SOLICITORS throughout the UK have questioned the wisdom of the Scottish Office which last week ended the profession's exclusive control over conveyancing work.
From next autumn, the Scottish Conveyancing and Executry Services Board, set up under the Law Reform (Scotland) Act in 1990 and suspended two years later, will resume business.
Scottish Office Home Affairs Minister Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, who announced the re-opening, is alleged to have bowed to pressure from students who had threatened to take the Government to court if it did not set a date for introducing competition.
The students, who were studying to become licensed conveyancers at Abertay University, were preparing to challenge the suspension of the board in the Court of Session.
The announcement will bring Scottish solicitors into line with colleagues in England and Wales who have competed for conveyancing work since 1987.
"What an extraordinary thing to do at a time when there's not enough work to go around," said Karen Aldred, head of property and commercial services committee at the Law Society of England and Wales.
"How are those new licensed conveyancers going to compete when there's very little work already?"
Aldred's comments were supported by Scottish Law
Society president Alan Boyd, who said the Government's decision lacked justification and did not make economic sense.
"When the Government set up the Board in 1991 the Law Society offered and provided much in the way of positive help and guidance," he said.
"In 1992 the Minister of State, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC, suspended the board because the level of demand in the housing market was such that it would be unlikely to generate many opportunities for qualified conveyancers. The Law Society understood and supported that decision on the grounds of economic reality.
"When the Government announced the continued suspension in June 1994 of the Board for a further period of two years, the society agreed with that decision because there had been no significant upturn in the housing market.
"That situation has not changed. The housing market is still in the doldrums." Scotland: "housing market still in doldrums"