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

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The result of the Alternative Business Structures (ABS) referendum has reaffirmed that the Council of the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) has lost the support of its membership to unconditionally promote and support ABS.

49.73% of members who voted were against any form of ABS - a remarkable level of opposition given the pro-external ownership campaign mounted by the LSS. To suggest there are 'areas of consensus on some models of ABS' negates the fact that almost 50% of LSS members voting were opposed to any model of ABS as a matter of principle.

Likewise, to suggest 'ABS wins by a whisker' was inhabile with the fact 50.27% of members voting were only in favour of ABS "as long as there are appropriate safeguards to protect the core values of the legal profession ..." . That conditional support currently carries little weight when the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee has itself expressed doubt over the appropriateness of safeguards in the Bill as drafted.

Govan Law Centre's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, has today written to LSS President, Mr. Ian Smart, to ensure that Scottish solicitors will be consulted on whether the Bill as drafted, or as to be amended by the Scottish Government, will contain 'appropriate safeguards' as regards ABS:

"In light of the ABS referendum vote, it is clear members of the Law Society of Scotland must be consulted in due course with a final referendum on the question, 'Do you agree that the proposals for ABS amount to appropriate safeguards to protect the core values of the legal profession in Scotland?. Yes or No'. I hope our President will accept the need for this subsequent referendum, given the clear message sent to Council by the result of yesterday's referendum".



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