Courts to serve fracking & energy interests - top judge. SCOTLAND'S top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has spoken of his hopes that fracking for shale gas will increase business in the courts. The top judge also wants to turn Scotland's legal system into a mediation haven for big business, big oil, shale gas barons & bankers, according to a speech he gave on the theme of “Digital Justice” last week.
The move is hoped to draw in millions for lawyers and judges - without the need to declare any interests.
During the fourteen page speech – Gill (72) also urged the legal sector to better exploit Scotland’s “natural resources” and renewable energy for their own profit.
Speaking on the issue of fracking, Gill said: “Our resources of energy may be increased by the retrieval of shale gas, if that should be allowed. It seems to me therefore that the opportunity that our natural resources present should be served by the court system.”
However, Gill’s own views on the nation’s energy policy and how the legal sector should exploit it for their own ends was delivered the very same day the Scottish Government grudgingly announced a ban on new shale gas fracking schemes.
Making a statement announcing the ban on fracking after it emerged Energy Minister Fergus Ewing had criticised MSP Joan McAlpine for assisting constituents against plans by the Duke of Buccleuch to mine coalbed methane at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway, Mr Ewing told the Parliament: "I want to ensure that the voices of the communities likely to be most affected are heard, and are heard in a more formal and structured way.I am therefore announcing today that in addition to the technical work I've referred to on planning, environmental regulation and upon assessing the impact on public health, Scottish ministers will also launch a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction."
In spite of the Minister’s promises of a full public consultation, it has been reported there are many in Canonbie who are “too afraid to speak out” against fracking - and now, with the courts and judiciary seemingly keen to exploit fracking and other runs on natural resources “to follow” as a profit model - it can surely only be a matter of time before wealthy landowners turn to their friends and investors in the courts to ensure shale gas plans go ahead - no matter the views of local communities and residents.
Speech by Lord Gill on Digital Justice, Fracking & Big Oil. During the speech, Lord Gill also chastised his own judicial colleagues & lawyers for missing out on exploitation of Scotland’s oil boom.
Lord Gill said: “In the 1960s and 1970s the economy of Scotland was transformed by the discovery of North Sea oil. The judges and lawyers of that time were not alert to the opportunity that Scotland could be an international forum for resolving disputes in the oil and gas industry. We paid a price for our complacency when the international oil and gas industry passed us by.”
Gill continued: “Half a century on we should look at Scotland's economic opportunities and see how the courts can best serve them. In recent years a commitment to renewable energy has brought wind power to the fore as an energy source. Other forms of renewable energy may follow.”
The top judge also claimed Scotland can be made an international centre for litigation and mediation.
Gill said "Our legal system should be a driver for economic progress in Scotland. Our courts and our judges can and should contribute to the prosperity of our country. We can do that if, by the excellence of our judges, and our legal profession and the efficiency of our courts, we make Scotland a forum of litigation that not only retains litigations that at present go elsewhere but also becomes a forum of choice for litigations from abroad.."
However, Gill's policy of promoting the murky, expensive and disreputable Edinburgh legal world as a centre of international litigation and mediation may well be destined to hit the buffers.
Previous attempts by the Scottish Government and now former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to bring make Scotland a more attractive place for international litigation and mediation have come to nothing, even after large amounts of public money have been thrown at the idea and public money lavished by Scottish Ministers on enterprises such as the Scottish Arbitration Centre.
And, despite Lord Gill’s claim of judges supporting the economy, it is unclear how much the judiciary is financially contributing to Scotland, given judges refuse to declare their financial interests.
Over the past two years, Lord Gill has fought a bitter battle with the Scottish Parliament who are considering a proposal called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary to creating a register of interests for judges.
The move to bring transparency to judges wealth, links to business & other interests comes after it emerged members of the judiciary have a significant proportion of their undeclared riches in offshore tax havens, arms length trusts, shareholdings in vested interests, energy firms, land ownership, companies linked to public contracts - some within the justice system itself, companies involved in organised crime and secretive links to big business, finance & banking.
A parliamentary debate at the Scottish Parliament which saw MSPs overwhelmingly support a motion urging the Scottish Government to consider a register of judicial interests was reported by Diary of Injustice along with video coverage here: Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests
Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary