One of Scotland's most senior lawyers has said that the First Minister "must heed the warnings" of the legal profession over proposed regulation changes.

Sheila Webster, President of the Law Society of Scotland, has taken Humza Yousaf to task over comments he made earlier this week in relation to proposed reforms.

Mr Yousaf, on a visit on Monday to Glasgow's Riverside Museum, said he “fundamentally disagrees” with recent criticism of proposed reforms to how the legal sector is regulated.

A political row is ongoing over the Regulation of Legal Services (Scotland) Bill, which was lodged earlier this year and would give ministers powers over the regulation of legal professionals.

The legal sector has responded robustly to the proposed legislation, which they say would be a “threat” to the independence of the profession and judiciary as well as open up the legal system to “political abuse”.

In a letter to The Herald, Ms Webster said: "The First Minister says people want to see the legal profession ‘appropriately regulated’.

"I agree.

"It’s why the Law Society has argued for almost a decade for changes to modernise the regulatory framework.

"However, the unprecedented reaction to the government’s Regulation of Legal Services Bill is precisely because of how inappropriate it would be for Ministers to control the very people who so often challenge government and protect citizens from the excessive use of power by the state. "It is why the independence of the legal sector is a respected and cherished principle across the world."

Critics have also said the Scottish Government would be given the status of “co-regulator” of the profession alongside the Lord President.

When asked on Monday, the First Minister said: “I fundamentally disagree.”

He added: “In terms of the reforms that we’re bringing forward – remember, these came on the back of a consultation – people want to see the legal profession appropriately regulated.

“We also, as a Government, absolutely respect the independence of the judiciary.

“I was justice secretary for a period of time in the Government, I completely understand the need for independence of the judiciary and, of course, we will consider any ideas, amendments, that are brought forward , but it’s really important that we have a legal profession that is appropriately regulated.”

Further warnings to ministers were issued by the Senators of the College of Justice – Scotland’s top judges.

A letter from the body read: "Scotland will be viewed internationally as a country whose legal system is open to political abuse.”

Ms Webster added: "Mr Yousaf also said the reforms came 'on the back of a consultation'.

"However, the government’s 2021 consultation made no mention of Scottish Ministers intervening directly in regulating lawyers or being given the power to decide for themselves who can and cannot be a solicitor.

"If they had, Scottish Ministers would have experienced the same backlash they are witnessing now.

"The fact our most senior judiciary as well as respected major international legal organisations have felt it necessary to speak out on a Scottish Government Bill speaks volumes. "These warnings need heeded."