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Mike Dailly, the convener of the Law Society's Access to Justice Committee has resigned from both the Law Society Council and the Access to Justice Committee over concerns that his role was being undermined from within the Society and externally from the Scottish Legal Aid Board, with the tacit consent of the Society's Board.
Fellow Council member John McGovern resigned last week citing a "fundamental dishonesty" on the part of the Society.
"I find it deeply troubling that the Council of the Law Society of Scotland 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," Dailly told President Jamie Millar in his letter of resignation.
"Last year when the Access to Justice Comittee 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. "
Dailly adds that he now has no further confidence in Jamie Millar as President of the Law Society, and adds that he is ashamed that Millar and many on the Law Society Council "would prefer to kill free speech."
Dailly adds that the proposed draft constitution, to be debated at the Society's AGM in March would further exclude the right of members to influence the policy of the Society, permitting "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," Dailly concludes.
The Law Society have issued no public comment on Dailly's resignation, and have yet to comment publicly on McGovern's resignation last week.
Dailly's letter to Jamie Millar can be read in full here.