Law Society calls for ‘wider reform’ following legal aid fee increase
The Law Society of Scotland has called on the Scottish government to pursue “a package of wider reform” following a three per cent increase in legal aid fees.
All solicitors and advocates who provide people with advice and representation through the legal aid scheme in Scotland received a three per cent increase in fees from Friday.
The increase was announced last November as part of the Scottish government’s wider response to Martyn Evans’s independent review of legal aid.
Ian Moir, convener of the Law Society’s criminal legal aid committee, said: “Legal aid helped people secure access to justice in over 200,000 cases last year, defending people when prosecuted, when unfairly dismissed, when facing homelessness, family separation or a range of other challenging, life-changing issues. Legal aid is the mainstay of access to justice in Scotland, but the funding of this vital service is no longer fit for purpose.”
Reflecting on the three per cent increase, he said: “For most of the fees involved, it’s the first increase in a decade and for some, significantly longer. Over the last decade, we’ve seen around a 20 per cent cut in real terms through inflation and around 20 per cent less solicitors providing criminal legal aid.”
Mark Thorley, convener of the Law Society’s civil legal aid committee, said: “It’s important that this increase is part of a package of wider reform to make legal aid sustainable and to ensure that people are provided access to justice. The fee review panel provides an opportunity to tackle the effect of inflation and bridge the funding gap for legal aid.
“We’ll also look forward to a public consultation on the recommendations of the independent review of legal aid, which will allow practitioners and the public to have a say around how to make sure that legal aid and access to justice can be best provided.”