The SNP government plans a “super-ombudsman” and Scottish Consumer Authority to deal with all consumer complaints and to provide advice (your report, 14 August). Of great significance is the fact that lawyers and their “regulators” (a very fertile source of consumer complaints) appear to be outwith the remit of the “super-ombudsman” and the Scottish Consumer Authority.
That could be a costly mistake. Even fanatical unionists, if they have sampled what many lawyers and their “regulators” have to offer regarding legal services and “regulation”, would gleefully embrace independence if lawyers, the society and the faculty were exposed to effective scrutiny.
Perhaps the Scottish Government was “lobbied” into excluding the legal fraternity from the oversight of the “super- ombudsman” or maybe there are too many lawyers in parliament. Whatever the reason, the exclusion of lawyers and their “regulators” has fundamentally tainted the very essence of the SNP proposals: enhancing the principle of consumer protection.
Furthermore, the SNP has ignored what is arguably Scotland’s biggest barrier to effective consumer protection: the principle of immunity from suit conferred on lawyers in 1876 by a Court of Session judge. Clearly influenced by a capacity for pure impartiality, he decreed that lawyers should not be pestered by litigation simply because they were hapless, helpless, clueless, useless and therefore negligent, when they appeared in court.
With one small step, perhaps as short as a statutory instrument, the Scottish Government could abolish immunity and expose lawyers and their regulators to the bracing benefits of supervision by the “super-ombudsman” and the Scottish Consumer Authority.
Until then, the principle of pervasive consumer protection will remain a work with no prospect of progress.