Mr Andrew Burns
The Electoral Reform Society
6 Chancel Street
Dear Mr Burns
Law Society of Scotland (LSS) referendum on ‘Alternative Business Structures’ – internet-based voting system operated by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) on behalf of the LSS
I am a Scottish solicitor, and a member of the Law Society of Scotland. I note that my Law Society has instructed the ERS to undertake an electronic referendum of all solicitors in Scotland on two questions concerning the proposed introduction of ‘Alternative Business Structures’ to Scotland.
I am aware of the first class reputation of the ERS and am therefore puzzled as to why you would put your good name and reputation to a referendum whereby the questions posed are biased, conditional and heavily weighted in favour of one particular outcome, namely ABS? This is the favoured policy of the governing body of the LSS, notwithstanding that it is now clearly opposed by many within the Scottish legal profession. For example, the first question posed is thus:
"Do you support in principle the introduction of Alternative Business Structures ("ABSs") to Scotland as long as there are appropriate safeguards to protect the core values of the legal profession and there is an equivalence of regulation between ABSs and traditional firms?"
This question predetermines the answer by making a value judgement that there will be ‘appropriate safeguards’ to protect the independence of solicitors' legal services to the public. But that is the very issue which is being debated amongst solicitors in Scotland. Separately, the question as framed is tautological (‘a statement that is true of necessity or by its logical form’).
Can you please advise whether the ERS had any involvement in the framing of the referendum questions? Can you please advise whether it is you policy as a UK body which promotes fair and democratic elections to take part in a voting procedure which is patently undemocratic by reason of the use of ‘loaded’ or ‘leading questions’?
Finally, can you please advise on your formal complaints process (and please treat this letter as a formal complaint) as I am concerned that the LSS will use the good reputation of the ERS to give credibility and respect to its flawed referendum on this occasion.