This month's Law Society of Scotland Council member profile: Martin Allan (non-solicitor member)
What is your profession?
Not sure I have one. When employed before accessing the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, I was in local authority planning/building control, responsible for regulation enforcement, and health and safety in and around buildings. I still exercise a balanced and independent mind, in recent years in a voluntary capacity for several local and national organisations. I have been attempting to change the world from my kitchen table, by engaging with stakeholders to clarify their public interest obligation and role in society, hopefully more as a realist than an activist. It might surprise you that some organisations get totally detached from their function, by comfort, custom and practice, rather than democratic consent. I attempt to bring them back to the reality of their role by engagement or challenge.
What motivates you to get up on a Monday morning?
First, my three daughters; secondly shaping a society for their future. I am sure that’s what gets every parent up in the morning. Everything else is a necessary distraction, but should never detract from the obligation we all have to secure a fair society for all people. I think it will be safer for everyone that way. The Law Society of Scotland must be a robust pillar for public protection in the future of Scotland and you must engage with it to help drive the direction.
How long have you been a member of Council and why did you become involved?
I was appointed lay Council member in June 2011 for a three year term, after responding to national newspaper advertisement. The role appealed to me for several reasons. The perception that the Society was established only to protect members concerned me, and diluted its clear public protection role and brand.
I am interested in: equality of membership and engagement with members, all to ensure a sustainable future; career access to law across the demographic of Scottish society; possible concerns about exploitation and its effect on public protection; alternative business structures; the potential for further fragmentation of roles and responsibility, leading to enforcement and scrutiny challenges; and in particular for inclusive access to justice for all.
I don’t believe the Society is perfect, but believe it strives to be in practice. I want action to speak louder than words. In the short time I have been there, I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm to take on challenges, engage and make decisions to secure a future for all. As a member of the public, it’s great being part of ensuring that is secured.
Did you have any prior knowledge of or involvement with the Society before?
I was aware of the Law Society but had had no involvement with it.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
Change, and being part of it. The enthusiasm for change to secure law and access to it, for all people, the profession, and those wishing to enter into it. The pleasure of meeting engaging, enthusiastic, dedicated people.
What do you see as the main issues that Council has to address at present?
Public protection; engagement for change; changes in justice management and access to justice and law in Scotland; equal access to a fair and balanced opportunity to a legal career; alternative business structures; Europe.
If you could change only one thing for solicitors, what would it be?
Every student successfully completing studies would be provided with a traineeship to secure and complete qualification as a solicitor, after which time they and market forces would determine the direction of their future.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Family responsibilities: I take the kids to and from school and to their netball, running, tennis, and ensemble. I enjoy cycling – only because you can sit down while exercising! Also I see the benefit of and use libraries, to work and read.
I am not in paid employment. I volunteer for what I consider the main stakeholders that will shape society and my kids’ future: law, health, community (for inclusive democracy). I’m not directly involved in education, but will be, as it fuels the success of the above.
My independent involvement and membership:
Law Society of Scotland Council, and Equality and Diversity Committee
Drumchapel Community Council
Glasgow Council Drumchapel/Anniesland Area Committee
Community Council Discussion Forum and Agenda Committee (revolving chairs)
West Glasgow Community Reference Group
West Glasgow Local Community Planning Partnership, and its Funding Executive Group
Glasgow Housing Association West Area Committee Independent Member
Healthcare Improvement Scotland Public Partner
Glasgow Community Health Partnership, vice chair of its North West Public Partnership Forum Executive Group, and public member of its Clinical Governance Committee
Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme Guidance Development Group (patient representative)