Since the decision in Cadder was known it has been apparent that a new police duty plan would be required.
The Law Society of Scotland, we are aware, put together a proposal for a duty scheme in a well considered document extending to over 40 pages. This proposal was rejected by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Legal Aid Board.
Instead, practitioners will be aware of the four page proposal issued on 25 May 2011. The number of contentious issues arising from that proposal are too numerous to address in a brief letter such as this. Suffice to say that at a Deans of Faculty meeting hosted by the Law Society of Scotland recently it was apparent that nobody at the meeting considered these proposals to be either necessary or particularly workable or attractive.
The Law Society of Scotland’s negotiating team engaged further with SLAB and the Government in order to see what movement could be achieved and this resulted in a revised proposal being issued. The main revisals were to remove the requirement to be on both the court and police duty plans during the interim period of three months of the initial rota. Nothing was said of what would happen after that three month trial. There was a further concession to being able to attend at police stations in jurisdictions adjacent to the practitioner’s principal jurisdiction.
The Glasgow Bar Association (GBA) consider the initial proposals and the revised proposals to be wholly unacceptable.
The GBA held a ballot of their members in order to see whether or not there was a desire on the part of practitioners to make applications to be on the police station duty plan or not. I can advise that of those members who voted, the vote was UNANIMOUS, indicating an intention not to sign up to this proposal.
In light of the overwhelming and clear view support of the membership in respect of this matter, the GBA are giving notification that they do not consider the proposals, in their current form, to be appropriate. They are unacceptable!
We are aware that there are several other faculties and local bar associations who are of a similar view and we join with them and any other individual firms and solicitors who are opposed to this proposal, to call upon the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr MacAskill, to re-engage in negotiations in order to achieve something that is acceptable to practitioners.
The new plan is to be in place by 4 July 2011, which leaves little time for the Government to act. The time limit is of course of their own making. The GBA committee hold themselves available for discussions with SLAB/Scottish Government/Law Society of Scotland negotiating team and will be available to discuss workable solutions. Any solutions will have to be based on reasonableness and fair remuneration. It is essential, in the interests of those who require legal assistance, that matters be resolved but we state unequivocally that the Government cannot expect to impose terms on the profession which are onerous, unremunerative and have the potential to fall foul of current legislation and regulations in several aspects.
As an Association the GBA expect more of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and we call upon the Law Society of Scotland to issue public condemnation of the current proposals by way of press release and to deliver a clear recommendation to all members to reject the proposals in their current form.Kenneth J Waddell, President, Glasgow Bar Association