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12 Point Summary of SLAS Opposition to the Roberton Review

By Michael Sheridan

1. The Rule of Law
The Report has taken no account of the Rule of Law, the doctrine of separation of powers of
legislature, executive and justiciary which is the foundation of the rule of law.
The Scottish Government (SG) will appoint persons to the new regulator. Warnings of
ignoring this are cf. Zimbabwe, Turkey and Poland.

2. We already have external regulation -external from solicitors and Government.
The Regulatory Committee (RC) of the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) was set up to be separate from the LSS. This has proved so in practice. The RC is under the Lord President of the Court of Session as part of the Judiciary, which respects the rule of law. MSPs worked hard for a solution to external regulation, found it and enacted it only 9 years ago.
The Roberton Report does not acknowledge this and will unpick what MSPs tried so carefully to do in creating an RC.

3. Lack of evidence
There is a lack of evidence regarding the operation of the Scottish Legal Services market.
Changes require to be evidence based.

4. It will destroy the Law Society of Scotland
The Report is in denial. Without doubt its effect will be kill off the LSS whose statutory functions and raison d'etre will disappear. If it sets up a new voluntary representative body, it is likely to be a toothless and faint shadow version and certainly not the robust organisation Roberton foresees.
LSS agitated for a review of the regulation of the profession to change the operation of parts of the Complaints system that were not working with suggestions for positive improvements with public and consumer interest in mind. This was their request.
It is a slap in the face that this demonstrable lack of self interest has led to such a perverse result on the whistleblower.

5. A single regulator

Too much power in one body. Think of Police Scotland, a large national organisation with no
understanding of the local position in the regional areas it oversees.

6. Barriers to Entry to Profession
There are no barriers to entry to the profession that are not in the public interest.
The Economics Report concludes there is insufficient evidence as to whether current restrictions are detrimental to functioning of the market. So there is nothing to suggest that there is any need for new types of ABS entering the market.

7. Competition
There are around 4,000 solicitors in the High Street in Scotland so there is adequate competition between, in the main, relatively small units competing against each other.

8. Pre Contract Information
It is already compulsory for Firms to issue Letters of Engagement.

9. The complaints system needs amendment
as outlined by the LSS not abolition.

10. The Report demonstrates lack of understanding of who "consumers"are.
It does not understand that in general only the High Street solicitors are dealing with “consumers”.

11. Scotland is a small country.
The idea of attracting people to Scotland and its courts and to use Scots Law instead of their own is not just unlikely but blind to the real world.

12. Cost
The cost of LSS running the present system is reduced hugely by the use of solicitors giving their time free of charge in the various committees including the complaints committees. The new body is likely to go the way of SLCC and SLAB and bring rampant additional cost which ultimately will be passed on to the consumer!
E.g. see the proposed budget of SLCC for 2019/20. If agreed, it would generate an estimated total income of £3.7 million for the SLCC representing a rise of almost 40% in 4 years.

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