Parliamentary Bureau Motions

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25th May 2017.

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Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

The instrument exempts eight health regulatory bodies, as well as the General Teaching Council Scotland and the Scottish Social Services Council, from the provisions of the Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016.

Section 3 of the act defines an apology and the act itself merely clarifies the current law of evidence in civil proceedings relating to apologies. Quite simply, it has long been recognised by the judiciary that an apology is not good evidence for proving liability or wrongdoing.

By way of background, the origin of the act came from the cross-party group on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and a suggestion from the then chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission that apology legislation was an effective way to help survivors gain closure.

The Justice Committee is now in receipt of a letter from the current chair of the SHRC expressing concerns about the inclusion of the two non-health-related bodies in the instrument, and the lack of consultation with survivors and survivors’ groups. It goes on to state that the historical child abuse action plan review group should have been consulted on the provisions of the SSI.

Although the SHRC recognises that the eight professional health regulatory bodies are exempted in the SSI only in response to the Scottish Government’s health legislation on the duty of candour, it agrees with the Law Society’s assessment that, in general, an apology is not a reliable indicator of wrongdoing, and particularly as defined by section 3 of the act. Furthermore, it questions the necessity for regulatory bodies to be able to consider apologies.

Therefore, the SHRC offers the solution that the GTCS and SSSC should consider ways in which their processes could be adjusted to allow them to work within the Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016 without the exemption, and that the impact on GTC and SSSC processes should be monitored to assess whether providing an exemption has a detrimental impact on their ability to carry out their role. The SHRC confirms that it is not clear that that will be the case, given the position of other regulatory bodies.

I request that the minister withdraw the SSI with a view to implementing the two suggestions that the SHRC has proposed. The failure to do so would raise serious questions about the effective scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation in the Parliament.