Law Society of Scotland responds to legal aid report
Ian Moir, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland's Criminal Legal Aid Negotiating Team, said: "Solicitors provide a valuable service to people who are often in very stressful situations and legal aid is essential for a vulnerable group of people who might not otherwise be able to have access to legal advice and representation. The importance of that should never be threatened by cost-cutting or inefficiencies in the system.
"The justice system is undergoing major reforms both in the civil and criminal courts and the full impact of these need to be carefully monitored both in relation to legal aid and to ensuring effective access to justice throughout Scotland.
"We know that further changes are to come, not least in the form of proposals for contracting for criminal legal aid. We need to see specific proposals from the Scottish Government before we can say whether a move to any contracting delivery model will be better for clients, access to justice and delivery of legal aid, compared to the system we currently have.
"We work closely with the Scottish Legal Aid Board and Scottish Government to ensure that the views of solicitors working on the ground are taken into account. Scottish solicitors work very hard for their clients in difficult circumstances to deliver a vital service. Every area of public spending is under pressure, and the savings package for legal aid this year has saved over £18 million. We need to ensure that before any further reductions to the legal aid budget are introduced, detailed consideration is given to ensure that the level of availability and accessibility of legal aid is not undermined.
"In particular the impact of changes to entitlement and collection of criminal legal aid due to come into effect this November should be monitored before further changes are made.
"Civil legal aid has a really important role to play in society especially as so many people are suffering the effects of the economic downturn. Its importance can be seen in areas such as people seeking help with housing issues, which has increased by 31%."
27 September 2013