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President's protest at Council leak

22 November 2010

A strongly worded protest has been issued by the President of the Law Society of Scotland after a draft policy paper intended for discussion by the Society's Council was leaked to a magazine.

Draft "media protocols" issued to Council members and senior staff of the Society's executive appeared on the Firm website over the weekend despite having been labelled "confidential" ahead of being discussed at the meeting scheduled for this coming Friday, 26 November.

The draft deals with reactive comment where the Society or Council members receive requests for statements from the media, and statements initiated by the Society. It seeks to ensure that all communications are channelled through the Society's communications and marketing team, while leaving Council members free to comment in a personal capacity if they disagree with the Society's position.

In a statement circulated to Council and senior executive members and copied to the Journal and the Firm, the President, Jamie Millar, comments: "The article in the Firm indicates that the publication has received comment from one senior member of the Society's executive and two members of the Society's Council. It is clear that that the protocol has been leaked to the Firm and given the unnattributed comments in the article the conclusion must be reached that it was leaked by one or more Council members or a senior employee of the Society despite the confidentiallity attached to the paper when issued.

"I find it repugnant that a solicitor should choose to flaunt one of the basic principles of our profession by breaching confidentiality, but to do so in an unattributed way is cowardly and not worthy of someone who has had the dignity of the solicitor's profession conferred upon him or her."

Mr Millar said he had always been prepared to engage in open debate with any member of the profession on any issues and to stand up and be identified and counted in relation to any issue. He added:

"I invite whoever has breached the confidentiality of the business of the Council of the Society to have the courage of his or her convictions, to identify himself or herself to me, to engage in open and transparent debate on the matter and allow the other members of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland the courtesy of an opportunity to have their say before the matter is put to public debate. Quite apart from the breach of confidentiality, I find the leak of this matter to be disrespectful to the 50 or so members who make up the governing body of the Law Society of Scotland, its Council.

"I do not intend to dwell in this email on the merits or demerits of the protocol other than to make it quite clear that the adoption or rejection of that protocol will be a matter for the Council to decide on Friday at the next meeting of the Council, and that the protocol does not seek to prevent any Council member expressing any opinions on any matter in their personal capacity or as spokespeson for another body, but sets out the basis on which Council members will comment as spokespersons of the Society."

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