Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. KENNY MACASKILL, Scotland’s Justice Secretary remained as tight lipped as ever in answers to questions raised in the Scottish Parliament over the abysmal performance of the SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION, once hoped by many to repair much of the scandal surrounding the Law Society of Scotland’s notoriously corrupt closed shop client complaints process against its member solicitors, which has seen thousands of consumer complaints against Scottish lawyers swept under the carpet each year by the legal profession’s own self regulator.
James Kelly MSP for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Labour) James Kelly MSP, Labour MSP for Glasgow Rutherglen and a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee put several questions to the Scottish Government on issues of performance, expenses, budget and costs of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, which were answered by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who appointed the current board & staff to their positions at the SLCC.
£2million of taxpayers money was lavished on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Amid calls for the SCLCC to be made to pay back , the public purse its massive formation costs, from its huge reserves of £1.5 million, the Justice Secretary refused to answer any questions relating to budget, expenses & costs of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and simply stated any such enquiries should be made directly of the SLCC itself. Mr MacAskill in his replies to Mr Kelly appeared unwilling to disclose to Parliament, the millions of pounds of public funds lavished on the expensive, anti-client law complaints quango, which has now drained up to £2million from the public purse.
The Justice Secretary also refused to confirm the extent of the SLCC’s massive surplus funds of £1.5 million, which are now also the subject of criticism from the Law Society of Scotland & the Faculty of Advocates.
SLCC Board members claim staggering amounts of money on expenses while employed in other quango jobs at public expense. I reported on the extent of the costs to the taxpayer of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in an earlier article. here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission refuse to repay £1.7million public funds as board member revealed to sit on Govt. Accounts scrutiny quango. In that article I revealed some of the SLCC’s members were claiming up to £15K a year in expenses while holding other well paid quango positions and ‘advisory roles’ to Scottish Government organisations.
Also in an earlier article I covered the SLCC’s annual report, which revealed it had done little work on complaints, preferring to pass most complaints back to the Law Society of Scotland : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveals it passed most complaints about lawyers back to Law Society, has failed to act on Master Policy report
SLCC’s website ‘changed overnight’ after questions were raised at Holyrood over its performance & cost to taxpayers. While Justice Secretary MacAskill avoided disclosing much in the way of details in his answers to the parliamentary questions set by Mr Kelly, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission appeared to shake itself up somewhat, publishing all minutes of meetings since July 2009 which it had previously withheld from publication. The SLCC’s Board Minutes for 2009, and those available for 2010 now published in albeit ‘redacted’ form, can be downloaded here : SLCC 2009 Board meetings & here : SLCC 2010 Board meetings
SLCC Chief Executive Eileen Masterman on a staggering £1350 a week, now absent for 6 months. The SLCC’s meetings from November 2009 onwards reveals its Chief Executive, Eileen Masterman, on a salary of £1350 a week, has apparently been absent from Board meetings and her post since late November 2009, being replaced temporarily in December 2009 by the SLCC’s Chair, Jane Irvine who from papers appeared to take on the Acting CEO role, which was then passed onto the SLCC’s Rosemary Agnew, according to the Board minutes for January 2010.
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were asked for comment on Eileen Masterman’s absence as CEO, however at time of publication have not replied to media enquiries …
The questions raised by James Kelly MSP to the Scottish Government regarding the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission :
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to review the performance of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Kenny MacAskill: We have no plans to carry out a review of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission at this time. It is too early to assess the effectiveness of the commission as it has only been operational since October 2008 and transitional processes remain ongoing.
Under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, the commission is required to publish a report, as soon as practicable after the end of the financial year, reporting on the discharge of its functions in that year and such action as the commission proposed to take in the following year. Scottish Ministers laid their 2008-2009 Annual Report in the Scottish Parliament on 8 February 2010.
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with representatives of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission since its inception and regarding what issues.
Kenny MacAskill The Scottish Government has been in regular contact with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission on a range of issues such as the appointment of board members, the publication of the Commission’s annual report, the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill and the transitional arrangements for complaints relating to the time before the Commission’s inception. Such discussions have been conducted on the basis that the Commission is largely independent of Government in how it fulfils its statutory responsibilities.
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the cost has been to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission of complaints that it has itself investigated.
Kenny MacAskill: The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is responsible for setting its budget and any questions about its costs and spending should be directed to the Commission.
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive how much the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has received from levies paid by the legal profession in 2009-10 and, of that income, how much has been spent on (a) running costs and (b) investigations.
Kenny MacAskill: The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is responsible for setting the levy and any questions about this should be directed to the Commission.
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has a budget surplus.
Kenny MacAskill: The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is responsible for setting its budget and any questions relating to this should be directed to the Commission.
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive who monitors the expense claims of board members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Kenny MacAskill: The Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is the accountable officer and is responsible for ensuring the propriety and regularity of the finances of the Commission and questions relating to financial monitoring should therefore be referred to the Commission.
The Commission is subject to audit by the Auditor General for Scotland and is required to lay the audited statement of accounts before the Scottish Parliament.
James Kelly (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the total amount of expenses paid to board members of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (a) was in 2008-09 and (b) has been in 2009-10.
Kenny MacAskill: The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is responsible for setting its budget and questions about its spending should be addressed to the Commission.