You are here

Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill - CAS response to Committee Stage 1 call for views

CAS has responded to the Equality, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee's call for views on the Legal Services Regulation (Scotland) Bill.

In our response:

›     CAS reiterates our view that the Roberton model of a single independent regulator would deliver the greatest improvements for consumers in terms of transparency, accountability, and clarity of process. We underline our disappointment that the Bill has disregarded this model in favour of adding more layers of complexity to the existing landscape.

›     We express our disappointment that the promise of a regulatory regime with consumers at its heart does not seem to be delivered in the substance of the draft Bill – with many opportunities missed to strengthen the consumer interest.

›     We call for a clearer statutory role for consumer representation on the proposed regulatory committees (as distinct from generic lay representation), as well as consumer involvement in setting minimum standards for regulators.

›     We query the rationale for affording a lesser degree of scrutiny and accountability to current category 2 regulators in the draft Bill.

›     We welcome measures aimed at streamlining the complaints process including reducing complaints handling time, extending the remit to non-regulated for-profit providers, and introducing hybrid complaints. However, we caution that the retention of various layers and channels a complaint can take fails to deliver a simpler pathway for consumers, and we express concern about the removal of compensation for conduct complaints, as well as removal of the right to appeal SLSC decisions to an external body.

›     We welcome the expanded remit of the SLSC’s Consumer Panel but caution against the panel being seen as the catch all consumer scrutiny forum without increased resources to enable the panel to discharge these functions.

›     Regarding ministerial oversight, we call for greater consideration of the evidence sources for these interventions to be triggered, and the capacity this may require from the named bodies as well as consumer bodies fielding this data.

›     We call for urgent clarity regarding the definitions of ‘fee, gain and reward’, upon which third sector liability for entity regulation hinges. The variability of definitions of restricted and unrestricted legal services also poses concerns for the advice sector and we call for statutory consultation with these providers in the event of any change being considered.

›     We welcome the intention of the draft Bill to stimulate diversification in the legal services market, but we remain unclear how or whether the current provisions would enable this in practice. It remains difficult to envisage how the provisions around ABS and practicing restrictions might address the significant gaps in provision which CAS has repeatedly highlighted, without corresponding consideration of the pressing issue of legal aid reform.

To read our full response download here.

CAS Strong Communities team
Publication date
August 2023
Publication type
Number of pages