The Scotsman reported on 21 May 2005 that Barbara Doig, a civil servant who was the first project sponsor in the construction of the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood, has complained to the Faculty of Advocates about the conduct of John Campbell QC, counsel to the Fraser Inquiry into the project. Doig’s complaint is not about Campbell’s hostile questioning of her during the Inquiry, but refers instead to a speech which he made in December 2004 to the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Campbell discussed the findings of the Inquiry and expressed the view that problems started with the appointment of a librarian” to be the project sponsor. Mrs Doig has never been a librarian but was previously the deputy director of the Central Research Unit of the former Scottish Office. She is now Chief Researcher in the Scottish Executive. Her complaint is being investigated by the Faculty of Advocates.
Tony Blair’s reshuffle of his government team following the General Election held on 5 May 2005 attracted much critical comment; but relatively little attention was given to the delayed reappointment of Lynda Clark QC as Advocate General for Scotland on 13 May 2005. This occurred even although Clark had retired as MP for Edinburgh Pentlands (see previously Nos 3, 17 and 57). Clark has now been elevated to the House of Lords. See further the Advocate General’s website, http://www.oag.gov.uk/.
A 13th-century Scottish legal document spotted in the Public Record Office in London by a retired Selkirk policeman was returned to the National Archives of Scotland on Friday 13 May 2005. The document apparently records litigation between landholders in what is now the Braid district of Edinburgh, which took place during the reign of Alexander III King of Scots (1249-1286). Having been amongst the Scottish royal documents carried off to Westminster by Edward I in the 1290s, it should have returned to Scotland under the Public Records (Scotland) Act 1937 (which originally inspired the young Ian Hamilton to reflect on the restitution of the Stone of Scone – see his Taking of the Stone of Destiny (Lochar Books, 1991), pp 9-12; and see also No 2).
The travails of the unfortunate Raj Jandoo (see No 448) continued on 9 May 2005, when the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates suspended him from membership of the Faculty pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings which have also been instituted against him in respect of his conviction in Stornoway sheriff court on 18 March.
Meantime, the traditional self-disciplinary role of the Law Society of Scotland in relation to the solicitors’ branch of the profession appeared increasingly under threat. The Clementi Report (published December 2004) recommended for England and Wales that there should be an independent complaints body (Office for Legal Complaints). On 11 May 2005 the Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson launched a consultation for Scotland on the issue. This set out four options for reforming the present structure:
(1) increasing the investigatory and enforcement powers of the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman (SLSO);
(2) making the office of the SLSO a ‘single gateway’ to receive and sift all complaints where local resolution has not been possible, with wider powers to monitor the complaints handling processes of the professional bodies;
(2) turning the office of the SLSO into a single gateway which would itself investigate most complaints;
(3) creating a new independent complaints handling body, with a board led by a lay chair and with a lay majority.
These options build on recommendations made by the Justice 1 Committee in the first session of the Scottish Parliament, which favoured retaining the current system of self-regulation of complaints handling by the professional bodies, but recommended a number of measures to make the system more accountable and subject to a greater degree of independent oversight.
Clementi also recommended that a regulator (the Legal Services Board) should be set up to oversee both the Law Society and the Bar Council; and that non-law firms should be able to own legal practices, raising the spectre (for some) of supermarket or Tesco legal services. For reactions to Clementi, see http://www.advocates.org.uk/news/news004.html, and various documents at http://www.lawscot.org.uk/.