Scots vent anger over public fund to protect conveyancers

Scottish solicitors have attacked the Government for paying a £40,000 indemnity insurance premium for licensed conveyancers in a bid to get the profession off the ground in Scotland.

The funding is being offered by the Scottish Conveyancing and Executry Board, a newly launched non-departmental public body which has been given the job of overseeing the licensed conveyancing profession.

The board, which was set up in 1991 and suspended for two years because of a weak housing market, has been re-established to register licensed conveyancers.

Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre chairman George Clark said while Scottish solicitors pay £150 annually into their own Guarantee Fund, licensed conveyancers were getting what amounted to a free ride by the Government.

“The public will be effectively meeting the cost of any fraud from a licensed conveyancer,” said Clark.

He has written to Scottish Office Home Affairs Minister Lord James Douglas-Hamilton seeking clarification of government assistance for licensed conveyancers.

Board secretary Robert Paterson said it would need 20 licensed conveyancers to register paying a £2,500 levy to the indemnity fund before government funding could be withdrawn.

However, it is not clear how the scheme will be funded next year if there are still not enough licensed conveyancers paying into it.

Grant McCulloch, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said licensed conveyancers would be joining a very competitive marketplace.

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission is expected to release a report in June that will determine if Solicitors Property Centres are operating outside of the public interest.

Hearings into the activities of the hugely successful SPCs have been taking place in Scotland.