Vote 'No; No' in the Referendum on Alternative Business Structures

All of us hold dear the principles essential to the administration of justice in Scotland: independence, confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest. All of us regard justice not as a product at the sole mercy of profit but as a crucial service that must be available for all our communities in Scotland. All of us now have a chance to re-affirm these ideals. Vote NO; NO to the Law Society Referendum.

To not do so would be to open up control of our legal services to purely commercial organisations. No amount of regulations or regulators stopped the banks undermining our whole banking system. ABS will allow them to now ruin our legal services.

Non-profitable areas will be abandoned - supermarkets and other so called entities are geared solely by profit. No amount of regulation will stop legal services being used as a portal for money laundering and other similar activities - our legal services will be open to criminal control.

There should be no role for the Law Society of Scotland in regulating such people. No Guarantee Fund or Master Policy could cope with this. A NO; NO vote will stop all of this in its tracks.

We need to refocus our legal services on Scotland’s communities and citizens. They deserve better. We need to send a message to the Scottish Government to think again. We must reform our Law Society as it has shown itself incapable of representing all of those trying to render a legal service in Scotland now and in the future.

We must seek to re-affirm, through any such reform, the principles crucial to the administration of justice. We must also ensure that the legal service is preserved and improved across the whole range of needs of the Scottish people and their communities. Join us to begin to make this happen and ensure you vote NO; NO by noon, 7 April 2010.

FRANK MAGUIRE, Senior Partner and Solicitor Advocate, Thompsons Solicitors
JOHN McGOVERN, Solicitor Advocate, President of the Glasgow Bar Association
WALTER SEMPLE, Solicitor, Member of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland
MIKE DAILLY, Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre
PATRICK McGUIRE, Solicitor Advocate and Partner, Thompsons Solicitors

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Ian Smart Esq,
President, Law Society of Scotland,
30th March 2010.

Dear Ian,

Legal Services Bill

I have received by email a notice dated 29th March from the Law Society regarding the outcome of the SGM on 25th March.

It became clear at the SGM that the proxies lodged by supporters of the SLAS motion outnumbered those lodged by its opponents by at least 2 to 1 and that if put to a vote the motion would defeat Council policy. You acknowledged this both at the SGM and the later Council meeting. The notice of 29th March makes no reference to this. It should have. It is essential information in the debate.

Yesterday’s notice states "As agreed at Council on 5th March, the President of the Society stated that once the motion had been debated he hoped to adjourn the meeting until after the ABS referendum...The reconvened SGM is likely to be held in late April." No reason is given for the postponement of the reconvened SGM until late April. What is it? You said at the Council meeting on 25th March that the SGM would be reconvened after the informal meeting with SLAS representatives "quam primum".

The Council Minute of 5th March at page 475 states: "Failing agreement, approval of a two thirds majority of those present would be sought to adjourn the meeting without conclusion to await the referendum result….The referendum would be instructed immediately with a view to it commencing before the SGM and closing before the parliamentary debate likely to be mid April." I understand that the parliamentary debate will take place on 14th April.

The Report of the Justice Committee dealing with Legal Services Bill at paragraph 307 specifically expresses interest in the outcome of the SGM.

You are evidently seeking to arrange that the referendum result but not the SGM result is available in public before the parliamentary debate. Your postponement of the reconvened SGM until after the parliamentary debate in my view seriously fails to keep faith with your members, MSPs and the public. As a Council member I refuse to be associated with it. I deplore it. I now ask you to reconvene the SGM not later than 12th April after the close of the referendum and before the parliamentary debate.

This is an open letter which I am initially copying to Council members to give them an opportunity to support or reject the views expressed in this letter.

Yours sincerely,
Walter Semple
(Solicitor and Member of the Law Society of Scotland's Council)



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