Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow

Update re the COP26 Duty Solicitor Scheme

Dear colleague,

The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow is as aware as any solicitor or legal organisation in Scotland as to issues around legal aid and access to justice. No-one looking in objectively and fairly can interpret the current and longstanding regime of funding for the poorest and most vulnerable in this country as anything other than grossly unfair and unsatisfactory.

We as an institution support our members, solicitors generally and the public of Scotland in seeking a better and a stronger system of legal aid. Sometimes there is a need for positive action on top of the regular negotiation and pressure that is put on government and the Scottish Legal Aid Board. That action has to be proportionate, professional and productive.

Akin to the other caring professions, any withdrawal of labour is a double-edged sword. Those already in distress have to suffer the withdrawal of their support – i.e. solicitors – when in most need. No matter how conscientious our intentions, this can be deployed for negative publicity by those who oppose our aims. Lawyers rarely get a good press, and a strike, or the equivalent, can frankly be spun against us.

We recognise Cop26 presents as an opportunity for a major, indeed international, showcase for solicitors’ grievances. The potential for large numbers of new cases arising from demonstrations and civil protest action has brought a likely need for solicitors to work harder even than usual in doing our part in processing new and large numbers of cases. It is perfectly logical that this is taken as an opportunity to do what is needed to bolster our case for more adequate funding and recognitions.

But the very scale of the event has other connotations. Public order may be compromised by withdrawal of labour – or at very least presented as such. Individual clients will be forced to ensure a more difficult time being prosecuted than otherwise. And the absence of lawyers leaves a gap for those opposing or criticising us to gain more traction than they would otherwise.

Any negative warning here is based not on lack of support or understanding. But experience has shown that unilateral actions of this sort are in the realm of gesture politics, and have never done much for us, and have been frankly a catalyst for criticism – even ridicule. Such gains as there have been – it is right to say these have been limited, and there is a long way to go – have been by careful, determined and hard-working negotiation, in a calm and determined manner, over time. Our case is right, but we have needed to go slowly and grindingly. Drama and gesture have done nothing to advance the cause.

We ask all those concerned to take a calm, studied and professional approach.

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Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow
12 Nelson Mandela Place,
Glasgow G2 1BT
0141 332 3593 (tel)
library@rfpg.org

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