Nigel Don MSP

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Member of the Conveners Group

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Meeting of the Parliament 25 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Nigel Don

I am very much enjoying the member’s speech and I am grateful that he is heaping praise on those who do much of the work for us. Does he share the same enthusiasm for the work of the Scottish Law Commission? It gave us a remarkably precise and careful description of what was involved, complete with drawings, which I still remember. That seemed to be exactly the way to describe law.



Meeting of the Parliament 25 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Nigel Don (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

I genuinely welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee on the Legal Writings (Counterparts and Delivery) (Scotland) Bill, which is, of course, of particular significance as it is the first to be known as a Scottish Law Commission bill following changes to standing orders last year that provided that certain SLC bills might be referred to the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee.

The Scottish Law Commission plays a vital role in recommending reforms and in updating and improving Scots law. However, until recently the implementation rate of the commission’s proposed bills has been low. The new process, which we are undertaking for the first time, will allow such bills to be given the consideration that they deserve and will allow important reforms to be implemented.

I pay tribute and give my thanks to the parliamentary staff who, a couple of years ago, did the background work that considered whether we should change our standing orders. I also pay tribute to Christine Grahame, who of course is the convener of the Justice Committee, and Bruce Crawford, who was the Government minister responsible at the time, for providing the political impetus that enabled us to change the standing orders to ensure that SLC bills go forward.

We must do what we can to ensure that Scottish law is up to date and competitive. During the passage of the bill, it has been interesting to see what other jurisdictions have been making of this process. I believe that some of them might even be envious of the process that we now have in the Scottish Parliament.

I thank all those who provided written and oral evidence on the bill. In addition to receiving written submissions, we heard from legal, business and academic representatives over five oral sessions. The detailed evidence that was received was greatly appreciated by the committee.

As the minister says, the bill has two key provisions: that execution in counterpart should be clarified as being a valid process in Scots law; and that paper legal documents should be deliverable, in the legal sense of the word, by electronic means. Execution in counterpart is the process by which documents can be given legal effect by each party signing separate but identical copies of a document rather than the same single physical document. The bill seeks to remove the current uncertainty as to whether that is a valid way of creating legally effective documents in Scots law. In providing for the delivery of paper legal documents by electronic means, the bill aims to resolve any doubt as to whether a document is legally effective if it has been faxed or emailed rather than delivered by traditional means.

Evidence to the committee suggested that there is widespread support for the provisions among the legal, business and academic sectors. The current system for signing contracts under Scots law is generally considered to be inefficient and burdensome, with parties having to go to great lengths to ensure that a single document is signed by them all. To achieve that, they must organise signing ceremonies whereby all parties are required to gather at an agreed place at an agreed time in order to sign a single document. Alternatively, the document is sent to each party sequentially for each signature to be attached one by one.

By making it clear that documents may be executed in counterpart under Scots law, and by allowing for traditional documents to be delivered electronically, the need for such procedures is completely removed. It therefore follows that the process for agreeing a contract may be much more efficient and straightforward, as each party can simply sign their own copy before delivering it to the others.

In the committee’s view, one of the main benefits of the bill is its potential to increase the number of contracts that are made under Scots law. The committee heard that a perceived inability to execute documents in counterpart often leads parties who would otherwise have drawn up their contracts under Scots law to state within a document that it will be governed by another legal system, such as the English legal system, allowing them to avoid processes such as the aforementioned signing ceremony.

Many witnesses argued that, by providing for execution in counterpart, the bill could lead to an increase in the number of contracts that are contracted under Scots law. However, we should not get carried away about that. The bill is unlikely to bring an influx of contracts to Scotland from those who would otherwise have no reason to use Scots law. Parties choose which law will govern their contract for a variety of reasons, and the committee also heard that English and New York law are dominant internationally and will, in all likelihood, continue to be so.

For some, however, the inability to execute a document in counterpart is the determining factor in their choice of law. The committee heard examples of contracts that were switched to English law at the 11th hour when it became apparent that all parties would be unable to gather together to sign a single document. It could be argued that, by allowing for execution in counterpart, the bill will encourage such parties to use Scots law rather than switch to another form of law. The committee therefore considers that the bill has the potential to stop the drift away from Scots law of contracts that would otherwise have been made under our law.

In addition to assessing the potential benefits of the bill, the committee considered its potential challenges. In its evidence to the committee, the Faculty of Advocates suggested that the bill’s provisions could lead to an increase in the incidence of fraud or error. The faculty was particularly concerned that the bill allows parties to exchange signature pages as opposed to whole documents. It considered that that would increase the likelihood that the content of the document could be altered.

The faculty’s view was not, however, shared by other witnesses. Having considered all the evidence, the committee was not persuaded that the bill will lead to an increase in the incidence of either fraud or error. In reaching that conclusion, the committee took account of the lack of evidence of instances of fraud or error in other countries in which execution in counterpart and electronic delivery of documents are already commonly practised. Further to that, the committee noted the existing safeguards that are in place in our law to both prevent and deal with fraud and error. At the same time, the committee encourages the Scottish Government to continue to ensure that the potential for fraud and error is accounted for and to consider how such risks could be reduced further.

The committee therefore recommends that the general principles of the Legal Writings (Counterparts and Delivery) (Scotland) Bill be agreed to.

Thus far, the new system for implementing Scottish Law Commission bills appears to be working well. I agree with the minister on that and am grateful for his comments. I look forward to the continued progress of the bill and to scrutinising further bills under this welcome process.

15:45  

Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Nigel Don (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

This has been a long afternoon, but I will join the list of colleagues who have taken us around their constituencies. I hope that we will find that we have not only had a little lesson in geography but that I have gone somewhere interesting.

If I were to take a tour around Angus North and Mearns, I could start with Oatmeal of Alford. That sounds strange, because Alford is not in my constituency, but apparently the business, which produces organic cereals and foods, took its name because the nearest railway station was in Alford. There is now one in Laurencekirk. We find out strange things.

I could pop into Ella Drinks in Brechin for the Bouvrage raspberry, blaeberry and strawberry drinks. I reiterate the point that the cabinet secretary made earlier: we produce lots of berries, which are very good for us. If we do not want to eat them, we can drink them as juice.

My colleague Graeme Dey, who is the MSP for Angus South, is not able to be with us this afternoon, but I know that he would have picked up on Angus Growers, which produces soft fruits across the whole area, including in Angus, Perthshire and Fife, and Mackays, which produces jams and marmalades in Arbroath from those very fruits. I am sure that he would also have wanted to point out the Arbroath smokie and in particular RR Spink and Sons, which was established in 1715 and produces Arbroath smokies.

Coming back to my own constituency, I must mention the Glencadam distillery in Brechin. We have many distilleries in Scotland, but no member has yet mentioned today that those distilleries are where they are because of the water. That is the bit that the industry tends not to transport, although Glencadam has nine miles of pipe to bring in its water from the springs of the Moorans.

Water is also exported from the Strathmore bottling plant in Forfar, which makes use of the fact that the spring is quite literally at the bottom of what must, once upon a time, have been the garden. It is fascinating to see the pipe just appearing out of the ground, and that is, of course, where the water is bottled.

Those local businesses employ people and produce products that we enjoy and export. When I speak to people from those businesses, they pick up on one of the points that the Labour Party’s amendment mentions, which is the need for skills. The food industry uses a wide range of skills that are not necessarily taught at home or in school. As a chemical engineer, I probably have the best qualifications for working in the food industry, because it is about process development and chemistry on a decent scale, which is exactly what I was taught to do.

As other colleagues such as George Adam and Jean Urquhart have mentioned, our generation does not, by and large, know how to cook. It was probably our parents who were the last cookers. Our children frequently have no idea of how to cook, and that is one of the issues that we must address if we are to deal with obesity and encourage the use of fresh food, because we are now dependent on processed food.

I will major in obesity as an issue, but first I will pick up on the issue of pollinators, which no other member has mentioned today. Members received a briefing from Buglife the Invertebrate Conservation Trust that pointed out that bees and their like are an extraordinarily important part of our food system. The cabinet secretary might want to consider, formally or otherwise, whether counting bees could be one of the national indicators. We count birds as a surrogate for biodiversity and fish as a measure of sea health. I wonder whether pollinators, as they are relatively big and countable, could be counted, or at least estimated, nationally as a national indicator of agricultural health.

Lastly, I come to the issue of obesity, which other members have mentioned. I took the advice of one of our national experts on the Scottish diet—members will know that I do that fairly frequently. Our difficulty is that the diet has not really changed much. Despite our best efforts, it is still far too easy for us to be overweight and obese. It is far too easy for us to eat too many calories—and, incidentally, to eat too much salt.

Although the figures might have stabilised, they are certainly not getting better. The Scottish Government is clearly ambitious in trying to tackle obesity, and I commend the cabinet secretary for raising the issue not only in the document but in some detail in the debate this afternoon. It is very easy to talk about our exports and products while ignoring an issue that is central to the nation’s health.

Members have mentioned that tackling obesity is now probably as important as tackling smoking with regard to the costs to our nation. I commend the cabinet secretary for taking the issue seriously and for producing a standard for responsible marketing of food and drink. The industry will not like what we are trying to tell it, but it will have to get on board, as obesity is a problem that we have to sort.

We might need taxation, and we clearly need work on portion sizes, formulation and education, which is already going on. Those areas will all play their part, but the problem will be extremely difficult to crack, and everyone—including industry—needs to get involved. The profit motive is clearly not on our side. We need to find ways of persuading food businesses to go the extra mile to look after the health of the nation and—on occasion—to forgo that profit.

16:34  

Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Nigel Don (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

Can the minister confirm my suspicion that starting to export is far more difficult than carrying it on? Probably, most businesses struggle to see an overseas market because it is just not what they have done before.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Nigel Don

The minister and I have discussed this quite a bit. Will he confirm that, although changing the Stonehaven junction as suggested would involve a relatively small variation of contract, it could not possibly be undertaken without the planning considerations, which might build in the delays that nobody wants to see? As the constituency MSP, I am not suggesting that there should be any further delay at all.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
2. Nigel Don (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what its assessment is of the proposal to reconsider the Aberdeen western peripheral route fastlink-A90 junction design. (S4O-03722)



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Nigel Don

I seriously suggest that you might like to reflect on what the proposed new section is really trying to achieve. I could take you to the middle of my constituency and show you the land that is involved in the longest-standing planning application in Aberdeenshire Council’s history. It is a large area of land that the owners reasonably want to develop in a way that would probably prevent the local communities from doing anything—it is not an unreasonable planning application. I think that the provision is going to give us problems.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Nigel Don

Forgive me, Mr Thomson, but I think that I understood the opposite of what you intended. It seems to me that a landlord putting in an application for something that he is never going to get planning permission for is a wonderful way of securing the land and ensuring that it is never bought out by the community. A landlord applying to do something else for which he will not get planning permission could be part of the very process of not allowing sustainable development.

I wonder what on earth the proposed new section 97C is doing. I still do not think that I have heard a reason why it is there. I understand the logic of why it might be there, but I have not heard a practical reason why you would want it there. The reason that you have just given actually works against the intention.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Nigel Don

Of course.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 19 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Nigel Don

Yes, there are. Okay, I need to—

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Nigel Don
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11676: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11605: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11466: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09965: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09910: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09887: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09813: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09678: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09353: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09339: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Nigel Don
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03722: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03688: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03410: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03349: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21123: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03179: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03172: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03114: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/03/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03056: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02926: Nigel Don, Angus North and Mearns, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/02/2014 Show Full Question >>

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