A new system of regulation to promote accountability, transparency and independence is being proposed to meet the needs of the legal sector and consumers.

A consultation has been launched today and will run until 24 December to seek views on options to change the way legal services are regulated and how the legal complaints system operates. The options will promote competition, innovation and the public and consumer interest in an efficient, effective and independent legal sector.

Legal services contribute to the social value of Scotland and there is significant diversity in the types of legal services people access. Many will interact with legal services when buying a home or writing a will. There are also a range of commercial matters supported by legal services, from the small business to the multi-national corporation.

The legal sector in Scotland is worth over £1.5 billion to the Scottish economy each year and is responsible for over 20,000 high value jobs. Not only an economic generator in its own right but a profession that plays a key role in the infrastructure supporting growing sectors; including Financial Services, Renewables and Bioscience.

The options include three potential models of regulation, developed collaboratively with stakeholders representing the legal profession and the consumer interest. It will also provide an opportunity to create a new statutory framework for a modern, forward-looking regulatory system for legal services in Scotland.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said: “We have one of the best legal professions in the world, however improvements to the regulatory structure and delivery are needed to further support access to justice.

“The need for regulation reform is well understood and supported by the legal profession and organisations representing the consumer interest. It is widely agreed that some aspects of the current system can be significantly improved, such as current restrictions which may inhibit competition in the sector and the complex complaints system.

“This consultation signals the Scottish Government’s willingness to take forward supported recommendations that will deliver an enhanced system of legal services regulation.

“We want a modern, forward-looking legal services regulation framework that will best promote competition, innovation and the public and consumer interest in an efficient, effective and independent legal sector.

“I encourage all those with an interest in this area to make their views known and look forward to a constructive debate on the future of legal services regulation in Scotland.”