The Legal Services Regulation (Scotland) Bill was tabled earlier this year and would give ministers powers to regulate legal professions.
Correspondence released by the Holyrood Committee on Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice showed the level of dissatisfaction within the sector. College of Justice senators said this would pose a “threat” to the independence of the profession and the judiciary and open the legal system to “political abuse”.
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Critics also said the Scottish Government would be given the status of “co-regulator” of the profession alongside the Lord President.
But in response, the First Minister said: “I fundamentally disagree.”
He added: “As for the reforms that we are pushing – remember, these came out of a consultation – people want the legal profession to be properly regulated.”
“Furthermore, as a government, we absolutely respect the independence of the judiciary.
“I was Minister of Justice in the government for a while. I fully understand the need for judicial independence and of course we will consider any ideas and changes that may be brought forward, but it is really important that we have a legal profession that is properly regulated.”
In their submission to the committee, the senators from the College of Justice – Scotland’s chief justices – said: “These proposals pose a threat to the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary.”
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“It is of vital constitutional importance that there be a legal profession willing and able to advocate for the citizen against the government at hand.
“The judiciary fundamentally rejects this attempt to bring the legal profession under political control.
“If the law is passed in its current form, Scotland will be recognized internationally as a country whose legal system is vulnerable to political abuse.”
The Law Society of Scotland said: “Our primary concern, as we will detail throughout this paper, is the Scottish Government’s desire to be given sweeping and exceptional new powers of intervention in the regulation of legal professions.”
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“These forces, which we have not been able to identify in any other western democracy, risk seriously undermining the rule of law and the independence of the Scottish legal sector from the state.”
“A key component of a free and democratic society is the role that an independent legal profession plays in challenging government and protecting citizens from excessive government abuse of power.”
“We hope that the committee will ultimately conclude that these sections should be removed entirely from the bill.”