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Society blog

21 Feb 18

Scottish Legal International comes to fruition

Joint initiative aims to promote Scottish profession internationally

30 Aug 17

A paralegal's tale

Janet Rieu-Clarke, the Law Society’s accredited paralegal, explains the path that led her to new role at the Society and the rationale behind the new accredited paralegal status.

30 Aug 17

A call to vote from John Scott

John Scott QC urges his fellow solicitor advocates to vote for their dedicated representative

29 Aug 17

No globalisation without representation...

Katie Hay discusses the globalisation of the legal market and urges Scottish solicitors working internationally, to get involved

24 Jul 17

Bringing the world to "world-class"

Sarah Sutton, digital communications executive at the Law Society of Scotland, talks about her bright idea to ensure international representation on the Society’s Council

26 Jun 17

The Debate - backstage, front of house and top tips

In this mini-series of blogs, three key players in the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament share their individual perspectives of the event.

19 Jun 17

Got a passion for the profession?

Could one of the 23 current vacancies for 16 different committees be just right for you?

28 Apr 17

Professional Practice - advising the advisers

Scottish solicitors help their clients through some of the most momentous occasions of their lives, personal or professional, good or bad. But where do solicitors turn for support? Prof Prac, that's where.

1 Nov 16

How getting involved in debating can change your life

Head of education Rob Marrs explains how getting involved in debating, whether as competitor or judge, can be incredibly rewarding. And more importantly, he explains how to win a debate.

14 Oct 16

Career development and volunteering at the Law Society of Scotland

If you want to enhance your career, develop your skills or just give back to your profession, there are lots of different personal and professional development opportunities at the Society

Editors Blog

Speaking out

11 Jun 18

The benefit sanctions system has drawn some unusually sharp comments from the Society, but the need for such strictures is likely to increase

Aside from the neverending standoff over legal aid rates, it is not often that the Law Society of Scotland chooses to be sharply critical of the Government, at Scottish or UK level. As an apolitical organisation, it can be difficult to take a strongly critical line without abandoning that stance.

It makes it the more notable, therefore, that in a response to a House of Commons Select Committee inquiry, a Society committee has weighed in trenchantly against the sanctions system currently applied against welfare benefit claimants who are deemed to have failed to comply with DWP requirements.

Consider these comments, from the Administrative Justice Subcommittee. It may be only the widespread provision of food banks that prevents Government policy breaching human rights in general – and breaches may well have occurred in individual cases. The “penal effects” of sanctions have been exacerbated by the removal of an immediate right of appeal to an independent tribunal, due to the mandatory reconsideration process. There is no means of independently monitoring the quality of DWP decision-making, which evidence suggests “should be a matter of considerable concern”. The current regime, taken with other changes, has “fostered a hostile environment... and the emergence of a caustic relationship between DWP and its customers,” whereas the benefits system “ought more properly to be more caring and supportive”. Overall, the operation of the current regime “is widely regarded as grossly unfair and brings the benefits system into disrepute”. These are only a selection.

Given some of the personal accounts of those facing severe hardship after having been sanctioned due to circumstances beyond their control, it does seem somewhat fanciful for ministers or their supporters to claim that the regime is proportionate, fair or just – and the subcommittee also believes it does not even meet the policy objective of assisting claimants into work.

In those circumstances, a body dedicated to access to justice and the rule of law has every right, and even the duty, to speak out as part of its duty to stand up for the public interest.

The prospect has to be faced that in the present political climate, the Society may be faced with making more interventions such as this. What has been termed post-truth or post-factual politics brings its own reality, and that is the increasing reliance on questionable assertions that yet carry a powerful appeal to significant sections of the public. To stand up for the values mentioned above in the face of such political winds may not feel comfortable, but may be no less necessary.


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Blog archive

7 Nov 18

Put to the test

The Society's position as regulator will come under renewed scrutiny following the Roberton report, but the report itself should equally be subjected to proper scrutiny

9 Oct 18

Under siege

After the extra money announced for prosecutors and then the police, something has to be done now for the defence sector

10 Sep 18

Programme for action?

How much can we expect to happen through the Scottish Government's Programme for Government?

6 Aug 18

No deal, no say?

The arguments for a second EU referendum apply with greater force in a "no deal" scenario

9 Jul 18

System under threat

Items in this month's issue illustrate increasing threats to the rule of law and the integrity of the legal system

11 Jun 18

Speaking out

The benefit sanctions system has drawn some unusually sharp comments from the Society, but the need for such strictures is likely to increase

8 May 18

After Windrush

The treatment of those of Caribbean origin shows a need for the law to be rebalanced

9 Apr 18

Mind the gap

Do the Gender Pay Gap Regulations provide enough useful information to justify their approach?

12 Mar 18

Case to be made

If the independent legal aid review could not find evidence to support a general rise in fees, what should the response be?

9 Feb 18

Crunch time

The independent reports due in the next few months will be an indication of how the profession is seen from outside