Council reports 2014

Council Meeting, 30 May 2014

Regulation consultation

A consultation looking at the option of significant changes to the way Scottish solicitors are to be regulated is to be carried out, the Council has agreed.

The consultation will be held on two separate issues:

  • entity-based regulation and charging, in addition to the regulation of individual solicitors; and,
  • principles and outcome-focused regulation, rather than a rule-based system.

Staging the consultation is in line with the Society’s corporate plan for 2013/14, which outlined the need to “ensure our system of regulation is effective, fair, relevant and proportionate, protecting those who rely on our members and the services they offer”.

The corporate plan pledged to examine “the concept of moving towards a principles-based system of regulation” and also explore regulation of legal entities.

The decision to consult follows consideration of the regulatory needs of the profession as part of a review of the Society’s strategy. The issues were initially identified by the Regulatory Committee.

Neither the Regulatory Committee nor the Council have adopted a position for or against either reforms but are both keen to hear views from members before any formal decisions are taken.

The Director of Regulation, Philip Yelland, the “conversation with the profession” and other stakeholders would inform future thinking and policy development.

A discussion among Council members heard that it was important for the Society to lead the debate on the regulation of solicitors.

The three-month consultation is expected to begin in July, with a full report drawn up for consideration by the Council. If the principles of the new approaches were accepted, further consultations would follow.

Assisted Suicide Bill

Legislation to allow assisted suicide should contain much clearer definitions, the Society’s Council heard.

The warning about the lack of clarity was included in a draft Society response to the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, which aims to make it lawful for a person to assist another to commit suicide, under certain circumstances. 

The response pointed out that there is no clear definition of what “assisted suicide” is or what it is to “assist suicide”. The role of “licensed facilitator” is also not clearly defined. There are also questions over proposed time limits between a request for an assisted suicide and when it could be legally carried out.

The Society called for careful consideration of the proposed age at which someone could request or facilitate an assisted suicide. In the Bill, 16 year olds could request assisted suicide and be assisted by another 16 year old.

Additional concerns were raised about the provision to allow a solicitor to act as a proxy to sign the request for assisted suicide for a person who is blind, unable to read or unable to sign themselves.

The Society will submit its response to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee and is likely to give oral evidence later in the year.

Scotland’s constitutional future

The Society’s important role in the discussion on independence for Scotland was highlighted during a debate among Council members.

The Council considered a draft response to the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence.

The document, Scotland’s Constitutional Future: views and counter views, was described as well drafted.

It was pointed out that the Society’s had already carried out valuable work on the constitutional question.

However, a Society poll conducted by Ipsos Mori showed that 67% of respondents found it difficult to believe whether the information provided in the public debate was true or not. The Society could help in giving voters impartial information, it was argued.

The draft report included input from the Society’s committees, sub-committees and feedback from solicitors and Council members.

Office bearers and Council members

The longest serving member of the Council, Alistair Morris, has taken up the role of President.

The Chief Executive of Edinburgh and Fife-based Pagan Osborne paid tribute to his predecessor Bruce Beveridge – who took the position of Past President – and said he was “tremendously honoured and excited” to be President after 21 years on the Council.

Former general counsel for Pinsent Masons and currently Convener of the Society’s Education Committee, Christine McLintock, became Vice President.

The Council welcomed a number of new members: Colin Anderson, Brandon Malone and Vikki Melville – all representing Edinburgh – and Carl Crone in the constituency of Ayr, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Stranraer.

The appointment of eight law members was also approved. Existing members Professor Bronwen Cohen, Suzanne Dawson, Christopher Fraser, Professor James Gallagher and John Reid were appointed to serve a further three-year term from 1 June. Susan Carter, Christine Walsh and Graham Watson were appointed as new lay members.

Thanks were expressed to outgoing lay members Robin McGill and Martin Allan.

A minute’s silence was held for Professor Stewart Hamilton, who passed away earlier in the month. The former Chair of the Society's Audit Committee was said to have contributed a “vast amount of work and influence” to the Society.