Legal aid research questions contracting for Scotland
The Law Society of Scotland has published new detailed research in anticipation of the Scottish Government's consultation paper on contracting in criminal legal aid. This research looks at some of the issues which could arise in a contracting system and how these would impact on legal aid providers in Scotland.
Ian Moir, Convener of the Society's Legal Aid Committee, said: "If the Scottish Government thinks it is right to introduce a form of contracting legal aid work to Scotland, it must be right for the Scottish legal landscape and for the right reasons.
"Legal aid provision should not be seen as a soft target for budget cuts. We know how important legal aid is to the public from a recent independent poll published by the Law Society, in which 81% said it was a price worth paying.*
"We still think that the case has yet to be made for the introduction of contracts for legal aid work. However it is fundamentally important that any changes which are introduced help to preserve the best of the Scottish system. It is also critical that lessons are learnt from the experience of other countries, where public procurement processes in the legal aid sector have cost the taxpayer more, not less and have raised access to justice issues.
"We have undertaken extensive research so people have a better understanding of the issues before responding to the Scottish Government's consultation."
The research examines procurement processes, equality and competition in different markets around the world through case studies and is the second part of research carried out by the Law Society on contracting issues.
The Scottish Government has published a timetable which indicates that a public consultation on contracting is due to start later this month (December). The Society is keen to engage a wide audience in responding to the consultation through an online survey which will be issued to members as soon as the government's consultation has been published.
The Law Society of Scotland research can be found in the Criminal legal aid contracting section of the Law Society of Scotland's website.
A short video from The Law Society of Scotland on Vimeo.
The Law Society's Legal Aid co-ordinator Matthew Thomson talks about changes to legal aid and the upcoming proposals on contracting for criminal legal aid work.
Notes to editors:
*Research commissioned by the Society and carried out by polling organisation Ipsos Mori showed that 83% believed the poorest in society would be most affected by Scottish Government cuts to legal aid.
81% believed legal aid was a price worth paying to ensure we have a fair society, regardless of cost.
10% thought legal aid was a waste of money.
09 December 2013