In a revealing annual survey conducted by the Law Society of Scotland, a significant majority of Scottish solicitors expressed deep concerns about the Scottish Government’s proposal to extend its regulatory control over the legal sector. Conducted between December 2023 and January 2024, the survey highlights the widespread unease regarding the impending Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill.

Survey Insights and Response Rates – Scottish Solicitors Reveal Concerns 

The research, undertaken by Taylor McKenzie Research, involved nearly 1,300 solicitors and trainee solicitors who participated in an online questionnaire. The survey not only addressed potential regulatory changes but also touched on vital issues such as human rights, the future of legal aid, and overall regulation within the sector.

Solicitors’ Stance on Human Rights and Regulation

An overwhelming 86% of participants stressed that promoting human rights and maintaining the rule of law should be either a high or medium priority for the Law Society. This is indicative of the profession’s dedication to safeguarding these fundamental principles.

Concerns Over Legal Aid’s Future

The outlook for Scotland’s legal aid system, particularly in criminal matters, remains bleak with less than 5% of respondents believing in its sustainability. This pessimism underscores the growing apprehension about the ability to maintain adequate legal support for those in need.

Professional Support and Accessibility

The survey also shed light on the accessibility and support provided by the Law Society itself, with more than 45% of members reaching out for assistance over the past year. The feedback was positive, with 80% of those members finding the Law Society easy to contact and feeling satisfied with the support received.

Law Society’s Reaction to Solicitor Feedback

Sheila Webster, President of the Law Society of Scotland, acknowledged the survey’s importance, stating, “This survey and the depth of concern it confirms among solicitors shows the Scottish Government has made the right call in committing to amend the aspects of this Bill related to ministerial intervention.” She further emphasised the critical need for the profession’s independence to ensure the integrity of the rule of law.

Webster also highlighted the proactive and engaged nature of the solicitor community in Scotland, noting their commitment to not only meeting regulatory standards but also addressing broader public interest issues such as human rights and the sustainability of the legal aid system.

Its not just in Scotland where the authority figures are looking to ensure regulations are met, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, who oversee firms across England and Wales are keen on clamping down on not only financial crime but also firms who fail to comply with the regulations in place. They have recently written to over 1,000 firms to offer advice and guidance when it comes to tackling AML challenges so firms have a clear understanding on what to do.

Government’s Pledge to Amend Bill

In response to the vocal feedback from legal professionals and other stakeholders including judges and MSPs, the Scottish Government has indicated its intention to bring forward amendments to the Regulation of Legal Services Bill, aiming to address the concerns raised about increased ministerial powers over the sector.

The survey clearly underscores a collective call from Scottish solicitors to maintain independence and uphold rigorous standards in the face of proposed legislative changes. It’s clear there is concern ahead of potential changes to legislation within the country and that concern will only ease the Scottish Government offer effective assurances. Its an uncertain time but solicitors will continue to maintain high standards they have set and ensure their focus remains on helping their