The Scottish Government opened a consultation on the merger of the Scottish Land Court and the Lands Tribunal for Scotland in July 2020. It closes on 19 October 2020, so if this is you only hearing about the plan you have a few days to mobilise into action.
As an academic who does not appear in front of either body, I don’t have the same skin in the game as some of the consultees who have already submitted their thoughts or will do so in the days to come. That being said, I found myself of the view that I had to say something. (I generally fear someone who has to say something, instead of having something to say. I’ll let others be the judge of whether my response was useful.) The two points I felt I particularly had to comment on related to public access to land and Scots Gaelic, both of which feature in the consultation exercise (albeit not in the same context).
For access to land, there is a proposal that section 28 disputes move from the sheriff court to this new forum. In a way, this is a decidedly neutral proposal: if there is dubiety about whether land is excluded from access or whether certain conduct is responsible, someone needs to rule on the matter and both the sheriff court and such a new body should be qualified to do so. A new forum might however be preferable in terms of ease of access – in an access to justice sense. As such, I am, just about, in favour of this potential development.
For Gaelic, there is a proposal to remove the requirement in the Scottish Land Court Act 1993 that that body (and any successor body) has a member who can speak the language. This is a more vexing proposal for someone like me, who is quite a fan of the older language but conducts his legal work pretty much entirely through the medium of English and cannot deny that legally qualified (and bench qualified) fluent Gaelic speakers who would want this job are not exactly ten-a-penny. I’ve offered something of a compromise, suggesting that the requirement be downgraded to something desirable of a candidate rather than outright removed, more from a minority language protection point than anything else.
My response is here.
Incidentally, and on a completely different note, I’m not a big fan of the new WordPress interface. Mainly because change is hard. I’m hoping it will grow on me. If you don’t see me blogging for a while though, this might be a contributory factor.