Legal aid is a fundamental part of Scotland's legal system and society. It makes accessing legal representation and advice from a solicitor more affordable for those who need it.
Below is an explanation of some of the situations and cases where a member of the public might be eligible to receive legal aid.
To find out if you're eligible to receive legal aid, visit the Scottish Legal Aid Board's website.
You can use our website to search for a Scottish solicitor who does legal aid work. Make sure to tick the 'legal aid' box when searching.
- If you're arrested or charged with a crime legal aid can help ensure you receive the representation you need
Civil and children's legal aid
- Every year thousands of parents in Scotland need legal aid for cases about access to their children and decisions about who a child should live with.
- Families going through divorce or separation can access legal aid too, to make sure things are settled properly and fairly.
- If a spouse needs a protection order to keep them safe, legal aid can help.
- Legal aid is also often needed if a loved one becomes unwell and isn’t able to make their own care decisions.
- Legal aid covers cases that go through the Children’s Hearings system.
- As well as cases relating to the family, legal aid is available in Scotland for civil matters like housing, debt, immigration, making a court appeal, or challenging the decisions of a government body by judicial review.
The Scottish Legal Aid Board check your financial situation and the circumstances of your case before granting legal aid. We can’t advise if you are eligible for legal aid and you should visit the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s website or call them on 0845 122 8686.
There’s a calculator tool on their website which can give you a rough estimate on whether you’re financially eligible. If you receive a passported benefit, for instance income-based jobseekers’ allowance, then you should automatically pass the financial test. For certain types of criminal case, including any advice provided at a police station, legal aid is automatically available for those financially eligible.
A legal aid solicitor will help you to apply and you can find details of legal aid firms in your area from our Find a Solicitor tool. You’ll need to be able to prove your income and any money you have in bank or savings accounts. Ideally, bring along this documentation to your first appointment.
The Society's specialist accreditation scheme offers recognition of solicitors who develop specialist knowledge during their careers.
Our Find A Solicitor tool allows you to search for accredited specialists in particular fields. However, some accredited specialists will not do legal aid work. If you click on the firm where the solicitor works , you can see whether the firm does legal aid. If so, or even if not, it’s worth giving them a call and explaining your case to see if they can help in any way.
If you’re in receipt of legal aid, you won’t be asked to pay a private fee by the solicitor. Legal aid, however, may not pay your costs in full. For certain types of civil case, you may have to pay a contribution. These are usually very small for advice under legal aid, but can be larger for court work under legal aid. If you recover or gain money or assets through a successful court case, the Scottish Legal Aid Board will recover the costs of legal aid from these – a process called “clawback”. You can find out more details about these from the Scottish Legal Aid Board and whether you would be likely to pay a contribution.
It’s possible to transfer lawyers if you receive legal aid. However, the Scottish Legal Aid Board will consider whether it’s reasonable in the circumstances to allow that transfer to take place. The Scottish Legal Aid Board will assess your circumstances and if it’s reasonable to transfer to another legal aid solicitor, they will approve this. One example would be if you’ve moved to another part of the country.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau offers advice on a range of topics and there is also a guide to your rights on the Citizens Advice Scotland website. Other advice organisations, like Shelter for housing issues, also offer valuable help. The clerks’ office at your local Sheriff Court can give you any court forms required.