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Justice Secretary seeks Scottish solution for legal reform as Tories urge lawyers should get their own way

05 Oct

Kenny MacAskill seeks a “Scottish Solution” to giving wider access to justice & legal services but what “Scottish Solution” is our dear Cabinet Minister talking about ?

The attempt 17 years ago via the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 to open up the legal services market via Sections 25-29 ? Surely not … it’s been a whole 17 years since that was put on the books, and hardly a cheep cheep from the SNP or anyone else for that matter.

Maybe Mr MacAskill is talking about another “Scottish Solution” to opening up the legal services market – such as the one put forward by former Lord Advocate Lord Hardie – which was to bury the whole thing and let the lawyers keep their monopoly, as I reported here :

Former Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie revealed as major obstacle in removing lawyer-advocate monopoly on legal representation

Enough of the “Scottish Solutions” please !

The Scotsman today reports that rather than taking the OFT recommendations for opening up access to legal services in Scotland : “Instead, Mr MacAskill wants to work out a solution with the profession in Scotland, not have a decision imposed on him.”

Yes, fine, that’s great .. but who will be leading who in such an arrangement? Will there be another tantrum from the legal profession at the next meeting going something like – If you don’t give us what we want, the deal over the legal aid strike & case boycotts is off ?

The previous Scottish Executive introduced the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, which had a rough ride through Parliament, and was the subject of threats of legal action from the Chief Executive of the Law Society if the Bill as it was passing through Parliament wasn’t amended to the legal profession’s satisfaction. What happened ? the bill was amended, although not fully to the lawyers preferences.

One of those who raised amendments for the Law Society of Scotland – Tory MSP Bill Aitken, pops up in this debate urging the Executive to refuse to implement the OFT’s recommendations, reports the Scotsman in the following quote : “I urge the new Scottish government to resist these plans.”

Quite clear that Bill Aitken MSP is definitely not interested in the consumer interest and the rights of the Scottish public to wider access to justice – an awful view indeed coming from the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. Perhaps he needs replaced as Convener if he is so decidedly against wider access to justice ?

Why has Bill Aitken and his colleagues not made more of the fact we’ve had the laws in place in Scotland since 1990 – via the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 to open up the legal services market ?

The 1990 Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Act was passed by a Tory government after all .. but little has been done with it in the past 17 years .. and not a cheap from Mr Aitken or colleagues on this fact … and even less from the SNP, where many of it’s own members, including Mr MacAskill’s ministerial colleagues, have had problems with lawyers & the Law Society of Scotland.

Here’s some examples of a fine “Scottish Solution to access to justice & problems in the legal profession

John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Business, has spoken in Parliament for constituents who have had severe problems with the legal profession in Scotland. Since Mr Swinney’s remit does cover Business & Finance, I would hope, he has some critical things to say about the legal services market issue which is controlled by the legal profession as a monopoly and perhaps Mr Swinney may wish to contribute to the OFT recommendations given his first hand experience on such issues ….

Here’s John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Enterprise talking about one such case, among many…

 

To our Justice Minister – Mr MacAskill – Please give the Scottish public as good a chance of access to justice as England & Wales … surely the public deserve a shout now rather than the professions who are more interested in money & profit than giving everyone access to legal services.

and while we’re at it, how about a “Scottish Solution” to changing the top notchers over in Drumsheugh Gardens ? because they are getting very far from top notch these days …

Here’s Douglas Mill .. ‘welcoming in the OFT’s reforms’ to BBC News, which I just happened to find on the internetl luckily ….. but a rather different policy is being pursued by Mr Mill & colleagues, where the Law Society are going to keep control of the qualifications required to enter the legal market .. thus limiting who practices law yet again .. and limiting who gets access to legal services !

 

Over to the Scotsman report on Mr MacAskill’s view … how long until the big “DoH” ?

MacAskill seeks Scots solution to law reform

HAMISH MACDONELL SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR

MINISTERS insisted yesterday they would not be pushed into introducing full competition into Scotland’s law services, despite a call by the UK’s competition watchdog to lift restrictions.

The Office of Fair Trading has recommended current rules on how legal services are provided be reformed to open up the profession to competition from new providers, including high-street banks and supermarkets.

Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, has three months to formally reply to the OFT but yesterday his spokesman said that, while the minister accepted the current situation could not continue, he would not just follow the OFT’s decision.

Instead, Mr MacAskill wants to work out a solution with the profession in Scotland, not have a decision imposed on him.

Law services in England are being deregulated and the OFT believes Scotland should go the same way.

But the Executive spokesman said Mr MacAskill did not believe it was right just to follow the English example; instead, he wanted a “Scottish solution”.

The spokesman said: “The Justice Secretary has already made clear that the status quo is not an option. However, he is equally insistent that he does not see any point in the profession blindly following the approach of the profession south of the border.

“We are looking for the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society to help design distinctively Scottish solutions.”

Douglas Mill, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, also took a cautious approach, saying he wanted to develop an intrinsically Scottish solution.

Mr Mill said: “The Society wants to see Scotland’s legal profession thrive in today’s global market. What we must ensure, though, is that Scotland seeks its own solutions and that access to justice and protection of the public remain core.”

Colin Gray, managing partner of McGrigors LLP, one of the country’s biggest law firms, welcomed the OFT’s ruling, claiming that, if implemented by the Executive, it would allow ambitious firms to grow.

“Such liberalisation will enable providers of legal services to gain access to more capital, attract and retain talent and develop new service lines,” he said.

But Bill Aitken, the Conservatives’ justice spokesman, warned that the changes might result in big businesses “muscling in” and squeezing out smaller firms.

“These measures will cost more, reduce rather than increase choice and result in a loss of legal expertise,” he said.

And he added: “I urge the new Scottish government to resist these plans.”

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Posted by on October 5, 2007 in Law

 

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