Thank you Lord Davies!

Most people in the UK have only a passing knowledge of Thanksgiving and would normally associate the holiday vaguely with the first settlers in the ‘New World’.  It may therefore surprise you that it was President Lincoln who first made Thanksgiving a national holiday in the late 1800s. He aimed to help unify the states during a trying time in which thousands lost their lives in order to end slavery and establish equality among the races.  The battle for equality that the American Civil War symbolises is still relevant this Thanksgiving, as that battle is still not over.

The recent publication of Lord Davies’ report on gender equality on Company Boards and the (much, much smaller) step that it represents in the progression towards equality in our country shows us that the battle marches on.

While it is clear that some progress has been made (there are no all male boards on the FTSE 100 and women hold 26% of board positions in FTSE 100 companies, compared to 12.5% in 2011) in terms of the gender imbalance on Company Boards in the UK, it could be argued that the Davies Report serves mainly to highlight the inequality that still exists.

With a view to addressing that imbalance, the report recommends that businesses be encouraged to take it upon themselves to progress matters and in particular sets targets for Companies to attain within the next 5 years.  The Report points out that the number of women in executive positions (at the moment 9.6% in FTSE 100 Companies) is particularly low and exhorts Companies to put measures in place to improve this.  On the other hand, the report did not recommend introducing mandatory quotas (favoured by many other European countries) for female board representation, despite evidence from other jurisdictions that such policies are effective.

The report also recommends that large Companies should be placed under reporting duties to increase the level of transparency in this area. It is advised that Companies be required to publish their policies for obtaining gender equality within their organisation and to disclose the proportion of women on their boards, the number of women in executive positions in the company and the number of female employees in the organisation.  It remains to be seen whether these measures will be put in place and further, whether they will allow the UK to meet its gender equality targets over the next 5 years. However, it is clear that progress is being made, which is something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Kieran Reilly is a trainee solicitor working in the corporate team in Fife and Edinburgh.

GIVING THANKS, KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS

Thanksgiving can be traced back to 1621, when the first settlers of the eastern coast of what is now the USA celebrated the fruits of the land and gave thanks for the harvest. What isn’t so readily discussed is that the settlers, in order to reap the benefits of the harvest, appropriated the land from the indigenous peoples of the region.  Whilst the Thanksgiving season is a long established and celebrated part of American life, this original act of appropriation is not without its cultural sensitivities.

Compulsory appropriation of land by public authorities in Scotland is a similarly sensitive matter and not without difficulty.  In order to develop a piece of land for public benefit, it is often the case that someone’s land or property must be taken over.  A recent example would be the area of North Queensferry and Rosyth where the public interest in building the new Queensferry Bridge requires the Scottish Government to acquire land from local residents through the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (“CPO”s).

Who can apply for a CPO?

  • A local authority
  • The Scottish Government
  • A utility company, or
  • A railway company

Examples of reasons for applying for a CPO:

  • Widening or building a road,
  • Building a public building,
  • Regenerating a public community
  • Build a new railway line
  • Extend an airport
  • Build a windfarm,
  • Lay pipes, or erect pylons

How does the process work?

CPOs must be approved by the Scottish Government. The Scottish ministers weigh up the public benefit to the damage and detriment caused, before coming to a decision. If the benefit outweighs the damage, then a CPO can be obtained.

How can you object?

The authority must notify all the individuals and businesses affected by the CPO, in order to give them a right to object, they also must put a notice in a local newspaper for 2 weeks. You will have a certain time limit to respond (this must be at least 21 days), and the Scottish Ministers receive the objections and comments. An enquiry may be held by an independent reporter. The Scottish ministers will weigh up the findings and come to a decision. If the CPO is approved, all the affected parties will receive a notice. You have 6 weeks to appeal the decision from the date of the notice.

Points to Consider:

Should a CPO be approved that involves your land, you should make sure that: 1) you meet with the local authority as soon as possible to find out the extent of their plans, 2) you get a valuation for the land affected, 3) the public authority provides you with compensation for any disturbance and loss of property, and pay your legal fees (it is up to you to keep records and provide any invoices for professional fees), and 4) you have all the necessary rights of access in order to be able to access your property and land, as well as to be able to lead services and access any existing ones.

If you need any advice in relation to a CPO, give the Commercial Property Team a call.