…And an apology from me

By skepticlawyer

Thanks to this:

Law Society President Austin Lafferty also presented an award to University of Edinburgh student Helen Dale, who won the Society’s annual essay competition with A Plea in Law for Equal Marriage. Currently completing the accelerated LLB, she previously studied the Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford University and plans to stay in Scotland to practise.

Helen’s prize includes £500 courtesy of the Society, and a three-week paid placement in the Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament. Her essay will be published in the Law Society of Scotland’s members’ magazine, The Journal [admin: in the July issue, and also online].

She said, ‘In light of this week’s news that the majority of MSPs support equal marriage, I’m pleased to be able to make a legal case for it to the general public – all thanks to winning the Society’s award.’

I’m doing the internship now, which meant (among other things) signing the Official Secrets Act. Yes, you read that right. So I can’t really talk about it except to say that it’s very interesting (wonderfully bland observation, that). I can talk about the awards night however, although most of the detail you need is in the Law Society of Scotland’s press release (linked above).

There were official photographs at the function (which I haven’t received yet), and if they don’t make me look like I’m about to alight from an aircraft with a suspicious looking violin case, I’ll upload at least one here.

I will also comment on the seats in the Scottish Parliament: they are bloody uncomfortable, and in getting comfortable I managed to give myself a dead leg (the seat stops hurting when you can’t feel the affected leg, you see). This resulted in an elaborate pirouette when I (attempted) to stand up to receive my award. In front of a packed Parliament, too (many of them teenagers, never the most sympathetic of audiences). I was assured afterwards that the uncomfortable seats were installed deliberately, and designed to stop MSPs from falling asleep. I was tempted to think that this story was akin to other stories (also told by Scots) about hunting the wild haggis through the Highlands, but apparently not.

Then there was the topic the high school debaters debated: This House would make voting in elections compulsory.

It is rather odd when the country of one’s birth is the standout case study for successful compulsory voting, because it requires people discussing it in other jurisdictions to understand it — no easy thing. On Thursday evening, this meant misunderstandings and misrepresentations from the obvious (one young man clearly did not understand the concept of a ‘Donkey Vote’, and attempted to argue that donkey voting is possible in a FPTP system) to the subtle (no-one realised that voting in local government elections in Australia is not compulsory, but that turnout remains high thanks to the reflected compulsion of state and federal elections).

And another thing: people in other countries are looking at Australia (and Canada), trying to divine the reasons for their success. Many Scots think they will get a chance to copy other countries if Scotland becomes independent. For this reason, it is quite strange to be asked — as though one is the fount of all wisdom — how things like [x] are handled in Australia.


  1. Posted June 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink


  2. Sinclair Davidson
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Can donkey vote in a FPTP system – a spoiled ballot is a spoiled ballot anywhere.

    signing the Official Secrets Act.

    Heh. Part of the system. 🙂

  3. Fxh
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Voting is compulsary in Victorian local gov elections.

  4. Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    My Official congratulations.

    Looking forward to giving out the URL for your essay, and perhaps basking in a glimmer of reflected glory. I don’t deserve a full gleam, but was glad to help in a small way.


  5. Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations 🙂

  6. Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    And that’s the other thing: federalism. The devolved parliaments over here are an instance of what I’ve taken to calling ‘NQF: Not Quite Federalism’. Clearly I’ve been away for too long, and forgotten just how Federal Australia is – as FXH’s point illustrates admirably.

    Donkey vote: numbering the boxes from top to bottom – still valid, just daft. People in Britain do not just tick the top box (what a Donkey Vote would look like in a FPTP system). And candidates on Australian ballots are not listed by alphabesis (one speaker asserted that they were).

  7. Fxh
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    And oz elections of all types are on a Saturday, not a normal workday for most people.

  8. AJ
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    I thought voting in local elections was compulsory in Qld too. But I was out of the country for the last one and I have yet to get a letter demanding an explanation for not voting, so maybe you’re right!

  9. Posted June 17, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Not compulsory in Qld – but obviously are in Vic! The debaters did get the Saturday voting part right, though, so had clearly been floating around the AEC website for some of their preparation.

  10. Posted June 17, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Apologies also from me for the extended absence and distinct lack of funnies, my MacBook Pro has decided it wants to be a Victorian heroine and keeps fainting at the worst of all possible moments necessitating some ‘hot desking’ with SL (not doing much for either of our patience levels TBH). Abnormal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

  11. Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Equal marriage IS important. example: in the event of a person in a Melbourne hospital with only days to live, non ‘relatives’ are not allowed at bedside. The 30-year partner of my aunt managed to marry her at the bedside, and was able to be with her when she died. Ex 2: inheritance of Superannuation. It cannot be bequeathed to a non relative.

    Happy congratulations on that recognition and what else came with it. Edingburgh is so wonderful, I wonder how many Scots would flock back if it became independent? This descendant of the Fiddoch thought she might.

  12. Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    ha ha – I was musing on the compulsory typo of FX and I made one as well. Of course I can spell Edinburgh.

  13. Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Hearty felicitations!!!

  14. Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Not compulsory in Qld

    It is now.

  15. James
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Most (if not all?) local governments in WA use postal voting, and turnouts vary, but few are above 50% and some are below 30%.

  16. Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Postal and online voting have been failures whenever they’ve been tried (and not just for the obvious, fraud-y possibilities). Voting serves a signalling function, which involves going to the polling booth and ‘being seen’.

  17. pete m
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    congratulations Helen – but why, why, actually CHOOSE to live in Scotland?

  18. John H.
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Congrats SL. Choose any easy non-controversial topic. Not SL!. 😀

  19. Posted June 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    For a moment there I thought you were about to weigh in with your own apology to the Chamberlains.

  20. Posted June 20, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Just a poiint, Ann @12: Superannuation can be bequeathed to a non-relative. I was able to receive my late partner’s in 2002, despite her not having specifically mentioned it in her will. Although from memory it was taxed at a hiugher rate than it would have been if I had been her dependent.

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