeed, the only people who have it in their gift to change the independence timeline from a double digit to a single digit number of years are the parties who campaigned for the Union. Such a change is not likely to be deliberate. That is to say, it would take them contributing to a situation where somehow things change, perhaps by:

  1. the Scottish Parliament being abolished (very unlikely);

  2. the UK leaving the ECHR (unfortunately looking a bit more likely, but probably still erring on the unlikely side of things);

  3. the Smith Commission proposing absolutely nothing of note, notwithstanding “The Vow” and any subsequent petitions (pure speculation, the Commission needs to be given a chance); or

  4. the UK dragging Scotland out of the EU after a UK-wide referendum when Scotland voted to stay (unlikely, but what do I know?).

Fast forward to June 2016. Scenario 4 has just come to pass. Scenario 4 was explicitly mentioned as a cause for a new independence referendum in the SNP manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. The SNP may have recently lost its overall majority at Holyrood, but it forms the minority government and can probably call on six allies to carry the Chamber when it comes to a position on a new independence referendum in the form of the Scottish Green Party MSPs. #indyref2 beckons, it would seem, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has not quite explicitly called for it.

Scotland voted 62%-38% to Remain in the EU. Every local authority area voted to Remain. The vote in Edinburgh was resounding. The vote in Moray less so – it sneaked home by just over 100 votes. (Another friend, who lives in Moray, noted quite correctly that the map that shows Scotland as a glorious homogeneous polity fails to show that this was a vote that cut across geographical, cultural and economic lines.) The result in Moray means I should couch my remarks carefully, but it does seem fair to say Scotland (and Northern Ireland) voted one way and England and Wales another. English votes are bouncing Scotland out of the EU.

Does this mean all the Yes voters in 2014 get to strut around with an “I told you so” swagger? Not quite. There are nuances here. Andrew Tickell blogged about his #indyref experience of a voter who backed Scottish independence specifically because she wanted out of the EU: I wonder how she is feeling just now? Plus, views can change over time for a whole manner of reasons.

Would the Scots go for independence now? “The 45” are probably secure, except for the occasional individual like the one mentioned above. As for “The 55” who voted to remain in the UK in 2014, the EU vote is something of a game-changer. It allows the independence question to be re-cast in a positive light, or perhaps as a choice between two unions.

I am conscious what I say doesn’t really matter. I was a Yes voter in 2014. I have maintained that persuasion and I would be poised to vote Yes again if and when the question is asked again, unless someone could demonstrate to me that it would be folly.

Of more interest are the views of people like JK Rowling or Chris Deerin: not because of who they are (although admittedly that gives them an audience), but rather because of how they voted in 2014. The case for an independent Scotland in the EU has been elegantly made by No voter Stephen O’Rourke, who also happens to be a very clever advocate. Cynics might wonder if he is an advocate trying to drum up business, but I don’t think he is. As noted above, the dispute resolution industry that exists in London could well go elsewhere, why not an independent Scotland?

All of a sudden a comprehensible and inclusive case for Scottish independence can be made, and no-one needs to mention oil. (In fact, my advice to any nascent indyref2 campaign would be to not mention oil at all, but that’s another matter…)

What next?

Scotland and the rest of the UK is heading for the EU exit door. There will need to be a lot of Scottish and indeed EU-level manoeuvring to avoid Scotland leaving at the same time.

It will be no surprise to anyone that I am up for being a part of such manoeuvring, although it will not be a simple dance.

As with any dance, timing is clearly important. (That Sturgeon has not instigated anything yet is both interesting and, in my view, correct.)

Voting fatigue – and specifically referendum fatigue – is important.

Being perceived as asking the same question again and again until you get the answer you want is never a good place to be.

That being the case, many of the machinations I set out above about leaving the EU, coupled with the reasons why I voted Yes back in 2014,  make me perfectly happy to leave my colours pinned to the mast of Scottish independence. I have absolutely no idea if or when I will be faced with a ballot paper asking “Should Scotland be an independent country” again, but I do know how I would vote in that situation. I suspect I will have some new friends voting that way too.

Finally, with this very public declaration it seems fair to say I won’t be working at any #indyref2 count. Electoral law and all that. I might see you on the campaign trail or via the odd strategic blog post though, whenever the occasion calls for it.

Posted in European Union, Scottish Independence | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Environmental Implications of Redistributive Land Reform Redux

On 25 August 2016 Dr. Jayne Glass, Dr. Calum Macleod and yours truly will be taking part in a public lecture at the University of Aberdeen on the Environmental Implications of Redistributive Land Reform. More information can be found here. If you click through, you will see that attendance is free but interested parties are asked to please register interest in advance by emailing my colleague Suzi Warren.

This will be a reunion lecture. Jayne, Calum and I delivered a similar lecture at the University of Edinburgh last year. A few things have happened since then, not least the passage of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. With slightly less fanfare than met that legislation, my article in the Environmental Law Review on (you guessed it) ‘The environmental implications of redistributive land reform’ has been published. (The background to that post and an open access version can be found here.) This means that even those who attended last year’s lecture should find something of interest this time around, as we update our overall content to reflect the recent legal and indeed political developments, and I update my content to reflect what the peer reviewers at the Environmental Law Review said about my article.

Although the event has been organised by the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen, it is very much designed for an interdisciplinary and not necessarily legally qualified audience. Those involved in conservation, agriculture, land management or community activism should find something of interest, or you might just be a bit nosy about what seems to be a hot political issue in Scotland. Irrespective of your background, it would be great to see you if you can make it.

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