Law and change: Scottish legal heroes
Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

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Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

4 Thinking about making a difference

There are many ways to become involved in legal change at a local, national and UK level. In Week 7, you explored a number of principles underpinning how decisions should be taken by those with legal authority delegated to them and why challenges to such decisions may arise. This week, you learnt about participating in the parliamentary lawmaking process. You should now watch the following video in which Elish Angiolini, the former Lord Advocate, explores her early experience with the law.

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My first engagement with the law was because I lived in an area in Glasgow where a lot of people are very economically challenged, people are very poor. And I was engaged with a group trying to provide some support to people in the area.
And I met a lady through that who lived in multistory, a flat. And she lived in the 23rd floor and she was completely blind. And she had no carpeting in her house, but she had linoleum. Some people might not know what linoleum is nowadays. It's sort of a natural material which would break up, and it was quite hard and shiny, but it could break up.
And hers was torn. And as a result of that, she made an application, which I made for her for supplementary benefits, social welfare benefits to obtain a carpet. But the rules, the law at the time was that you could have linoleum, you could replace linoleum, but you couldn't have a carpet.
Now, carpet was softer if she fell. And it was more comforting. It was also warmer. And I could find carpeting that was the same price per metre as the linoleum. So I challenged the decision that had been made, and appealed it. And I was 17 at the time. I was still at school. And we went along to the Supplementary Benefits Appeals Tribunal, the two of us.
And I argued that the law was nonsense. That it was a judgement on people who were poor that they couldn't have a carpet when in fact, it was the same, and it would be extremely beneficial to this lady's safety because it wouldn't be slippy, and et cetera, and was softer.
And as a result of that, we won. And we got the law changed. And so, she was allowed to have her carpet. And we went home that night and we had two fish suppers in our house. And we had a carpet party, as we called it. And she had a carpet fitted, and it made a huge difference to her life.
And even to this day, that was one of the best moments I can remember feeling about the ability to solve a problem for somebody else, and the impact it can have on you. And how much better it makes you feel. And more than anything, going into law is about solving problems. It's about trying to help and support people who are in need, and times of distress.
And it's a tremendous career. And people who want to do that, who are motivated to do that, have such a great range of careers that they can have of solving problems in different contexts. It can be commercial problems, big company problems down to someone who is about to lose a home or a child.
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Having the courage to challenge decisions and to do so in a structured and organised way can help effect change for individuals, community or society. Through such challenges, as you have learnt from the history of development of the law as well as your exploration of legal change and the principles underpinning the rule of law, certain words and behaviours have become associated with it.

Figure 12 Law word cloud

There are times, however, when we may become more directly involved with the law and its impact on a more personal basis. Often this comes at a time when we are experiencing difficulties whether at work, home, school, college, during our leisure time or in our community. It is often at times when we may be emotionally vulnerable and under significant stress that we come into contact with the law. This can also impact on our perceptions and colour the way in which we view law.

You should now watch the following series of videos which contain the personal reflections of Scottish law makers and lawyers. The former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, Craig McKerracher, Scott Manson and Iain Gray reflect on their legal heroes. They discuss the individuals, organisations and campaigns they hold in high esteem together with the reasons why, whether for their tenacity, perseverance, contributions, support or encouragement.

Download this video clip.Video player: Elish Angiolini
Elish Angiolini
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Download this video clip.Video player: Craig McKerracher
Craig McKerracher
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Download this video clip.Video player: Scott Manson
Scott Manson
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Download this video clip.Video player: Iain Gray
Iain Gray
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