Tuesday 23 October 2012

Scottish Parliament: consensus for change at the Fair Access to the Legal Profession event

The student-led Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession's (CFALP) event in the Scottish Parliament witnessed a remarkable consensus for progressive change from SNP, Labour and Lib-Dem MSPs, members of the Scottish legal profession, university representatives, civic society groups and law students tonight (23 October 2012).

The event hosted by the SNP's Edinburgh Central MSP, Marco Biagi heard from two fourth year law students who were now faced with the harsh prospect of being priced out of the Diploma (PEAT 1) after the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell, moved their funding goal posts and any hope of being able to afford to complete the mandatory PEAT 1.  The voice of law students shortly to be excluded from Scotland's legal profession because of an unfair change in the funding arrangements was met with overwhelming support in a packed Committee Room 6 in the Scottish Parliament.

The event also included speeches from CFALP's campaign co-ordinator, Tim Haddow, NUS Scotland President, Robin Parker, and GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, who said:

"Scottish law students are not asking for preferential treatment - all they want is the right to borrow the same amount of student loan support that other vocational students can borrow. Architect students can borrow additional student loans for up to six years, while medical and dental students can borrow for their fifth year of study.  Postgraduate trainee teachers also have access to student maintenance loans. Why not law students?"

"There is no logic in the current policy of the Scottish Government.  It is regressive, unfair and against the aspirations that the Scottish Government has for an inclusive and successful Scotland. I hope the Scottish Government will reconsider".

The debate session also heard contributions from Scottish Labour's Sarah Boyack MSP (who advised that Mike Russell MSP had now declined an invitation to convene a summit of all affected and interested parties in Scotland), the Scottish Greens' Alison Johnstone MSP, the Lib-Dems Liam McArthur MSP, Law Society of Scotland President Austin Lafferty and Dr Nick McKerrell of Glasgow Caledonian University. 

No-one disagreed that urgent action was required to prevent law students from less well off backgrounds being excluded from PEAT 1 by reason of socio-economic circumstances. 


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