Today’s Sunday Herald has dedicated its front page to one of the conclusions of the Houses of Parliament Privacy and Injunctions Committee, of which I was a member. The recommendation is that privacy injunctions granted by the English High Court should automatically apply in Scotland, which has a separate legal system. I was absent, for fairly well known reasons, from the meeting which considered this recommendation but had I been there I would have argued strenuously against it. It’s important to recognize both that many of the recommendations of the committee represent commonsense based upon much evidence taken in public. It’s also true that much of the work of the committee revolved around the fact that social media has in many ways transformed the nature of the debate around matters of privacy. However, The Sunday Herald occupies a special place in this debate, as the UK newspaper to breach the English High Court’s injunction in respect of Ryan Giggs. In doing this, it took advantage of the different jurisdictions and legal systems in Scotland and England.
It seems to me that where the English High Court orders an interim injunction, for example to protect a child, it is perfectly practicable for the Scottish High Court to immediately confirm the injunction in Scotland. The erosion of the Scottish system’s separateness is a red herring, particularly where disputes will finally be resolved in the UK supreme Court. It is true that on occasions, this Scottish Court may disagree with the English Court, but it is unimaginable that this would be in respect of a child protection case, or where a perversion of justice might be risked. More likely, any such disagreement would be likely to relate to to public attitudes to privacyband open-ness. At present, the Scottish Court interprets these, in the first instance, for Scotland and this should certainly continue.
The report will now be debated by both houses before a final decision from the UK government. I will work to help assure the integrity of the Scottish legal system.