While the ranks of Scotland's 'Family Lawyers' happily use strike action & case boycotts to get their way with the legal aid budget - and the Law Society of Scotland makes sure that anyone trying to use a lawyer to sue a lawyer can't get into court, the Scottish Executive has no such apparent problems in securing legal representation, as a Freedom of Information disclosure to Mr Duncan Shields reveals.
The response from the Scottish Executive, reveals that 114 lawyers work for the Scottish Executive at a cost of £5,262,347 per annum - showing that while the taxpayer finds it hard to get a lawyer to do anything competently - and those who can't afford a lawyer can't even get one to work on legal aid - the Executive certainly has quite a little army of lawyers ready to do their bidding.
So, if you want a lawyer - why bother going to the Law Society of Scotland or consulting the Yellow Pages, when you would be as well to phone up the Scottish Executive and ask for one of theirs !
Just who these lawyers are, remains to be seen, as the Scottish Executive has not revealed any identities within the FOI disclosure, although questions are now surfacing as to the regulatory records of those lawyers recruited by the Scottish Executive, with suspicions that some business contracted out, has seemingly went to legal firms embroiled in bitter negligence cases with clients, which have also been raised with the Scottish Executive by constituents & their elected representatives.
These revelations make for interesting reading, given the Executive have held off from implementing sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 - which would have allowed the public a wider choice in legal representation than the currently required choice - that of either a lawyer or an advocate, or typically both, at great expense, and severe restriction.
The Salary Table released from the Scottish Executive on lawyers salaries :
I would point out that the Executive have only released a general note on salaries in this case - and it may well be that when other benefits & perks are included, the final salary bill will certainly be over £6 million pounds. Further extravagance at the taxpayers expense perhaps ? .. so we certainly need to know the rest if we are all paying for it !
The following is the Scottish Executive's covering letter to Mr Duncan Shields who made the FOI inquiry, which proves for interesting reading, and will no doubt, give all of you some constructive ideas.
Dear Mr Shields
Thank you for your request dated 9 February 2007 for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act.
You ask whether Mr Paul Cackette is a member of the Law Society of Scotland. Under section 25 of the Act, we are not required to provide information in response to a request if it is already reasonably accessible to you. The information you requested is available from the Law Society of Scotland's website at http://www.lawscot.org.uk
You request the names of all members of the Law Society of Scotland working for the Executive who have access to your correspondence, and also the names of all members of the Society acting for the Executive in connection with the implementation of sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990.
We do endeavour to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance we consider that exemption under sections 30(c) , 38(1)(b) and 39(1) of the Freedom ofInformation (Scotland) Act applies.
These exemptions cover information the disclosure of which would be liable to prejudice substantially the conduct of public affairs; information which constitutes personal data the disclosure of which would contravene the data protection principles contained in the Data Protection Act 1998 and information the release of which would be liable to endanger the health and safety of an individual.
You request the names of all members of the Law Society of Scotland acting for the Scottish Executive in house, together with details of the salaries and benefits paid to each member.
The names of all members of the Society working for the Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Executive are available from the Society's website at the address supplied above, as are members working for the Legal Secretariat to the Lord Advocate and Office of the Scottish Parliamentary Counsel. A number of members of the Society work in policy posts for the Scottish Executive Justice Department, and their names are also available from this website.. We therefore consider that we do notrequire to provide this information.
We consider that information relating to individuals' salary and benefit details is exempt under sections 30(c) , 38(1)(b) and 39(1). However, I attach a list which contains details of the pay bands within which Scottish Executive lawyers are employed, the salariesapplicable to those bands and the staff numbers within each band.
You also request minutes and memorandums of meetings where discussion has taken place as regards implementing sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990. We have now completed our search for the information yourequire, and copies of the following documents are enclosed:-
1. Note of meeting between the Executive and the Department for Constitutional Affairs on 22 February 2006;
2. Note of meeting between the Executive and the Law Society of Scotland on 13 March 2006;
3. Note of meeting between the Executive, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys on 23 May 2006;
4. Note of telephone conference between the Executive and the Office of Fair Trading on 27 July 2006;
5. Note of meeting between the Executive and the Scottish Consumer Council on 2 August 2006.
We consider that exemption under section 29(1)(a) and 30(b) applies to the notes of two meetings between the Executive and the Lord President's office in February and August 2006. These exemptions cover information relating to the formulation or development of Scottish Administration policy and information the release of which would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice to Ministers or the free and frank exchange ofviews for the purposes of deliberation. We believe that these exemptions apply on the basis that these notes constitute the preparation of advice to Ministers.
We also consider that exemption under sections 29(1)(a), 30(b) and (c) and 38(1)(b) applies to the minute of a meeting with a member of the public in 2001. This meeting involved discussion of the personal views of an individual relevant to the formulation ofgovernment policy. We consider that there is a need to protect the free and frank exchange of such views, and not to release information relating to them withoutthe consent of the individual concerned.
We believe that exemption under sections 30(b) and 38(1)(b) applies to the note of a meeting with representatives of a stakeholder organisation in 1997. This is because the note records the personal views and intentions of individuals, and we consider thatdisclosure of these would be liable to prejudice the free and frank exchange of views.
In reaching our decision about the release of information under sections 29(1)(a), 30(b) and (c) and 39(1) (exemptions which are not absolute) we have applied the "public interest" test, where we carefully weigh up the balance between whether it would be inthe public's best interest to either release or withhold the information. We believe that it would not be in the public interest to release the information because this would discourage the development of policy and the preparation of advice to Ministers in afree and frank way.
In the case of the material relating to individual civil servants which we consider to be exempt under sections 30(c) and 39(1), disclosure could lead to the harassment or intimidation of individual employees with detrimental consequences for the effective conduct of public affairs.
If you believe that our decision not to release all the information we consider to be exempt is wrong, you do have the right to request us to review it. Your request should be made within 40 working days of the date of this letter, and we will reply within 20working days of receipt. If our decision is unchanged following a review and you remain unsatisfied with this, you then have the right to make a formal complaint to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
If you require a review of our decision to be carried out, please write to Robert Gordon, Head of the Scottish Executive Justice Department, St Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG, explaining why you wish a review to be carried out.
Access to Justice Division
Scottish Executive Justice Department