Council reports 2012

Council Meeting, 23 November 2012

Draft regulatory scheme

The Society’s draft regulatory scheme to licence and regulate licensed providers under the 2010 Act was approved by the Council and will be submitted to the Scottish Government.

If approved by the government, the Lord President and the Office of Fair Trading, the Society could be authorised as an approved regulator and start to receive formal applications from the first licensed providers of legal services in the spring.

Philip Yelland, Director of Regulation, said agreeing the draft scheme was an "important staging post" on the way to the Society regulating new legal services providers.

He added that, in response to a debate at last month’s Council meeting, the level of investment that would trigger a fit and proper person test had been reduced from 10% to 0.5%.

The meeting also heard that the Society had received up to 50 enquires about applying for LP status from a wide range of businesses. Most were Scottish law firms, including a number of small practices

The Society’s president, Austin Lafferty, paid tribute to the huge amount of work carried out by those working on the project.

Legal aid and access to justice

Proposed cuts to the legal aid budget would damage access to justice for the most needy in Society, the Council heard.

A lengthy debate on legal aid and access to justice focused on Scottish Government plans to reduce the legal aid budget by £25m to £132m by 2014/15, highlighting those who would suffer most if the cuts went ahead.

A report before the Council said: "The scale of the challenge ahead will be vast."

Council members said efforts to safeguard access to justice and protect solicitors’ interests must remain constructive, persuasive and persistent.

Edinburgh member Eilidh Wiseman added that opposing the cuts presented an "opportunity for the profession to be unified".

Earlier this month, Society president Austin Lafferty and Chief Executive Lorna Jack joined solicitors in a protest outside the Scottish Parliament over some aspects of the legislation that introduces contributions in criminal legal aid.

Particular concerns include the threshold at which contributions would be payable and the system for collecting contributions, which would become the responsibility of individual solicitors.

President and vice president

Society Vice President Bruce Beveridge will step up to the role of President in 2013/14 after standing unopposed.

The current Guarantee Fund Sub-Committee Convener, Alistair Morris, will take up the position of nest year’s Vice President. He was the sole nominee for the post. Both begin their terms of office in May 2013.

Two new members were welcomed onto the Council: Lynda Towers, Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament and Chair of the Society’s In-House Lawyers’ Group Committee; and, Dumfries solicitor Paul Matthews, representing Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Stranraer.