Law Society of Scotland Manifesto for 2011
The Law Society of Scotland published their manifesto in January 2011 ahead of the May 2011 elections. The manifesto represents a focused statement of what the Society sees as some of the key priorities for the next Scottish parliament.
Visit the Manifesto for 2011 website
The paper aims to stimulate a wider public debate on issues that should be addressed and is structured around five key themes:
- Public knowledge and understanding of the legal system
- Access to legal services, advice and representation
- A civil justice system that meets the needs of society
- Good legislation
- A sustainable economy.
The manifesto was developed through a series of seminars last autumn. The Society brought together solicitor members as well as people from the legal professions, businesses, charities, universities and voluntary groups. This allowed the Society to understand how these groups interact with the justice system and how they thought that system could work better.
The Law Society reported that one of the most striking themes of the discussion seminars was a real lack of public awareness with respect to the law and legal system as well as the practical difficulties this lack of understanding can cause.
‘We are told that ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, the complexity and sheer bulk of law immediately puts the citizen at a disadvantage. We need to redress the balance between those who are subject to the law but not aware of their obligations or their rights. We believe this kind of education needs to start at a far earlier age, which is why we have proposed introducing a course on the law and legal system into secondary schools and for consideration to be given to a new law qualification.’
Jamie Millar President of the Law Society
‘Greater public knowledge of the law can only be a good thing as far too often the law is not properly understood.’
Robert Brown Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesman speaking in support of the manifesto at the launch.
Public knowledge and understanding of the legal system
The law generally holds that ignorance of the law is no excuse. The complexity and sheer bulk of law therefore immediately puts the citizen at a disadvantage. It is important to redress the balance between the citizens who are subject to the law but who may not be aware of their obligations or their rights.
The manifesto states that to make the legal system more effective there must be a better understanding and awareness amongst the general public of how the law and justice system operates.
‘It is also essential for people to understand their own rights and responsibilities within that system, not least to try and grow a greater sense of citizenship in our society and our democracy.’
Increasing the public’s knowledge and understanding of the legal system is a task for both government and the legal professions.
‘Government does have an important role to play, particularly in terms of the education of younger people and in ensuring a more general public awareness of changes that are made to the law by the Scottish Parliament.’
The Law Society of Scotland believes it is essential for the Scottish Government to ensure a greater public knowledge and understanding of the legal system. To this end, they propose that:
1. changes should be made to the curriculum in secondary schools to include a course on law and the legal system and consideration given to the creation of a new secondary school law qualification
2. each new act of the Scottish Parliament should be accompanied by an information leaflet as well as online information that properly explains the new law and its impact on the citizen.
Read: Manifesto for 2011.