Scottish Government now have hundreds of lawyers paid for by taxpayers. While thousands of ordinary Scots struggle trying to find or afford legal representation in our own country, documents released under Freedom of Information legislation reveal the Scottish Government has quietly authorised a multi million pound doubling of the numbers of lawyers employed by the current administration, at a total cost to taxpayers of well over the £8.1 million salary only figure released in response to information disclosure requests.
FOI reveals MacAskill likes lawyers so much, he’s employed over two hundred of them at our expense. Today it can be revealed the Scottish Government are spending a whopping £8.1 million pounds of public money on salaries alone of some 225 lawyers. The Scottish Government’s FOI stated that : “The Scottish Government has 3 main offices which provide legal services to the Scottish Ministers and agencies for which they have responsibility: the Scottish Government Legal Directorate, the Office of Scottish Parliamentary Counsel and the Legal Secretariat to the Lord Advocate. These offices together employ 139 lawyers (as at 1 April 2009). The total annual salary for these lawyers (including national insurance contributions and superannuation) in financial year 2008-2009 was £8,146,000. In addition, a further 86 lawyers are seconded to other government offices and inquiries as part of the Government Legal Service for Scotland. Those lawyers’ salary costs are met by the host office or inquiry.”
Scandal hit insurers Marsh & crooked regulators Law Society of Scotland & SLCC all get huge payments on the taxpayer. However, the Scottish Government failed to disclose in the FOI they also pay out huge bonuses to the legal staff as well as huge amounts of public money on their lawyers expenses claims, which include huge payments to the Law Society of Scotland for each lawyer’s annual practising certificates, massive payments to Marsh UK for each of the lawyers indemnity insurance cover, and also a third gigantic payment to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to cover the complaints levy imposed on all solicitors working in Scotland who currently hold a practising certificate.
Previous totals of lawyers working for the Scottish Executive revealed half of today’s number. In a country where legal representation is becoming harder to obtain through cost, prejudice by the legal profession against particular cases or clients, and refusals by law firms to handle legal aid work, the huge increase in solicitors working for the Scottish Government from around 114 in late 2006 to today’s 225 (also apparently on the rise) is an astounding slap in the face to people who find themselves locked out of the Scots legal system through no fault of their own, and also a sharp reminder to UK taxpayers that vast amounts of money are being needlessly wasted on legal teams working for the Government whose only real purpose seems to be to “gum up the works so the Government can get its way” – according to a former Justice Department employee.
Naturally, one might wonder what on earth over two hundred lawyers get up to, working for the Scottish Government. Why does the Scottish Government need to shell out so much of our money on lawyers when most of us cant get one to even write a letter without costing an arm & a leg ?
Well, taking a deeper look into the likes of the Scottish Government Legal Directorate, and the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS), much of their work revolves around giving legal advice to Ministers on legal matters, legislation, policy, issues relating to the Scottish Parliament, relations with Local Government, and also on correspondence & dealings with tens of thousands of ordinary Scots who contact the Scottish Government for help & assistance when problems occur with public services and the like.
For instance, if you are someone who has fallen foul of a public service or a failure of regulation, have exhausted all methods of resolution and have now turned to writing to the relevant Scottish Government Minister for assistance, the chances are your pleas for help will be given the short sharp shrift by a rather uncaring member of the Government Legal Service For Scotland (employed at your expense as a taxpayer) to write Ministerial advice along the lines of “We cannot help this person as it would mean interfering with the running of a public body” or “I would recommend not replying to this individual” or something like that .. not the kind of response one would expect, being after all, a taxpayer who pays for the outlandish salaries, expenses & bonuses of these Government employed solicitors. One note of advice to a Minister which stuck in my mind over the years read : “The Law Society of Scotland have informed us this person will shortly no longer have legal representation therefore the case is not a threat to the Government. I suggest we simply reply saying we note their comments and close with that.”
I wrote an earlier report on how lawyers from the Government treat public pleas for Government & Parliament for help, which you can read here : Scottish Government’s £10m in-house lawyers make their mark against legal reforms & public access to justice
In another example, with regard to the use of tainted blood products in Scotland, it seems the Government employed lawyers offered plenty advice to Ministers from the previous and current administration on how to escape liability for the infections and even deaths of those who were infected in Scottish hospitals by blood products which almost certainly many knew had serious risks attached .. and there stands these duty bound taxpayer lawyers woring for the Government, clamouring over each other to suggest ideas to delay enquiries, avoid liability, and ignore pleas for help from those victims of the blood products scandal … which, surely, is a little disgusting to say the least. You can read my earlier report on that, here : Scottish blood infections inquiry will be ‘another whitewash’ as documents expected to be withheld to cover up public liability. Whether copies of that advice will turn up at the Inquiry is anyone’s guess .. but I’m betting not.
An example of inherent bias in the Government’s Legal Service for Scotland can easily be displayed in the long and bitter battle to enact increased rights of audience in Scotland’s courts, via Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990, which the GLSS and even the Civil Service wanted kept out of public reach.
While communications flew back & forth between Government Departments on how to stall or even repeal the little known legislation which would have helped tens of thousands of Scots over the years who have been unable to secure legal representation in Scotland’s courts, lawyers working for the current and previous administrations continually put the boot in against allowing wider competition in the Scottish legal services marketplace, issuing advice to Ministers on ways to delay for decades, the implementation of laws first passed in 1990 but only enacted in 2007 after the media became interested.
The situation became so worry some for the Scottish legal establishment, Lord Hardie, who was serving as Lord Advocate in 1997, was apparently persuaded by legal teams working for the Government to actually advocate repeal of the 1990 access to justice laws, which I wrote about earlier, here : Former Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie revealed as major obstacle in removing lawyer-advocate monopoly on legal representation
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has delayed reforming rights of audience in Scotland with the help of ‘legal advice’. Even after the 1990 rights of audience laws were finally enacted some 17 years later, by the previous Scottish Executive, lawyers at the GLSS and other Government Departments have fought a bitter battle to restrict applications from anyone else to practice law in Scotland, whispering in the ears of oh-so-willing-to-listen Ministers such as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, that apparently, no one other than members of the Law Society of Scotland, should be allowed to practice Law and represent the public in the Scottish Courts, and today, only the Association of Commercial Attorneys have managed to secure a practising certificate, highly restricted in nature, and mostly, useless in terms of expanding competition in Scotland’s legal services sector … just it seems, as lawyers working for the Government always wanted …
At the end of the day, with access to justice in Scotland apparently being rationed only to those whose face fits with the legal establishment, why should taxpayers be shelling out millions of pounds for hundreds of lawyers to work for the Scottish Government, whose main aim seems to be to prevent the public from getting a fair hearing ?