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UK News

Scottish government to pay 'additional costs' over church closures being ruled unlawful

by Kelly Valencia

A judge has ordered the Scottish government to pay "additional costs" to the lawyers who represented clergy after they won a legal challenge that saw the closure of places worship during the pandemic deemed unlawful. 

Earlier this year, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled in favour of 27 church leaders that had argued the blanket ban on places of worship out in place in January was unconstitutional and breached Human Rights law. 

Lord Braid sided with the group, saying the restrictions were disproportionate and interfered with the freedom of religion granted in the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The lawyers who represented the churches had argued that given the nature of the case and all the work that had gone into it, their final payment should be increased by 100 per cent. However, Lord Braid said that figure was "inappropriate". 

In a new judgment published on Wednesday, Lord Braid ordered that their payments should be increased by 50 per cent. 

"In all the circumstances, having regard to the increased responsibility undertaken by the solicitor in relation to the heads identified above, I have determined that an appropriate percentage increase is one of 50 per cent and I will so order," the judgment reads. 

"I do not consider that an increase of the highest magnitude is appropriate. The appropriate figure is somewhere between that contended for by the pursuers, and the somewhat tentative counter suggestion on behalf of the defenders of 25-30%, which was based purely on head.

The total sum that the government will have to pay has not been disclosed. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which represented the church leaders, said: "I am delighted to see the skill and expertise that went into the case recognised once more.

"This decision is a timely reminder that governments may not impose excessive or unnecessary restrictions on churches. I hope that politicians around the UK will remember this as they consider lifting remaining restrictions and prohibitive guidance."

You can read the full judgement here

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