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Scottish solicitors to debate framework for legal aid negotiations

19 February 2013 | tagged News release

A discussion paper outlining a framework for the future shape of legal aid negotiations has been issued today, Tuesday, 19 February, to criminal defence solicitors. 

The paper has been drafted by Austin Lafferty, President of the Law Society of Scotland, and invites solicitors to respond to his proposals on representing the profession in relation to legal aid.

Austin Lafferty said: "It's clear from recent events that we need to adapt and enhance the structures for representing members specifically on matters of criminal legal aid. We have worked fast to put together some initial thoughts on how we can move forwards, but it will be for solicitors and their local faculties and bar associations across Scotland to feedback their ideas on what they think will work.

"Our aim would be to create an organisational structure that is more directly accountable to the members, robust and respected by government and the legal aid board, and which makes it easy for members to access information and which offers two-way communication."

Today's discussion paper promotes the continuance of the existing legal aid negotiating team (LANT) structure with two additional members from local faculties and introducing regular quarterly meetings with representatives from all the Scottish faculties. The paper also promotes increased use of technology to ensure Scotland's 1,400 criminal defence solicitors can be kept well informed and are able to contribute to ongoing discussions.

Lafferty added: "Two-way communication will be vital. I would hope that as we develop our use of technology, such as e-voting, members will become more IT-active, and join in the practice of keeping in touch with disseminated information through emails and web content. Indeed it may be possible to create a criminal legal aid online forum that is active and available to legal aid practitioners, and which of itself will encourage awareness and input. It is crucial that if members are being asked or empowered to vote that they have all the facts.

"I have every confidence that we will find a solution. Lawyers are smart and practical people and I believe in our ability to overcome virtually any problem."

ENDS                                                     

Notes to editor

The discussion paper can be read on the Law Society's website.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884 / 07825 206468. Email: valeriemcewan@lawscot.org.uk

19 February 2013

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