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Legal aid review

Published: 28 Feb 2018 09:42
Part of:
Law and order

Chair’s report published.

An independent review sets out a 10 year vision and makes 67 recommendations to ensure Scotland’s legal aid system is simpler, user-focused and more flexible – as well as sustainable and cost-effective.

The review, chaired by Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive Martyn Evans, highlighted that Scotland’s legal aid spend per head is among the highest in the European Union and has both the widest scope and eligibility.

Martyn Evans said:

“Our aim is to put users and the public interest at the heart of Scotland’s legal aid system. Legal assistance is a vital public service for many vulnerable people in our society and is often used at difficult and distressing times. Putting people first is vital.

“The current legal aid system in Scotland benchmarks very well against other countries. However, we need  to make the system simpler, more flexible and fairer for those who use it and those hard-working lawyers and advice workers who deliver it.

“This report sets out a ten-year timeframe to allow for short term impact as well as more ambitious, strategic improvements that will deliver a better public service for the people of Scotland.”

Recommendations include:

  • Putting the user at the centre including creating a consumer panel
  • Maintaining the current scope of the legal aid fund but simplifying the process
  • Investing in service improvement, innovation and technology
  • Developing a new system for setting fees paid to solicitors conducting legal aid work
  • Establishing a new arm’s length body responsible for delivery of publicly-funded legal assistance and increasing public awareness of its availability

Welcoming the report, Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said:

“I am grateful to Martyn Evans and members of the independent review group for their work over the last year. This report provides a platform for further reforms of the legal aid system in Scotland and we will consider its recommendations in consultation with justice organisations, the legal profession and partners who have been tasked with change.

“Scotland’s legal aid system is world-leading but improvements are needed to ensure its sustainability and I will meet with the Scottish Legal Aid Board, Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates as a priority to discuss next steps.”

Read the Scottish Legal Aid Review.