Law Society calls for incorporation of Sewel convention into Scotland Bill



The Law Society of Scotland has called on the UK government to use the remaining stages of the Scotland Bill’s passage throughParliament to ensure the Sewel convention is fully incorporated into law.

Holyrood yesterday passed the Scotland Bill, which will devolve new powers over tax and welfare to Scotland, and is expected to conclude its passage at Westminster next week.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The Scottish government has already set out a number of proposals to use the powers to improve the lives of people in Scotland.

“The new social security powers will be rooted in dignity and respect and we’ll abolish the bedroom tax and give greater support for carers.

“The fiscal framework that underpins the Scotland Bill increases the Scottish Parliament’s financial responsibility, is consistent with the Smith principles of no detriment and is fair to Scotland.”

The Smith Commission recommended that the Sewel convention should be put on a statutory footing. The convention, which has operated since 1999, means that the UK Parliament will not legislate on devolved matters or changes to the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or the executive competence of Scottish ministers without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

The Law Society has raised concerns throughout the passage of the bill that, as currently drafted, it fails to accurately reflect how the Sewel convention has operated to date by only requiring consent on UK law affecting devolved matters.

Michael Clancy, director of Law Reform at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The Scotland Bill does not fully reflect how the Sewel convention has been understood and operated since the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999.

“We believe it should include a requirement for the consent of the Scottish Parliament where UK legislation changes the competence of the Scottish Parliament or the competence of Scottish ministers.

“There are good constitutional reasons for incorporating all elements of the Sewel convention to safeguard the constitutional position of the devolved institutions. The Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee has reported that this failure in the bill to incorporate all strands of the convention will only cause difficulty in the future.”

He added: “We hope that the UK government will now adopt amendments which would fully implement the Smith Commission intention. There is still time left for the UK government to take on board these concerns and we urge the government to change the bill at third reading in the House of Lords on Monday 21 March.”