Law Society welcomes Scottish government’s revised legal aid package
The Scottish government’s revised legal aid package has been welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland.
Amanda Millar, president of the Law Society said: “This revised package is one we support as a positive step forward. £20 million of new money is a significant investment in a vital part of our civil society.
“It recognises how legal aid solicitors have suffered throughout this Covid crisis, pressures which will only increase with this week’s decision to reduce the number of criminal trials by 75 per cent.”
She said she was pleased that Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf had taken onboard the widespread criticism of the first offer.
“The decision to remove the changes to solemn and summary fees is particularly good news. These reforms were causing great concern and the decision not to proceed allows everyone to focus on implementing the five per cent across the board fee increase together with another five per cent uplift next year. It also provides an opportunity to look afresh at the structure of legal aid fees for a system which will inevitably look different post-Covid. Equally, the new trainee fund acknowledges the concern about the future sustainability of the sector.”
She added, however, that the package was only a “step” towards remedying a generation of neglecting legal aid.
“There are still serious and unresolved issues in how we improve the legal aid system over the long term and ensure this is a sector that solicitors want to work in. Without this, there is a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable in our society will not get the legal assistance they need. This will have knock on impacts on the effectiveness of our justice system and delivering the kind of civil society we all aspire to live in. This is why we will work with government on its commitment to promptly develop a fee review mechanism that provides long-term sustainable legal aid provision.
“Our immediate focus must be to get this new money out to firms as quickly as possible. We will be working closely with government, particularly on the resilience fund and trainee fund, to try and ensure they are simple and straightforward for firms to apply for.”