Council reports 2014
Council Meeting, 29 August 2014
Society’s fees and budget
A fifth successive freeze in the annual practising certificate fee will be considered by solicitors at next month’s special general meeting.
The proposal to keep the PC fee at £550 was endorsed by the Society’s Council and a motion will now be put to members at the SGM.
The Council also agreed to maintain the Guarantee Fund accounts fee at £400 and the Guarantee Fund contribution at £180.
The incidental financial business fees, which stand at £100 for each business carrying out that work and £100 for individuals doing likewise, will also remain unchanged.
The retention fee for remaining on the roll of solicitors will go up by £10 to £90, while the non-practising member fee will increase by £20 to £180.
The Treasurer, David Newton, said the fee levels had been put forward as part of the Society’s budget for 2014/15.
He explained that although a small surplus of £8,100 was projected, the budget had essentially been geared towards achieving a break-even position. He added that the budget took account of the financial position of many firms.
Council members heard that reserves were in a healthy position and the number of practising solicitors had broken through the 11,000 barrier for the first time, ensuring stability of fee income.
The Chief Executive, Lorna Jack, who also put the draft annual plan for 2014/15 to Council members, said it was a “terrific milestone” to reach 11,000 members for the first time in the Society’s history.
Previously described as the corporate plan, the annual plan sets out the Society’s priority projects for the year ahead and will be published ahead of the SGM.
Special general meeting
The agenda for the Society’s special general meeting next month was agreed by Council members.
The SGM, which will be held at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow on 24 September, will include a motion proposing an amendment to the Society’s constitution to change the system for electing Council members.
The Constitution Working Party recommended that the first-past-the-post method should be replaced by the single transferable vote (STV), which ranks candidates in order of preference.
A report before Council members explained: “A preferential voting system can help ensure a balanced and diverse elected body and help to avoid minority groups being squeezed out in the voting process.
“This can be particularly important when using geographical constituencies and ensuring areas of large population do out unfairly ‘outweigh’ areas of lower population.”
STV is currently used for the election of the president, vice president and Board members.
A members’ consultation found 70% support for the change among respondents, with 12% against and 18% undecided.
The Council agreed to support the principle of moving to the STV system. A motion will now be put to solicitors at the SGM.
A discussion among Council members heard that the new Smartcard for Society members, which is being rolled out from autumn this year to November 2015, could also encourage e-voting in the future. The secure card acts as a professional ID that is recognised across Europe.
The SGM will also consider two draft practice rules, put forward as motions for endorsement by the Regulatory Committee.
One would ensure that all Scottish multi-national practices contribute to the Master Policy. The other would alter the power of attorney rules to allow a solicitor to act as an attorney in private matters separate from his or her professional life as a solicitor.
Solicitors should help shape the way they are regulated by responding to two ongoing consultations, the Council heard.
The consultations – one on entity regulation and charging, the other looking at principles and outcome focused regulation – could lead to significant changes to the regulatory system.
Members were urged to respond to the consultations before 10 October. Neither the Council nor the Regulatory Committee have taken a fixed view on the best way forward.
More information is available on the Society's website.