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SLAS support for constitution amendments

20 May 2011

The Scottish Law Agents Society has hailed a "victory for SLAS and democracy" as a result of its talks with the Law Society of Scotland on amendments to the Law Society's constitution.

The move follows talks between the two bodies since the Law Sociey's annual general meeting in March, which saw a proposed new constitution fail to gain the necessary support, with SLAS exercising several hundred proxy votes against it.

With a further general meeting due next Friday (27 May), the Law Society is proposing amendments to its existing constitution meantime, in order to comply with the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, with a debate on a proposed new model that would be put to the special general meeting due to be held in September.

Although SLAS, along with the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, had proposed amendments in different terms, spokesman Ian Ferguson confirmed today that SLAS accepts the Law Society's version apart from one proposed change. However it will not oppose the Society's motion at the SGM and will not exercise any proxies received.

Regarding the new constitution, SLAS has written to the Law Society stating: "From a cursory inspection of this it would appear to SLAS Council that this new version is a huge improvement on the earlier versions and we are particularly encouraged by your proposals that meet our concerns re disenfranchisement and 'sloppy drafting'."

"Tried and tested"

Commending the decision to allow further time for consideration of the document, the letter adds that "Apart from individual issues which may arise and require further amendment, there is still the major question as to whether or not we need a new constitution at all.

"We and others have pointed to the danger of unforeseen consequences in rescinding the existing constitution which has been built up over years with accumulated wisdom and amendment. The existing constitution has not lain unchanged for 60 years as some have suggested but has been adapted and changed when that has become necessary and to the extent it has proved necessary. Tried and tested wording is something that most lawyers normally yearn for. Our instinct is still that amendment is a safer method by which to proceed and the immense difficulties LSS Council have encountered in the drafting and re-drafting of a new constitution bear this out.

"We are certain the extra time will allow proper breathing space and calm reflection by all.”

Mr Ferguson commented: “The new wording for passing motions of 50% at two successive meetings or 60% at one are a victory for SLAS and for democracy in the Law Society. It will benefit SLAS but also for all individuals and representative bodies who may in future wish to change LSS policy.”

SLAS had criticised the previous draft on the ground of disenfranchisement of members, as member motions were to have required a two thirds majority to succeed while Council motions remained at over 50%. They argued that this would have made it impossible for any single member or any of the voluntary representative bodies to achieve a successful motion.

SLAS believe that the Constitution has benefitted from the robust debate on its terms and welcomes the Debate to be held at the SGM.

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