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Chamber and committees

Question reference: S5W-08961

  • Asked by: Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party
  • Date lodged: 24 April 2017
  • Current status: Initiated by the Scottish Government. Answered by Annabelle Ewing on 25 April 2017


To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its implementation of the SNP manifesto commitment to take forward a consultation to review the regulation of the legal profession and to support a modern and effective legal sector, including new forms of business model.


Scottish Ministers propose to establish an independent review of the regulation of legal services. The purpose of the review will be to make independent recommendations to reform and modernise the statutory framework for the regulation of legal services and complaints handling. The review is intended to ensure a proportionate approach to regulation that supports growth in the legal services sector. It should also place consumer interests firmly at the heart of any system of regulation, including the competitive provision of legal services. The review will focus on the current regulatory framework, the complaints and redress process for providers of legal services including solicitors and advocates, and ongoing market issues such as investigating the benefits of regulating firms as well as individual solicitors.

Key stakeholders including the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal have previously produced policy papers calling for change to the current system including reviewing the complexity of current processes. The Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 (“the 1980 Act”) forms the bedrock legislation underpinning the regulation of legal services in Scotland. It sets out how the Law Society of Scotland regulates solicitors. Some ‘legal’ matters such as will writing and other issues may be handled by unregulated firms or persons. Additionally claims management companies are unregulated in Scotland. The review will be able to investigate all of these areas.

The independent Chair of the review is Esther Roberton, current Chair of NHS 24. Ms Roberton has extensive senior leadership experience in the NHS and other areas of public life. She is also currently a Board member of the Scottish Ambulance Service (2014-18). She was Chairman of SACRO (2010-2014) and until recently also sat on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Audit and Risk Committee (COPFS ARC).

The Scottish Ministers expect that the review panel will undertake stakeholder engagement with the full range of stakeholders with an interest in its work and will gather evidence and have due regard to relevant research and previous reviews into the regulation of legal services where appropriate.

The remit for the Independent Review of the Regulation of Legal Services will be to review the regulation of legal services in Scotland and in undertaking this review, to:

  • consider what regulatory framework would best promote competition, innovation and the public and consumer interest in an efficient, effective and independent legal sector;

  • recommend a framework which will protect the public and consumer interest, promote the principles of accountability, consistency, flexibility, transparency, cost-effectiveness and proportionality;

  • ensure that the regulatory framework retains the confidence of the profession and the general public;

  • undertake specific research into the extent of the unregulated legal services market in Scotland and investigate any impacts on consumers, as well as developing a better understanding of the structure of the legal services market.

The review panel have confirmed their participation as follows:

  • Christine McLintock - Immediate Past President Law Society of Scotland

  • Alistair Morris - Chief Executive - Management Board, Pagan Osborne (Law Society of Scotland)

  • Laura Dunlop QC- Hastie Stables (Faculty of Advocates)

  • Derek Ogg QC - MacKinnon Advocates (Faculty of Advocates)

  • Neil Stevenson – Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

  • Nicholas Whyte – Chair of Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal

  • Ray Macfarlane – Chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board

  • Jim Martin – outgoing Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

  • Dr Dame Denise Coia – Chair of Healthcare Improvement Scotland

  • Prof Russel Griggs - Chair of the Scottish Government’s Independent Regulatory Review Group

  • Prof Lorne Crerar - Chairman, Harper Macleod LLP

  • Trisha McAuley - McAuley Policy and Management

The independent Chair will lead the review and it is intended that it reports to Ministers within 15 months. The outputs will inform future reforms of the regulatory system for legal services.