No sooner than I had posted my comments last time on the Scottish Law Agents Society being among the few people to have taken the trouble to prepare an in-depth submission on the Law Society of Scotland's constitutional proposals, than we had a little rush of responses just ahead of the 23 July deadline.
The Glasgow Bar Association and the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow were both highly critical of the drafts, particularly for the effect they would have (a) in requiring a larger number of members for the calling of a special general meeting or referendum, as well as for the bringing of a motion before a general meeting; and (b) in removing the ability of a general meeting (or as it is at present, two successive general meetings adopting the same resolution) to bind the Council. They also disapprove of the idea that representatives of interest groups within the profession should be selected by the nominations committee rather than elected by the members.
I suggested before that a balance should be struck between encouraging the democratic process and not burdening the Society (and the members who pay for it) with the whims of a few, and I stand by that principle. Numbers are not sacrosanct, but should not become an obstacle to having issues legitimately aired. Given that sections of the membership feel, perhaps, threatened by the changes now likely to take place via the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, and given the impassioned debates that have taken place this year on the future of the profession and the Society, it is not likely to win the confidence of the members to be seen to be curtailing their rights beyond that yardstick.
Hopefully the Society will take the responses back for further consideration and redrafting, as there were a number of important drafting points also made in the different submissions. In doing so it would also meet the criticism that the exercise is premature before we know the final shape of the bill, as that should be apparent by some time in October.
If we are to get a further draft, how about publishing a clause-by-clause commentary along with it, explaining the thinking behind any changes, such as we are used to seeing now with parliamentary bills? That should mean an even better informed debate and enable the proposals to be tested against their stated aims.
Change is needed, but further dialogue should take place to help get it right.