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

Aberdeen solicitor, Catriona Walker's response to Fergus Ewing MSP (published in The Herald today):

"What does Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing mean by an “independent Scottish legal system”(Letters, April 3). Independent of whom? The Legal Services Bill before the Scottish Parliament gives up the independence guaranteed by the Treaty of Union (referred to in the Scotland Act) which sought to protect the independence of the Scottish legal system (in relation to private law,) by vetoing any change to the system “except for the evident utility of the subjects of Scotland”.

The Legal Services Bill includes the specific provision that English solicitors are presumed fit to own legal service providers in Scotland. Mr Ewing’s fitness-to-own test is a mere illusion and there is word that the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority of England and Wales has indicated an interest in applying to be a regulator in Scotland.

There is a difference between protectionism and protection. Scots private law needs to be protected from being totally overtaken by its larger neighbour. The public interest and the consumer interest in Scotland need to be protected.

In order to provide this protection, it seems clear that restricted ownership (by Scottish-qualified lawyers), professional standards (of training, qualification and practice) and appropriate safeguards (of indemnity insurance and guarantee) should apply to legal advice. An illusory, statutory test of fitness is insufficient.

It is not clear that Westminster bodies and English legal service providers have any understanding of the Scottish legal system, yet they have had a profound influence on the generation of the Legal Services Bill, in the name of consumerism, but in the absence of evidence. How can that be for the “evident utility” of the Scottish subjects?

The minister serves in an SNP administration. His actions put at risk the independence of Scots law. How are we to understand his political objectives?"



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