Saturday 27 March 2010

Complaint to Electoral Reform Society

GLC has lodged a complaint with the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) in relation to the wording of the two questions in the forthcoming Law Society of Scotland referendum on ABS or 'Tesco Law'. The letter to the ERS is reproduced below.

Mr Andrew Burns
The Chairman
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.

Yours faithfully

Mike Dailly
Principal Solicitor


  1. Are you not in danger of offending the solicitor profession by indicating that they are not capable of reading the question for what it is and further that they will be "led" by the wording of a question. If read carefully - which is what we do as solicitors (read carefully) - it is clear that if the appropriate safeguards are not in place then the profession cannot and will not support the introduction of ABS into Scotland which I would read to mean the Law Society would not then have a mandate from the profession to apply to become a regulator under the new scheme. I don't like posting comments as Anonymous but going by your recent public comments there seems to be an element of personal attack on those who may not agree with you and I'm too fragile for that! :-)

  2. Dear Anonymous, we agree that solicitors read, and construct, sentences with great care and precision, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the questions posed have been drafted by the LSS in a tautological and pro-ABS fashion. The referendum questions should adhere to international standards in terms of simplicity, clarity, and neutrality. They do not. We have made no 'personal attacks'. Our Principal Solicitor has called for the resignation of Ian Smart. But that is not personal, the criticism is against the way in which Mr Smart has conducted himself in the Office of President. If he had acted in a statesman like role, which we believe the Office of President should be, then we would have both admired and respected him. Sadly, he has brought the Office of President into disrepute for the reasons detailed on this blog.

  3. Electoral Reform Services was created by the Electoral Reform Society to ensure the fair and impartial conduct of ballots, elections and surveys. Our integrity and professionalism have been recognised by the United Nations and the UK parliament.

    We have over 100 years experience in conducting ballots for a wide range of clients and causes, in the UK and overseas. ERS has administered elections of all sizes, with electorates ranging from just one voter to over one million voters.