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Scots lawyers debate Union in London

17 March 14

How the Society hosted solicitors working south of the border for a debate on Scotland's future

by Alberto Costa

On Tuesday 11 February, the magnificent Plaisterers Hall in the City of London welcomed Scottish solicitors at a debate and drinks reception organised by the Law Society of Scotland. I am delighted that the Society continues to reach out to its members in England and Wales. Hosting social events in London is a practical way to help bring together members who practise south of the border.

Keynote speakers included Menzies Campbell MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, for the Better Together campaign, and Stewart Hosie MP, deputy leader of the SNP Westminster Group, for Yes Scotland. They were joined by a panel including our President, Bruce Beveridge; Söla Paterson-Marke, Council member representing new lawyers; Morven Greig, managing partner at JAG Shaw Baker and board member of the Society of Scottish Lawyers in London; and Isobel d’Inverno, director of corporate tax at Brodies LLP and convener of the Society’s Tax Law Subcommittee.

The all-important drinks reception conveniently preceded the debate, to accommodate the schedules of our speakers who had to attend to House of Commons business. None of us complained, and having a drink before a heartfelt debate on Scotland’s future only helped lubricate the vocal chords of the passionate contributors on both sides.

A lively question and answer session followed the keynote presentations. Although Mr Hosie bravely put across substantial financial facts and figures to support his position, our learned Scots solicitors, some of whom work in City banking institutions, tackled him replete with their own opposing impressive data.

Mr Campbell did not get off lightly either. He was asked why the coalition Government had not done more to secure the rights of the Scottish diaspora to have their say in Scotland’s future. He pointed to the long-established rule that only those resident in a country should have the right to vote in that country’s democratic affairs, only to be reminded of the Westminster overseas voter rule, which permits Scottish ex-pats to vote for up to 15 years, if previously registered in a Scottish constituency. His questioner thought it strange that some voters might be able to vote for Mr Hosie or Mr Campbell from halfway around the world, but have no say on the future of Scotland.

For my own part, I was happy to sit back and marvel at the exclusive and unique setting, resplendent with interior décor inspired by Scotland’s own Robert Adam. While Scottish solicitors living and working south of the border may not have a vote in the referendum, the evening allowed them to express their views on both sides and add their equally important voices to this debate.
A great big thank you to all who attended and to the Society’s staff, including its excellent events team, for organising such a successful event. Here’s to the next one.

Alberto Costa, Principal at Costa Carlisle solicitors and Council member for England & Wales 

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