Lawyers can't do maths shock horror. Not.
It may have made good newspaper copy to print an account of what I can readily believe was a robust phone conversation between Mike Dailly, then of the Law Society of Scotland's Access to Justice Committee, and Lindsay Montgomery of the Scotltish Legal Aid Board, concerning the former's proposals to break up the latter's organisation and have part of its work done by solicitors instead. And no doubt once the details of what was allegedly said became public, the Society felt obliged to stand up for its members in the face of the more colourful comments said to have been tossed in their direction.
A little tiff with the odd insult thrown in, and they thought the neighbours weren't listening. Was there much more to it than that? The Society is sensitive to the charge that it does't stand up to SLAB. SLAB is sensitive to the charge that it doesn't deliver value for money. In fact the two bodies, while very much on opposite sides of the fence, appear to get along well enough most of the time and with a degree of mutual respect. But if anything gets out of kilter publicly between them, a little ritual handbagging is necessary before honour can be restored.
Probably it was just a bit of mischief making to send the comments to the press in the first place, five months after the event. If so, neither side should let it distract them from the serious business of trying to implement painful cuts in the legal aid budget without unduly penalising any section of the profession or its clients. That is a difficult enough job without it being conducted in an atmosphere of suspicion and recrimination.
We are now told that there is to be a top level meeting between the two bodies, with, we are told, everything on the record and publicly available afterwards. Hopefully that will be enough to help the dust settle on this particular episode and for them both to get back to the proper issues of concern – how the available money is to be shared out. That, after all, is where the real judgments on performance will be made.