Devolution Comes to the SCL

January 1, 2001


Wherever in the UK one might live, no-one can have failed to notice that thelegal framework of the Kingdom has radically changed over the last few years.Whether we like it or not, there is an increased devolution of power from thecentre of the UK to its constituent parts, in response to the aspirations of thefour parts of the Kingdom to take more control of their domestic affairs.


For some time now, the SCL Executive and the Committee of the Scottish Grouphave been discussing how the structures of the SCL might mirror this change inthe way the UK runs itself, so that what can most effectively be run fromScotland by Scots is indeed run from Scotland by Scots and what can mosteffectively be run centrally is so run. We have now worked out a new structurefor how the Society should be run in Scotland. Both the Society’s Executiveand the Scottish Group’s Committee approached this exercise in a spirit ofco-operation: we wanted to take account of the legitimate wish of our Scottishmembers for subsidiarity while preserving for Scottish members all the benefitsof membership of a UK national Society.

The Scottish Society for Computers and Law

With the full concurrence of the SCL Executive and of the members of theexisting Scottish Group, who have been fully consulted throughout the process,there has now been established a separate charitable company called the ScottishSociety for Computers and Law (the SSCL). The SSCL will be a company limited byguarantee. Instead of choosing to be members of the former SCL Scottish Group,members of the SCL will be able to choose to be members of the SSCL. Membershipof the SSCL will only be available to members of the SCL. The Memorandum andArticles of Association of the new company, which to all intents and purposesare identical with those of the SCL, are available on the Society’s Web site.SSCL will be run by a board of directors. The first members of the Board areJohn Sibbald (Chairman), Iain Mitchell QC (Vice-Chairman), Rosemary Colquhounand Brandon Malone. The Company Secretary is Messrs Morison Bishop, ErskineHouse, 68 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 4NN which is also the registered addressof the new company.

The powers of the SSCL will mirror the powers of the devolved Parliament andExecutive in Edinburgh, namely that they will have full power in relation toScottish matters. For example, they can deal direct (as is only right andproper) with the Scottish Executive on IT law matters. In conjunction with theSCL nationally, they will sometimes, when appropriate, take the lead in UKissues, such as the current SSCL-led working party on privacy of patients’medical records. The Scottish group has an enviable reputation; its activitiesand programme have been an example to all the Society’s other Groups acrossthe UK; this new constitutional arrangement will, we are sure, enable it to gofrom strength to strength in the coming years.


We are confident that the new system will not cost significantly more to run.There will be some relatively minor extra setup costs, for example dataprotection registration and company registration fees, but we feel that this iswell worth it when set against the advantages of having a vibrant and empoweredSSCL advancing the Society’s and its members’ interests in Scotland. TheSSCL will on a day-to-day basis be financed by the SCL in exactly the same wayas each SCL Group is financed centrally. Per head, the SSCL will receiveslightly more money than the equivalent English regional groups1 – but thenthe English regional groups do not have a separate legal jurisdiction and aseparate legislature to deal with. The SSCL does have power to levysupplementary membership subscriptions, but it has no present intention ofexercising this. The SCL will also make a loan to the SSCL to give it workingcapital.

What Happens Now?

Everything goes on as before. The non-members of the Scottish Group will seeno difference whatever; members of the Scottish Group will be invited to becomemembers of the SSCL as their membership of the SCL comes up for renewal; asmembers of the SSCL they will continue to be members of the SCL and willcontinue to enjoy all the benefits of membership, with the added benefit ofhaving more local issues dealt with locally.


We all hope that this is a sensible middle way between the need to have astrong national group to pursue our interests and the need to ensure that theconcerns of a separate and important jurisdiction within the UK are effectivelyand properly met. It may well serve as a model for other separate legaljurisdictions the SCL may represent as time moves on.

  1. This is on the same principle as that on which the Scottish Executive’s expenditure is financed by UK central government.