General meetings

The Society usually holds an annual general meeting (AGM) in the spring.

The AGM considers the annual report and the practising certificate fee for Scottish solicitors for the forthcoming year. The Society's corporate plan and budget are also reported at the AGM.

The general meetings are open to all members of the Society. Motions can be raised at the meetings by both the Council of the Society and individual members.

SGM September 2013

SGM report, 23 September 2013

The full video of the SGM is available by logging in to your members area, where the video link and password are provided.

Solicitors today voted against a proposed rule change that would introduce mandatory separate legal representation for borrowers and lenders in all conveyancing transactions.

The decision was taken at the Law Society of Scotland's special general meeting in Glasgow.

Including proxies, solicitors voted 847 to 671 against a change in the conflict of interest rules. There was one abstention. Two amendments to the motion backing a rule change - one which called for further consultation before making a decision - were defeated.

Today's decision followed a vote in favour of the principle of change at the annual general meeting earlier this year. The Society then conducted a consultation with consumer groups, lenders and solicitors, which showed that opinions were divided.

The issue of separate representation will now be looked at by the Society's Regulatory Committee, which will consider the vote and the views expressed during the discussion before deciding how to take the matter forward.

During a lengthy debate at the SGM, those opposed to separate representation said it would add significant cost and bureaucracy to the conveyancing process, adding that many of the arguments in favour of change were based on "fallacies".

Jonathan Edwards, of McVey & Murricane, who opposed the motion, said he passionately believed separate representation was a "disaster for the public" and could prove the "final nail in the coffin" for many high street solicitors.

He said only a small number of transactions resulted in claims against firms based on the Council of Mortgage Lenders' (CML) handbook, mostly against solicitors who were no longer in practice.

Supporters of separate representation argued that there was an increased risk of conflict of interest in conveyancing transactions due to onerous requirements placed on solicitors by lenders.

George MacWilliam, the Council member for Inverness, Dingwall, Tain, Dornoch and Wick, said a move to separate representation would ensure the public received truly independent legal advice.

He added that failure to support the motion would leave solicitors at the mercy of the lenders and their panels, while a clear vote in favour would enable the Society to go back to the CML and discuss the consequences of that decision.

Kennedy Foster, from the CML, said the organisation was "perfectly willing" to negotiate the terms of the lenders' handbook.

President Bruce Beveridge praised the "sheer amount of work" carried out by the Society on the issue of separate representation. He thanked those at the meeting for engaging so widely in such an important debate.

The SGM, which was streamed live for the first time, also agreed to freeze the practising certificate fee at £550 for the fourth successive year in recognition of the "challenges faced by many in the profession".

The intention is also to retain the same PC subscription level for the next three financial years, though there will be small increases in the retention and non-practising member fees.

Around 100 solicitors at the SGM heard that 2013/14 budget showed a small deficit of £4,000, which will be funded from reserves.

In presenting the corporate plan for 2013/14, Chief Executive Lorna Jack said the Society would work hard to deliver a better service and better value for money for members.

A motion amending the incidental financial business rules was also agreed and members supported two constitutional amendments. One will allow proxies for general meetings to be submitted electronically, rather than only by post. The other takes into account the effect of the planned court closures on the link between Council constituencies and sheriff court districts.