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Contractual minefield borders 'south Br itain'

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Letters

Kim Franklin's legal matters (AJ 15.6.00) well documented the variable liability periods in contract and tort - in south Britain! Here in Scotland, the law of contract and delict is distinct. The Prescription & Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 sets out liability periods of five and 20 years, the former from date of discovery of the damage, the latter from the date damage occurred.

In 1998 the bodies in the construction sector in Scotland supported moves to change the law to provide a 10 year cut-off period (from practical completion - or its services-delivery equivalent), but the Scottish Law Commission was unwilling to contemplate sectoral legislation.

Nonetheless, with a Scottish legislature now in place, the opportunities for rebuilding the argument will be more frequent.

Until a change occurs, those venturing north of the border had better watch out for the particularities of the Scottish liability minefield - a position sometimes made even more complex when contracts for a project are drawn up under both English and Scottish law.

Beware!

Sebastian Tombs, secretary and treasurer, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

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