Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scottish Government's protection for lawyers business monopoly wins, as 'bullied' Holyrood delays access to justice reforms until 2014

Kenny MacAskillKenny MacAskill vowed to protect lawyers. Greedy lawyers celebrated last night as the Scottish Parliament effectively barred the public until at least 2014 from the freedom to choose their legal representatives, as the latest petition to bring the free market to Scotland's monopolistic legal services market, failed after intervention from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and elements of the Scots legal establishment, worried their profits would tumble as people wised up to cheaper, better quality and independently regulated legal services.

Petition 1197, brought to Holyrood by Bill Alexander, who has fought a long battle to open Scotland's monopolistic legal services market, currently controlled by the Law Society of Scotland, was closed by the Holyrood Petitions Committee after a meek hearing, with only two members of the Petitions Committee even bothering to voice their views.

Petitions Committee thwarts efforts to bring wider public access to justice in Scotland.

One of those speaking, firstly to apologise to the Committee and everyone involved in the petition, was Nigel Don MSP, parliamentary assistant to Kenny MacAskill who recently came to fame for creating a series of property transactions to allow him to claim £688 a month from the public purse to pay his mortgage.

You can read more about Mr Don’s mortgage claims here : Influencing Justice reforms in Scotland worth ‘price of a mortgage allowance’ as MacAskill's ministerial aide gets £688 a month to fund capital flat

nigel_donNigel Don 'got the wrong end of the stick'. Mr Don, who was 'pulled up' for his comments by Justice Secretary MacAskill in his letter to the Petitions Committee demanding the petition be closed, firstly had to apologise for his lack of understanding of the issues involved, which generated his earlier, somewhat lengthy talk on the virtues of using a Law Society solicitor during the first hearing of the Petition late last year.

However, Mr Don in this week’s Petitions Committee hearing, simply could not resist overtly supporting the legal profession's demands to protect their business monopoly, and after making his initial apology, claimed that solicitors were right to defend their business monopoly, and that people who want to get into court should "get themselves qualified to do so".

Nigel Don said this week : "My reading of the large number of words we've got in front of us is that basically what the professionals are doing is defending their patch which is what you would expect them to do but having said that I think they might very well be right and that really if you want to represent people in court the message is get yourself qualified to do so".

Comparing Holyrood’s two hearings of the access to justice petition, one can see a general lack of will to bring access to justice to the Scots public …

Holyrood’s earlier hearing of access to justice Petition during November 2008

You can read about and watch the earlier hearing of Petition 1197 which took place last November, here : Scottish Parliament calls for 'access to justice' moves as solicitors struggle to maintain monopoly on legal business

As the current system stands, by way of rights of audience applications, which Mr Don knows full well along with the rest of us, it takes approval from the Justice Secretary, the Lord President, and seemingly a ‘back door’ approval from the Law Society of Scotland to get an application for rights of audience considered, let alone passed, for individuals or organisations to offer the public legal services in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to Cabinet Secretary for Business John Swinney 26 July 2007MacAskill’s letter to Swinney on access to justice - Ministerial misinformation ? Difficulties in pursuing access to justice applications have been well documented in previous articles I have written on the subject, even on one such occasion, leading the Justice Secretary to mislead & misinform John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, over the ease of how access to justice applications were being considered by his office.

You can read more about that leaked letter from the Justice Secretary here : Leaked letter from MacAskill to Swinney on legal services 'misleads' Cabinet Secretary Swinney & Parliament on legal services admissions

Lord HamiltonLord Hamilton took the blame for delays. In one incident, involving the actual application of Petition 1197's author, Bill Alexander who was seeking rights of audience & representation in the Scottish courts, the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill took over a year to consider matters, then famously blamed the Lord President, Lord Hamilton, for holding up approval of the application, which ended up being granted swiftly after an earlier article I wrote on the matter HERE, along with the video of Mr MacAskill's pitiful blame game with the Lord President :

Kenny MacAskill plays the blame game with Lord Hamilton over access to justice applications :

Lord Advocate Andrew Hardie - Repeal Sections 25-29 of Law Reform Act 1990Lord Hardie wanted Scotland’s 1990 ‘access to justice' laws repealed. Also let us not forget that revelations from a bitterly contested Freedom of Information request, made by the same petitioner, Bill Alexander seeking information on why Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 had been delayed for 17 years, exposed papers which implicated a former Lord Advocate, now High Court Judge, Lord Hardie, who had sought the repeal of Scotland’s very own 'monopoly busting’ legal services legislation which if enacted two decades ago would have given all Scots more freedom of choice in legal services, rather than the continued protection of ‘use a solicitor and pay the earth if you want something legal done in Scotland’ for all these years.

Alex SalmondFirst Minister claimed arc of prosperity for Scotland, but no arc of justice for Scots ? While some in the Scottish Government continue to rant on about the 'arc of prosperity' of Scandinavian countries, which they promote that Scotland could have followed as a model of independence (although the credit crunch & global downturn has put paid to that), it seems the fabled 'arc of prosperity' which Scotland could have mirrored, does not include bringing any Scandinavian 'arc of justice' for the Scots public, given that those same Scandinavian countries have a much more open legal services market, which does not restrict public choice of legal representation.

ScottishGovernmentThe current Scottish Government consultation into legal services reform, dubbed “nothing more than a delaying tactic” by Scottish Government insiders, will not bring the envisaged opening up of legal services in Scotland, and delaying matters even further to the 8th program of ‘Law Reform” to be held by the ponderously slow Scottish Law Commission from 2010 to 2014 means there is, in reality, little prospect of ordinary consumers benefiting from an opened legal services market in Scotland for many years to come.

Why must Scots suffer the lack of freedom to choose their own legal representatives and competitively priced legal services when many other countries allow such a freedom of choice ?

It seems to be simply all down to the ‘greed is good’ logic of some in Government & politics, who are no doubt financially & politically benefiting from the protection of undeservingly long held business monopolies by the likes of the Law Society of Scotland who control the closed markets of access to justice and the regulation of legal services.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this Peter - open up the bloody market and stop messing around at the behest of the Law Society !

Anonymous said...

Maybe Alex can draft in Sir James Crosby to chair the legal services review ... hahaha !

No bungs intended !

Anonymous said...

oh gawd Bill Butler needs to get a grip !

The last time the Scottish Law Commission suggested a reform it took another 10 years for it to happen !

Don should go back to house hunting and mortgage milking.He clearly is best at that and seems to understand it with no problems at all !

Anonymous said...

"arc of justice" - You can certainly beat Salmond at his game Peter.Now be a good chap and get us a new Justice Minister !

Anonymous said...

Shocking to say the least.

I think we need an election to get this lot out before they do even more damage to the country.

Never again will I vote snp

Anonymous said...

Nigel Don clearly is a supporter of the legal profession.Maybe he should go off and become a lawyer and leave politics to people who genuinely want to do some good for the community.

Anonymous said...

With respect Peter I don't think any of this is Alex's doing.Its all about MacAskill bullying the rest of the party into accepting his view or he will probably vote down the government.I assume along with Don and a few others Kenny has a few friends with their hands firmly in the legal tills.

Anonymous said...

lol ! MacAskill and Don OUT NOW !

Do these people seriously believe we dont know what they are up to ??

Anonymous said...

2014 seems a bit extreme Peter.

Lets be having the SNP out of government before then so hopefully you get your way and everyone else gets the chance to pick their own lawyer without being ripped off this time !

Good on you kid keep up the fight !

Anonymous said...

I have said before I do not see why people have such expectations of the snp to do whats best for people instead of whats best for business.

The snp are a party of business,not a socialist party and if you take a look into the business interests of many of their msps you will see that.Just look at Mr Don for instance,or Mr Swinney or some others who are in the Government.They all do whats right for them,not for us.

I think people should wake up to this fact and move on from the snp who clearly put money and special interests before the general population!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant report - I think you'd get a conviction out of it if you were a cop !

Anonymous said...

So the same two 'spoilers' who spoke when the petition was first presented to the Committee are the only ones who are invited to comment - the other committee members following MacAskill's lead and maintaining a dutiful silence.


Anonymous said...

outstanding !

watched the videos and read the story - I think Salmond should get the hell out of office if he doesnt have the guts to give you people justice!

Anonymous said...

Are your politicians in Scotland brain dead or do they just want to appear that way ?

I think I've seen more capable debating in junior high and a lot more honest too.

Keep up the good work but honestly I doubt you will be able to change the talking corpses mind at your legislature.They are obviously just too far up the lawyers asses to want to help anyone except themselves!

bob cheeseman said...

You realise the SLC can only propose reform, it can't enact it?

Politics and Parliamentary bottlenecking gets in the way of the Commission's proposals, which is crazy since they are nonpartisan, considered and consulted upon.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me from reading the story and your evidence that no matter who is in power the lawyers seem to run the show.

Anonymous said...

bob cheeseman said...

You realise the SLC can only propose reform, it can't enact it?

Yes but the SLC could do a bit more of speaking out on such matters, yes ?

When was the last time the SLC went round actually asking the clients how they felt they were being treated ?

Anonymous said...

"Greed is good" sums up the snp very well in my opinion.
Just take a look at what one of their 'Ministers' is up to in the buy to let market,Glasgow.
Time for a wee investigation by the tabloids me thinks ?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter.
Your blog is very interesting because I dont see too many brave enough to speak out against lawyers as you do but when lawyers are the crooks then they certainly deserve it.
Now with politicians they are just as bad,don't you think?Probably many of those politicians in clips you used in this post are in bed with lawyers in many ways more than you think.

HN said...

Lord Hamilton wasn't too happy getting blamed by Macaskill in parliament for the Alexander application delay.

I'd wager a bet if there was a battle between these two for real, Macaskill would have to go.

Anonymous said...

With respect to the person who claims Alex Salmond has no bearing on Mr MacAskill, I would suggest to you it is for the First Minister to do something and see these people who have clearly been wronged by the legal profession obtain some justice and closure of their absolutely horrendous suffering and not only those people but the many others who fall under the injustice umbrella.

If Mr Salmond wants to earn himself some respect which he and his party need then its time for him to put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment who said the debate was very poor.I think Holyrood is letting us down very badly on this and just about every issue

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say this is a marvellous report and we should be asking ourselves what this bunch of msps on the petitions are doing !

Anonymous said...

I can see why nothing much gets done at holyrood - this petitions committee is pathetic

Why doesnt Don just put on a t shirt saying "i love lawyers because they helped me get lots of property and my mortgage paid by public money !"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an interesting read Mr Cherbi.I spent all of last week trying to sort out exactly where the Law Society and Mr Yelland are on my FOUR YEAR OLD COMPLAINT against my solicitor after he lifted £4,000 from my deposit account without my say so.The bank is located in the same building as his firm.The cheque was allegedly signed by me while we were on holiday in Australia for 2 months and all I know is the Law Society are trying to bury my complaint because it turns out he has done it to 2 more clients !

Do you think I should go to this slcc because my msp has been unable to break the ice on my complaint.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised by the petition being closed.The petitions committee is one of the most useless aspect of the parliament and everyone knowsit!

Anonymous said...

its enough to make me sick reading all this about lawyers and i wont be using one now if i can help it

Anonymous said...

SLC ? aye right ! remind me who sits on it ?

Anonymous said...

Nigel Don might well agree lawyers should only be the public's route to justice but he was clearly carrying out Mr MacAskill's orders to make sure the petition was closed.
We can conclude from that the SNP support restricting the access to justice argument of free market rule which Peter,several major law firms,and probably most of us would like to happen sooner than later.