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On re-typesetting the Referendum Reference

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A momentous decision was handed down on Wednesday 23rd November by a unanimous Supreme Court, ruling on a reference from His Majesty’s Advocate, that a proposed bill on a referendum on Scottish independence was on a reserved matter under the Scotland Act 1998, and thus without the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The per curiam judgment in the case, [2022] UKSC 31 is written in a clear and careful style, perfectly calibrated for the wide public audience which a case of this significance naturally attracts. In turn, the significance of Reference re Referendum Bill For more on how I name reference cases, see my previous note on the subject. calls for a resplendent judgment reading. For more on the art of judgment reading, see my previous post on the topic. To aid in the art of this reading, I have re-typeset the judgment, and added a headnote. This version is appended infra, preceded by my notes on its preparation.

Notes on preparation

The style of my re-typesetting was strongly influenced by the ICLR’s law reports. These, in many ways, are a gold standard of judgment reading, and I have consequently followed them in their use of Tschichold’s Sabon for the body text, with a sans-serif face (Gill Sans) for the page numbering. I even used a bit of bold to follow the ICLR, despite my general preference against this. Similarly, I followed the ICLR layout of the heading and catchwords, as well as of the relative type size of the headnote. I tried to restrict the headnote to a clear, direct style; no one needs a florid headnote! As a slightly silly flourish, I did put the Lord Advocate’s title in small-caps. This is to be taken as me having fun in a project, and not as general typographic advice. For the names of counsel, I used an initials and honorifics format, checking via chambers directories or regulatory pages to confirm honorifics.

An early draft of the re-typeset used the English Cur adv vult to indicate that the Court took time for consideration. I am grateful to a user of a popular microblogging platform, ‘Alasdair Chaluim’, who rightly pointed out that, as this is a Scottish case, this should be Avizandum. I have revised it accordingly. The names of their Lordships in the panel judging this case are unwieldy in size and present a relatively unsightly block of text. This was designed to imitate the ICLR, but could use some revision in future.

Due to limits on my own time, and a desire to prepare this re-typeset quickly, I was limited in my options for quickly re-doing paragraphs. As a result, they are done list-style, with a line space between them and the number hanging within the left margin. This is sub-optimal and outside my normal template for a law report, but this was a quick project and some things had to be sacrificed for speed. Similarly, I have not corrected the judgment for style (so double-quotation marks are left in, instead of being changed to single-quotation marks). Section headings are a simple italic, and quotations are handled by a simple indent with some leading above and below. The closing note (‘Reference disposed’) is a guess at the proper style of the closing note for a reference case; this is a matter for further consideration.

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© , Elijah Granet, but licensed to all under the terms of Creative Commons licence CC-BY-SA 4.0

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  1. Love the formatting, but just some comments on matters of style on the first page (not the substance of your summary):

    A (and E and G): "His Majesty’s Advocate" is only used in criminal cases. In civil cases, it is "Lord Advocate".

    D-E: "Outwith" is a peculiarly Scottish term, which is more akin to "outside" than "without".

    E-F: Typo "SCottish"

    H: the LA did not appear "for the Scottish Government". She appeared in her own right, as it is the LA that is given the power to refer under the Scotland Act.

    The Advocate General for Scotland lodged defences and made an appearance, so it should be the respondent, not "His Majesty’s Government in Right of the United Kingdom"

    The SNP was an "Intervener" not "Intervenor" (per UKSC practice directions)


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