The Law Society of Scotland has hailed the independence referendum as a ‘triumph for democracy’, but called for a ‘clear roadmap’ for new devolved powers.
Commenting on the ‘No’ vote, president Alistair Morris said: ‘The campaign over the last few years has been impassioned and at times difficult, with strong views and emotions on both sides.
‘However, this referendum has been a triumph of democracy. We have seen a record turnout which has included many thousands of people registering and voting for the first time.’
He added: ‘During the referendum campaign, we were repeatedly assured that a No vote was not a vote for the status quo. The three main UK parties signed a commitment to devolve further powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. We now need a clear roadmap, both for reaching a consensus and for the delivery of any new powers. That process must reach out beyond the political parties and involve those from across civic Scotland.’
The Society is holding a special conference on Friday 3 October titled ‘The People’s Verdict – so what now?’ which will consider the implications of the referendum result. First minister Alex Salmond and Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael will be among the speakers.
Scotland’s largest law firm CMS, which acquired Dundas & Wilson earlier this year, also issued a statement on the result. Senior partner Penelope Warne said: ’No does not mean no change. There is an expectation of change but the question is how much. Although devo-max is currently light on detail, it is safe to assume with promises made by all three major parties there will be far-reaching changes in institutional structures, law and regulation. Business welcomes certainty and as the sixth largest global law firm, with 250 lawyers in Scotland and a Scottish presence that we are extremely proud of, we are ideally positioned to assist the market as it grapples with what these changes mean.’
CMS has launched Scot-Next, a microsite which provides information on what is being proposed and the implications for the legal market.
The Association of Conservative Lawyers has responded to the vote by publishing ‘Our Quasi-Federal Kingdom’, a new paper on Britain’s constitutional arrangements. The paper proposes a new statute of union declaring that the UK is a quasi-federal, voluntary union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It provides a blueprint for an ‘English voice on English government’ within the Westminster Parliament.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, chairman of the Society’s executive committee, said: ‘Given the new powers that will be going to Scotland, the paper outlines a clearly and carefully worked out solution to the West Lothian question, that could be achievable within the existing structure of the UK parliament and at minimal cost.
‘Those of us who want to see our union strengthened along with a fair solution for England have before us a thoroughly considered proposal which can be used in parliament to inform the debate and offer change within a reasonable timescale.’
The West Lothian question refers to the perceived anomaly that MPs from outside England can vote on matters that affect England only.