Scottish referendum gives narrow backing to ABSs

Members of the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) have voted narrowly in favour of alternative business structures (ABSs) being introduced in Scotland.

As reported by The Lawyer the LSS was forced to hold the referendum, despite supporting ABSs for two years, after the Scottish Law Agents Society (SLAS) tried to force it to reverse its policy of support (5 April 2010).

In total 43 per cent of LSS members took part in the vote with just 50.3 per cent agreeing that the society should stick with its current policy. The remaining 49.7 per cent agreed with the SLAS.

LSS president Ian Smart said: “The narrowness of the result clearly illustrates just how the issue has brought out widely divergent views across the profession.

“While there have been a few heated remarks on the wider fringes of the debate, I believe that the vast majority of solicitors still wish to try and find a united way forward. These results will therefore inform the ongoing policy debate, which will continue both in private and at the reconvened special general meeting later this month.”

The LSS had to last month abandon a special general meeting that the SLAS called with the purpose of holding a vote on whether the LSS should still be in support of the introduction of ABSs. Because the SLAS had arranged so many proxy votes in its favour it was felt that the outcome would be misrepresentative.

A reconvened meeting will now take place in Edinburgh on 16 April.

While the referendum showed only narrow support for the LSS’s stance on ABSs, 81 per cent of votes cast were in favour of the society applying to be a regulator of the structures if they are introduced.

For more on the ABSs row in Scotland click here and here.