Conference began today, 14 April. Well, not the meetings and lectures, but at least the registration and the opening reception. We registered at the conference centre down the road from the hotel, amongst the literally thousands of others from all over the Commonwealth. There are about 500 Nigerians and a similar number of South Africans, but all nations are represented, with a decent number of UK attendees. Our wee group arrived at the desks, and gave our names for the staff to find so we could get our badges and packs. The WAGS are included in registration, so the FL and I went together to the same desk. I am delegate 667, and clearly the CLA have the measure of the FL as she has the number… 666. To be fair it is on her badge and not tattooed into her scalp (I think). We managed to dodge Gregory Peck and his knives, but I worry for my immortal soul now.
Anyway, I have been upgraded. My badge says Professor Austin Lafferty, so I now demand that all my colleagues address me as such. I am sure I deserve it.
After that start, Jamie attended a Commonwealth council meeting while the rest of us could only more or less mill about for the day until we got our full team (appropriate word as there are 11 of us including WAGS) together to attend, first, the opening CLC reception at the magnificent Cape Town International Conference Centre, and then on to the big picture, our Thank You dinner for those who had encouraged and supported our bid for Glasgow 2015, which was held at the Westin Hotel just across from the conference centre.
The reception was mobbed, with live music and food available to all. The Drumsheugh First XI stayed long enough to meet up with our guests for dinner, then went across the road to our room at the Westin. The company was piped in by Pipe Major Rodney Muller, as South African as you can get but decked out in the Gordon tartan and full regalia. Rodney is also a member of the Cape Town Rifles (see diary no 2) and at 67 looks as fit as an African flea.We had an excellent meal (ostrich – who knew it could be so tasty?). I did a little introduction from the podium, though I saw a few puzzled faces when I was promising square sausage and Irn Bru in 2015.
But the main event was a series of speeches after dinner. Jamie set the scene and described Glasgow as the city of style, thanking our partners including the UK and Scottish Governments, VisitScotland, and the Faculty of Advocates (represented by James Wolffe QC). On behalf of the UK Lord Wallace spoke. As Advocate General Jim is Britain’s highest ranking Scottish law officer, and is a friend of the Law Society of Scotland, having appeared on a number of platforms and events in support of what we are doing on behalf of the profession and the people of Scotland. He spoke of his pride in the legal heritage that Scotland possesses, and looked forward to a successful conference in 2015 hot on the heels of the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. He also mused that as the conference would likely be slap bang in the middle of a House of Commons general election in the UK, it might be opportune/necessary for us to pack the event with more available members of the House of Lords!
On visiting South Africa he finds that there are suburbs of Cape Town called Airlie, Balvennie, Glencairn and Maitland, so there seems to be already a great deal of Scotland in this part of the southern hemisphere.
The legal profession underpins so many crucial sectors of Scottish and international business and industry – oil and gas, financial services, renewables, and he reminded us of the growth of our ability to deal in international arbitration – indeed our own Arbitration Centre is an asset. Scotland has a modern, vibrant legal system. The CLA is a unique organisation with the rule of law at its core.
We were also privileged to be addressed by Lord Gill, the Lord President, who, as Jamie described him, is a strong and vocal supporter of our Society, and who gave an eloquent analysis of Scotland’s legal system. He reflected on Glasgow as a city of historic growth and development, with art, architecture and music all in major key, and some of the greatest scenery available less than an hour’s drive away. In terms of people, Lord Gill described Glasgow as having a huge heart and open arms.
Current (outgoing) CLA president Boma Ozobia of Nigeria was the final speaker. She has enough on her hands with Cape Town and its thousands of delegates, but graciously took the time to attend as our guest and thanked us in turn for our Thank You dinner – the first of its kind. Another innovation from the Law Society of Scotland. In passing, she said the Caledonian Society is a very vibrant body in Lagos – Scotland has exported haggis and the kilt all over the world, and now Nigerian lawyers are going to see it all for themselves.
So now we’re off and running. Early start tomorrow – 7am for the LSEW talk for young lawyers. Alarm clocks set.Austin