The Law Society of Scotland has firmly rejected the notion of establishing a single UK-wide anti-money laundering (AML) supervisor, citing concerns that such a standardised approach would hinder the fight against economic crime, particularly money laundering.

In response to the HM Treasury’s consultation on the future of AML and counter-terrorism financing supervisory practices, the Law Society has expressed reservations about several proposals that it believes could undermine the progress achieved so far. They argue that these proposals may not effectively achieve the stated objectives of enhancing system effectiveness, coordination, and feasibility in the context of combating money laundering.

The Law Society, however, does extend its support for the potential expansion of powers for the Office of Professional Body AML Supervision (OPBAS), but only if such enhancements demonstrably lead to increased effectiveness in combatting money laundering.

Furthermore, the Law Society does not object to reforms that consolidate anti-money laundering supervision on a devolved basis. This approach acknowledges the unique legal and regulatory frameworks existing across the devolved nations within the UK.

Graham Mackenzie, who heads the AML efforts at the Law Society of Scotland, emphasised the importance of safeguarding the independence of the legal profession while pursuing AML reforms. He also stressed the need to recognise the distinct legal and regulatory landscapes within the devolved regions.

Mackenzie noted, “While there are always improvements to be made, we take our supervisory responsibilities extremely seriously, having undertaken extensive reform of our work in this area and significantly expanded our specialist AML team.”

He further stated that their close relationships with law enforcement and other stakeholders in Scotland enable them to respond nimbly to local money laundering threats, provide relevant guidance to legal firms, and take robust disciplinary actions when necessary.

Mackenzie concluded, “We believe any move towards a single AML supervisor for the entire UK would be a regressive step and could jeopardize the progress we have made in combatting money laundering. The advancements we’ve achieved in Scotland should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of broader reforms.” In essence, the Law Society of Scotland underlines that maintaining flexibility and agility in addressing regional money laundering challenges is crucial for an effective anti-money laundering regime.