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, 15 April 2010

Reasonable and respectful?

From: Ian S. Smart

To: Council Members
Sent: Wednesday, 14 April, 2010 20:28:20
Subject: Events

Dear Colleague,

I'm writing to try and bring you up to date with the events of the last few days.

On Monday afternoon, the Society was contacted by four separate members to complain that wrong information had been given in the notice calling the reconvened SGM in relation to the inability to submit fresh proxies. They included one very prominent member of the Scottish Law Agents Society. We then reviewed the terms of the Constitution and concluded that the criticism made was a valid one. The constitution provides for proxies to be lodged no less than 48 hours before any meeting or adjourned meeting.despite it being on the basis that no new proxies could be submitted for an adjourned meeting that both we and SLAS had proceeded on (and since) 25th March. One of our correspondents in particular suggested that to proceed to a vote on Friday without allowing proxies would leave the result of any putative meeting open to challenge (by implication) in the Courts.

I am mortified that this error was made in the first place. I'd be happy to try and explain what happened (insofar as I understand it) at the Council Meeting. Nonetheless by mid-afternoon on Monday, it was clear an error had been made and needed rectified in some way.The problem was that this could not be done by the date of the originally scheduled meeting as a corrective notice issued even early on Tuesday would have given a maximum period of 24 hours for additional proxies to be collected and, in accordance with our archaic constitution, physically lodged at Drumsheugh Gardens. That, in turn, would inevitably have left us open to challenge that insufficient notice of correction had been given.

Accordingly, with great reluctance, Lorna, Jamie and I decided on Monday evening that we had no alternative but to postpone the reconvened meeting. We were aware of three things:-

1) That inevitably this would look incompetent and attract bad publicity.

2) That conspiracy theorists would suggest we were trying to renege on our undertaking that the original purpose of the adjournment was specifically not to gather extra proxies for the pro-ABS camp.

3) That the self-same sources might suggest an intention on our part to postpone the vote until after the Scottish Parliament Stage 1 debate.

There was little that could be done about the first of these but to head off the second Jamie, Cammie and I gave an undertaking to the profession that we would not accept, personally, any additional proxies. In relation to the third, I personally contacted the Minister to request he use his influence to ensure the debate not take place next week. Whether as a result of my efforts or otherwise, we are assured that the debate will not now take place until 28th April at the earliest.

We also felt the reconvened meeting should take place at the earliest possible date. In pursuit of that it was arranged for 21st April.

Unfortunately today certain elements associated with the law agents have sought to suggest that it was not competent for us to reschedule the meeting. I will return to this later.

The second major development on Monday was the meeting of the Council of SLAS. It is now, I think, an open secret that the deal/compromise or whatever one wishes to call it proposed between SLAS and the pro-ABS forces was essentially as outlined in the McGrigors amendment circulated with the papers for the reconvened SGM.

I regret to say that despite earlier indications to the potential contrary, the SLAS Council decided on Monday that they could not agree to this and wished to press their outright opposition to ABS to a vote. I think I am entitled to say that there were quite strong disagreements internally within SLAS as to the wisdom of this course and I regret that in the aftermath of that meeting Michael Scanlan has resigned as President of SLAS. I am at a loss to know precisely how now to interpret the position of SLAS as it has been suggested to me that they are still prepared to compromise but only after they have passed their motion! Quite how and when any compromise is then to be reached and endorsed in any sort of timescale that might influence the Government is a complete mystery. It is undoubtedly the case however that SLAS hold sufficient proxies to do this if they want.

Whether as a result of the SLAS Council being now dominated by more intemperate heads or whatever, in the course of today, SLAS have suggested that it was incompetent to postpone the reconvened SGM and that we were somehow instead obliged to proceed with a meeting that had been, by common consent, called incompetently. Michael Sheridan, their secretary has written today threatening to go ahead with a "Special General Meeting" of the Law Society at the Sheraton on Friday, even if none of the Officers or staff of the Society are in attendance. Whether they intended or intend to proceed to a vote at this event is unclear. We were in no doubt that rescheduling the meeting was competent but we were conscious that in light of the difficulties already arisen from our own error, we were in an awkward position to simply assert that. We have accordingly taken Counsel's opinion in the course of the day and that has, indeed, confirmed our view. We have written back indicating that whatever might or might not take place at the Sheraton on Friday it will not be regarded by us as a General Meeting of the Law Society. I'm hoping however that people might calm down over this overnight, not least because the same opinion confirms that the meeting on the 21st is validly constituted and at least part of the concern here is maintained to be a fear by the Law Agents that this might not be the case and accordingly any vote taken then would be invalid.

You'll gather that this matter is rather taking over my life at the moment. I am sorry if I've not been able to keep everybody as fully advised as would have been ideal but I had high hopes that I might have been writing to you on Tuesday announcing we had a done deal. The most depressing thing of all is that we are conducting this debate as if we were the only players. Nobody in Government has ever repudiated the "no change is not an option" statement. In all of this that is simply being ignored. The real danger is that if we continue to speak with a divided voice then the Government will, at some point, simply ignore us altogether and get on with doing what they want. I'm not sure how that serves anybody's agenda.




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