Report shows why bill on legal services regulation ‘must change’

Report shows why bill on legal services regulation 'must change'

Sheila Webster

A critical cross-party MSP report on the Scottish government’s new legislation on regulating legal services has shown why the bill needs to change, the Law Society of Scotland has said.

The Scottish Parliament’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee has published its report on the Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

MSPs on the committee said they were “concerned that the level of engagement with key stakeholders prior to the bill being introduced, in particular in relation to delegated powers, appears to have been inadequate”. They also came out against many of the provisions in the bill which would give Scottish Ministers significant new powers to intervene directly in the regulation of solicitors and other legal professionals.

The Law Society has raised repeated concerns at many of the proposed new government powers within the bill which could even see the government regulating lawyers directly. While the Scottish government has now said it will bring forward amendments at Stage 2, the specific changes have yet to be published.

President of the Law Society Sheila Webster said: “While many of the changes in the bill are welcome, the sweeping new powers which the legislation would give to the Scottish government strike at the heart of the rule of law in Scotland and would completely undermine the independence of the legal profession from the state. It’s why so many concerns have been raised, from Scotland’s own senior judiciary through to the International Bar Association.

“The fact this cross-party committee of MSPs has come out so strongly against many of these proposed powers shows why the legislation needs to change before Parliament gives its final approval.

“There is still a chance to get a bill which delivers the much needed and long overdue changes to the way the legal sector is regulated, but which avoids the kind of political control that would not only harm our legal sector, but damage Scotland’s hard-won reputation internationally.”

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