Tackling the poor legal aid rates is a priority for the new Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow.
Nicola Irvine is the first woman to be elected Dean in the organisation’s 349-year history. She is a partner in Glasgow firm Russells Gibson McCaffrey.
“The rate of payment has not increased for solicitors over many years and as a result some firms have chosen not to offer legal aid,” Ms Irvine told The Herald.
“When it was first introduced the legal aid rate was about 90 per cent of the private rate that solicitors charged. Now, on an hourly basis it’s about a quarter.
“There’s a diminishing pool [of legal aid solicitors] so clients are restricted because they don’t have the choice of solicitors that they once did.”
Commenting on the strain caused by the poor rates, she added: “The number of hours you have to put in if you do only legal aid work compared to private work is incredible. You have to put in long hours – and those are anti-social hours.
“You get calls at weekends and in the middle of the night. That’s something we take on the chin. You have to roll with the punches and expect that’s going to happen.”
The Scottish government’s legal aid review is not expected to report until next year.