Council reports 2013

Council Meeting, 28 June 2013

Scotland’s constitutional future

The legal profession and system must be at the heart of the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future, a paper before Council members stressed.

The draft paper set out a number of issues that will feature in the run-up to the referendum on Scotland’s independence.

Key issues – which were identified from discussions and events with the profession, Society committees, stakeholders and at political party conferences – included:

  • Scotland’s membership of the European Union and international treaties and organisations
  • what a ‘no’ vote could mean for Scotland
  • the impact of independence on the economy and business
  • judicial and parliamentary restructuring in the event of independence

The paper said: “The Society believes that whatever Scotland’s future, Scotland’s law, legal system and legal profession must be at the centre of policy development.

“As the professional body of Scottish solicitors, the Law Society of Scotland has access to significant knowledge and expertise on constitutional and other legal areas.

“We know from research carried out across the political parties that the Society is a highly respected and much valued organisation. We therefore have much to offer the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future and a reputation which means that contribution is likely to be listened to.”

It added that the Society would respect the varied individual views of members and remain neutral on the question of whether or not Scotland should become independent.

Members debated the paper, focusing on the issues of whether or not the UK and Scottish Governments should disclose their legal advice on EU membership and also how both independence and the status quo would impact on the legal system and profession.

The draft paper, which was described as a “work in progress”, will be brought back to the Council. It is scheduled for publication in the autumn to use as an engagement tool with political parties and the referendum campaigns.


Constitution and e-voting

Members should vote on two constitutional amendments recommended by the Society’s Constitution Working Party, the Council agreed.

One would allow open proxies for general meetings to be submitted electronically, rather than only by post, as at present.

The other minor change takes into account the effect of the planned court closures on the link between Council constituencies and sheriff court districts.

Changes to the constitutions should increase transparency and make better use of technology, the Council was told.

A scoping exercise is currently under way to prioritise future reform work.


Legal services reform

The introduction of reforms to the legal services marketplace are moving forward, Council members heard.

A progress report on discussions with the Scottish Government said recent meetings on implementation of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act had been helpful.

Further talks are due to take place in July. A further progress report will be brought to the Council in August.


Council

Office bearers and senior executive staff from the Law Society’s of England and Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland were welcomed as guests at the Council meeting

They later took part in a four jurisdictions meeting hosted by the Society in Edinburgh.

The new member for Cupar, Susan Williams, was also welcomed to the Council.