Govan Law Centre’s Mike Dailly resigns from Law Society. THE Law Society of Scotland has been accused of acting against Free Speech, Democracy & the Scottish Public Interest by well known Glasgow lawyer Mike Dailly, who is reported to have resigned his position on the Law Society of Scotland’s Council and his Convenership of the Society’s powerful Access to Justice Committee, after disagreements emerged between the Law Society’s Council and Mr Dailly’s Committee over suggestions to merge the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).
The friction between the Law Society’s Council, SLAB & the Access to Justice Committee which has led to Mike Dailly’s resignation appear to be linked to a story reported in October 2010, where Mr Dailly’s Committee suggested the Scottish Legal Aid Board & the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission should be merged in the name of saving money. The idea was widely attacked at the time by SLAB, the SLCC & the Law Society as neither wanted to be merged with the other (SLAB & the SLCC afraid of losing their big staff budgets, expenses claims etc – Ed)
Independent law publication “The Firm” has published the full text of Mr Dailly’s resignation letter to the current Law Society President, Jamie Millar. In the letter, Mr Dailly pulls no punches in his criticisms of the way the Law Society operates, telling the President he has no confidence in him or the Law Society’s Council, who appear to have been determined to axe the Access to Justice Committee after discussions had allegedly taken place between the Scottish Legal Aid Board & the Law Society to reign in Mr Dailly’s Committee.
Mr Dailly’s resignation letter is reprinted below, detailing a number of serious allegations against the Law Society of Scotland & the Scottish Legal Aid Board, many of which appear typical of the way both organisations have operated over the years in what can be described as a most undemocratic manner, to put it midly (also dont forget the SLCC, although they are more incompetent than undemocratic ! - Ed).
Mike Dailly's Resignation : The Letter, in full (Reprinted from The Firm’s website)
This is the text of the letter sent by the Law Society's Access to Justice Committee Convener Mike Dailly to President Jamie Millar this afternoon.
It is reproduced here in full in the interests of transparency and promoting debate amongst solicitor members about the operation of the Law Society
Resignation from Council of the Law Society of Scotland and the Convenership of the Access to Justice Committee: Free speech, Democracy & the Scottish Public Interest
I write further to your telephone call this morning whereby you advised that ‘many members of Council had expressed concern about the activities’ of the Access to Justice Committee (AJC) and how ‘this needed to be brought to a head’.
When I asked what ‘activities’ caused concern you confirmed the AJC’s work in relation to Scottish legal aid, the leak of the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s secret response to the AJC’s Discussion Paper, and comments I have made as AJC Convener on legal aid.
You concluded the conversation by saying you ‘could not work with me’ and that the position of the AJC would be determined at the next meeting of Council, after the AGM on Friday 25 March 2011. I am grateful for the courtesy of your call.
I find it deeply troubling that the Council of the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) is incapable of standing up for free speech and open public debate on matters of importance to the Scottish public and the Scottish legal profession. Particulary, as this is a primary statutory function of the LSS.
At last year’s AGM, the CEO of the LSS, Lorna Jack, was full of praise for my appointment as convener of the AJC – the previous AJC having been defunct and invisible for 18 months or so - and indeed our AJC was highly praised for its work highlighting the adverse impact of the welfare benefit and public funding cuts in Scotland, and the need to protect access to justice in order to alleviate the worst injustices from these cuts.
Yet, later last year when the AJC suggested how savings could be made in the administration of Scottish legal aid – to protect front line public services in Scotland - and started a public debate on how things might be done better in the administration of legal aid for the benefit of the Scottish public, the AJC was undermined and attacked by you, Council and the CEO of the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB), Lindsay Montgomery.
I expressly advised you of the lengthy telephone call Mr Montgomery, made to me following our suggestion that things might be done differently with legal aid. It was an intolerant and quite inappropriate call from a senior Scottish public servant.
I explained how he had nothing but contempt for Scottish solicitors, suggesting they were useless and unable to count. I sought the support and backing of you and Council to tackle this unacceptable hegemony in the interest of the Scottish public.
Your response and that of Council was to introduce a ‘gagging order’ to prevent the AJC from expressing any public view without the permission of you and your media manager, Kevin Lang. Indeed members of the LSS’s Legal Aid Negotiation Team expressly stated that SLAB had asked for the AJC had to be reined in and controlled.
Despite the LSS media gagging order, the AJC continued to develop its ideas and recently published a Discussion Paper on legal aid. SLAB sought to prevent this Discussion Paper from being published by the LSS, by attacking the paper with a very long written response which it insisted must not be made public.
Neither I nor the AJC had any difficulty with SLAB challenging our paper and ideas – for that is the essence of a public debate. Yet, we can have no public debate because SLAB operates privately and Council would rather challenge my right, and the right of my colleagues on the AJC, to express a view in public.
I regret to advise I have no confidence in you or Council. At a time when the hunger for democracy and free speech has spread across North Africa and the Middle East like a fire, I am ashamed to say, you and most members of Council (the majority of whom are unelected) would prefer to kill free speech and extinguish the fire of democratic accountability and freedom.
Next month Council will seek the adoption of its proposed new constitution. This would further exclude the right of its members to influence the policy of the LSS, and would permit a tiny elite to do as they see fit in the name of 10,500 Scottish solicitors. Many Scottish solicitors will object to this on democratic principles, and I will stand by them.
My experience on Council of the LSS has taught me two things:
· the people of Scotland deserve an independent statutory regulator of legal services and;
the Scottish legal profession deserve the right to choose who represents them.
I herewith tender my resignation as a member of Council of the LSS, and as Convener of the Access to Justice Committee of the LSS. Said resignations are of immediate effect.
Govan Law Centre