The Law Society of Scotland has called for the Scottish Government to prioritise reform of the regulation of legal services after a decision from the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to press ahead with a 12.5% rise in its levy on solicitors.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) published its draft budget for 2017/18 last January. It included a 12.5% rise in the levy which must be paid by all 11,500 Scottish solicitors, many times the rate of inflation.
Earlier this month, following an unprecedented level of concern from solicitors, the Law Society submitted a detailed paper in response to the SLCC’s consultation. The professional body described the cost hike as unacceptable when the rest of the public sector was controlling costs and undertaking strict financial discipline. The Society also disputed the SLCC’s justification for the increase, arguing that recent rises in the numbers of legal complaints equated to only a handful extra each week.
The SLCC has now announced that, despite the objections raised, it has made no changes to its plans and will press ahead with the levy rise in June.
Commenting, the President of the Law Society of Scotland, Eilidh Wiseman, said: "The SLCC’s decision to increase its annual levy by over 12%, many times the rate of inflation, has sparked outcry in the legal profession. In all the years of consulting on SLCC budgets, we have never known such anger.
“The fact the SLCC has chosen to ignore our concerns is deeply troubling. It underlines the complete lack of oversight or accountability which exists. The SLCC could have doubled or even tripled its budget and those who are required to fund it would have had no recourse.
“We simply do not believe this kind of rise would be suggested or approved if the SLCC was funded by taxpayers’ money instead of a levy on the legal profession. Whilst it is solicitors who fund the vast majority of the SLCC’s spending, consumers should also be concerned as it is clients who ultimately pay through their solicitors’ fees.
“It is clear there is an inherent unfairness in the current system which is in need of urgent reform. The Scottish Government is already committed to an independent review of the regulation of legal services. We will continue to encourage ministers to make this a priority.”
We are inviting our members and other interested parties to contact their MSPs asking them to challenge the SLCC’s decision.