Welcome to the 2020s. Forgive me for not predicting a decade of unparalleled peace and prosperity. However, I can still wish the very best to each of you individually.
One thing can be said with some confidence: the environment, using the term in whatever sense you like, within which we all live and work will look very different in 10 years’ time from how it does today.
To what extent can we, individually and collectively, help shape that future? The political and economic winds may be largely beyond our influence, but there remains much that a proactive approach and can-do attitude can help to direct. That applies equally to keeping up with the relentless march of technology, at least to the extent that clients might expect, and to being alert to business opportunities, whether from Brexit or other political shifts, whatever their effect on the economy generally, or more local circumstances affecting the client base.
There is also, however, a bigger, and controversial, issue with which the profession will have to engage. In this month’s lead feature Professor Crerar speaks out in favour of the Roberton report and the Law Society of Scotland losing its regulatory role to an independent body – necessary, he argues, if the Scottish profession is to thrive, and remain part of a distinct system.
Independence is the nub of this debate, and is invoked on both sides: independence of regulation, on the Roberton approach, and independence of the profession, on the Society’s counter-argument. Each position is both backed as in the public interest, and challenged as prejudicing the aspect of independence promoted by the other side.
How will that be resolved? Crerar is right is stating that the trend, across professions and in other jurisdictions, is towards separate regulation, and to that extent the Society, and those who support its position, find themselves on the defensive. But neither side’s arguments can be said to be lacking in strength: the threat, from the Society’s point of view, is from the role of the state in making appointments to a body regulating professionals who at times will be the last resort of those seeking to challenge the state. And without such a role, to whom would that body be accountable?
The Scottish Government has remained neutral to date, in the hope of finding some common ground. If that is possible at all, it will have to involve carefully framed checks and balances. But what Professor Crerar is seeking for the moment is a greater willingness to engage in debate, and a readiness to engage with this sort of issue is likely to become a part of that.