A new independent watchdog should be established in Scotland to regulate the legal profession amid concerns that the current regime has been ineffective, an official review of the system has found.
The new body would mean an end to the “self-regulation” which lies at the heart of the current set-up, meaning the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates would lose the role they have in “policing” their own members.
The proposals were set out in a report published yesterday by an independent review into the system of legal complaints in Scotland, chaired by Esther Roberton.
But it met with an angry reaction from the legal profession which said there was “no evidence” to back up the call to freeze them out of the process.
The review found that the current set-up is not accessible to either professionals or the consumers.
It includes the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal.
There is also the Association of Commercial Attorneys and the Faculty of Advocates and its Discipline Tribunal.
“I concluded that it was possible and timely to establish a new regulatory framework for legal services in Scotland which would enable and support a vibrant, high quality legal services sector for the future,” Ms Roberton said in the report.
“Whilst a modern ground-breaking framework will be challenging to set in place the time is right and the ambition achievable.
“There is an opportunity to be grasped by leading the way and building on the professional ethic that Scotland’s legal professionals display in their day to day work, creating a system of regulation of which our legal professionals can be truly proud.”
But the Law Society of Scotland warned that the proposals risk reducing public protection in Scotland.
Alison Atack, president of the Law Society said: “We strongly oppose the primary recommendation of a new single regulatory body because of the unnecessary risk it places on protecting consumers and higher costs.
“The Law Society has almost 70 years’ experience of successfully setting and enforcing standards in the solicitor profession.
“I find it surprising that, following such a long review, Ms Roberton would conclude without any consultation with the profession, that a new regulatory body be set up and that the Law Society be removed from the regulatory process.”
Gordon Jackson, QC, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “We have received the report by Esther Roberton and will carefully consider her recommendations with our members.
“We look forward to further contributing to what is an important discussion about the provision of legal services in Scotland.”
Community Safety minister Ash Denham said she will now consider the 40 recommendations in the report before setting out whether the government will press ahead with the plans for a new independent regulator.