Wednesday, 24 August 2011

“Ordinary Domicile” is not the same as “National Origins”.

Students from the UK, who are not ordinarily domiciled in Scotland, have to pay tuition fees when studying ay Scottish universities. Those domiciled in Scotland do not. A similar fees structure is being introduced in Wales. The fees structure is based on “ordinary domicile” not “national origin”.

Easy to understand? Not if you are from Public Interest Lawyers (PIL).

According to Phil Shiner of PIL the Scottish Government has misinterpreted the law and the fees structure contravenes Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination in relation to rights and freedoms on the basis of “national origin”. He also claims that it is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 which protects against various forms of discrimination including race, which is defined to include “national origin”.

The reason why we use language is to communicate. We use different words to convey different meanings. That is why “ordinary domicile” does not mean “national origin”.

There is no legal technicality behind which the Scottish Government is hiding. Nor is there any loophole in the law which allows them to do so.

PIL’s argument that “national origin” can be determined by “ordinary domicile” is unreasonable, downright stupid and somewhat dangerous.

If this was a case of discrimination based on “national origin” then those born elsewhere in the UK but brought up in Scotland would be paying tuition fess when attending Scottish universities because of their nationality. That is patently not, nor ever has been, the case.

If we go down the road of reinterpreting language by consigning new and different meanings to words then we will never be sure what anything means.

But, I’m sure that there would be plenty of lawyers on hand to tell us.