City leader warns of legal dangers of Scottish ‘yes’ vote

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  • Alasdair Douglas

The chairman of the City of London Law Society has warned of more than 10 years of legal uncertainty if Scotland votes for independence in September.

Alasdair Douglas, himself a Scot, told lawyers this week that he is ‘deeply troubled’ by the referendum and its effect on the legal framework of the UK.


The City society has said it will not take a stance on the issue of independence, but Douglas was clear that the poll will divide the country for decades and create a number of legal problems.

‘If the “yes” vote prevails, there will be more than a decade of legal uncertainty,’ Douglas told an audience at Scottish firm Tods Murray. 

‘Two years of absolute uncertainty during which businesses will sit on their hands while they and the politicians and civil servants in Scotland, London and abroad try to address what the law might be, both to enable a split and after a split, and try to create laws and treaties to preserve the status quo in areas essential to the functioning of a state.’

Douglas, a former senior partner at City firm Travers Smith, said it will then take five years to build institutions to apply new laws and to build equivalents of the Competition and Markets Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Even with a ‘no’ vote, he argued, a further devolution of power to Scotland will be ‘inevitable’, particularly in terms of tax laws.

‘The silver lining is, of course, that lawyers in the City and Scotland will be kept busy for a decade, but even I shy away from the notion that where commercial lawyers are making money, all must be well in the world.’

Lawyers have already been vocal ahead of the vote, which takes place on 18 September.

More than 100 Scottish lawyers and academics signed up to a pro-independence declaration as part of the Lawyers for Yes campaign in June. Scottish lawyers have also predicted a ‘fee bonanza’ if the nation opts to go it alone.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Utter guff! Scotland and England already have separate legal systems. They have for centuries. There is no reason to think that areas where thery currently cooperate on a nationwide basis or where UK wide laws apply etc, cannot simply be continued

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  • The Scots put salt in their porage. This is not only unhealthy, but also makes the stuff taste horrible. Their law is treated in a similar fashion. For example, there is no concept of consideration in the Scottish law of contract; and their basic law on leases in couched in an almost incomprensible form of ancient Scottish dialect. Whilst the end of the Union would be a catastrophic event for all concerned, my gut feeling remains: "Scotland for the Scots!"

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