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

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Herald’s report (6 and 7 April) that almost one third of specialist family lawyers in Scotland no longer undertake civil legal aid cases is disturbing. In many developing countries, legal aid is so poorly financed that even capital cases are defended by the most inexperienced and often incompetent of practitioners, with life and death consequences.

As Scotland’s proud legal system looks down a regressive road, we have a simple choice. Do we believe in the equality of arms between opponents as a matter of justice? Or should the quality of representation be based upon your personal wealth and who you happen to be?

If the former, then we must review our legal aid system and Robert Brown MSP’s call for an inquiry is to be welcomed. If the latter, we should embrace ‘Tesco Law’, and its drivers of choice based upon individual wealth and status. But what kind of Scotland would we create?

Ian Smart’s suggestion of Tesco Law firms providing compulsory pro bono services ‘to ensure access to justice’ is the modern day equivalent of ‘Qu'ils mangent de la brioche’ (Let them eat cake). Why should vulnerable Scots facing the loss of their children, liberty, health, home, or livelihood be required to accept some compulsory Tesco Law service of unknown quality?

Should only the wealthy have free choice in our society?

We believe a progressive solution is achievable without significant cost to the Scottish taxpayer. A restructuring and removal of expensive administrative procedures could generate sufficient savings to tackle this unmet need from Scotland’s current legal aid expenditure.

John McGovern, Solicitor Advocate, President of the Glasgow Bar Association; and Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre



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