Legal aid and access to justice

Independent strategic review of legal aid

In February the Scottish Government announced that there is to be an independent review of the legal aid system in Scotland. The review is to be chaired by Martyn Evans, CEO of Carnegie Trust. The review group will also include solicitors with strong experience of working in legal aid;

  • Lindsey McPhie, solicitor advocate and immediate past president of the Glasgow Bar Association
  • Jackie McRae, a SSSC registered social worker, solicitor accredited by the Law Society as a specialist in family law and a former member of the Law Society’s Council

The independent legal aid review published a call for evidence on 9 March 2017 and you can read the Law Society's full response here.

The call for evidence poses four main questions:

  • What shared values and ethos should underpin legal aid services, and how best can they be embedded in the delivery of legal services in the future?
  • How best can wider organisational arrangements (including functions, structures and processes) support and enable the delivery of effective legal aid services?
  • How best can legal aid services achieve positive outcomes for and with the people of Scotland?
  • If you were designing a system of legal aid today what would you do differently from the current system to make it more effective and person-centred?


Financial health of legal aid firms

In February 2017 we published a new report The Financial Health of Legal Aid Firms in Scotland. This significant report, the first of its kind, was researched and written for us by Otterburn Legal Consulting.

Unfortunately it does not make for comfortable reading.

The research, which had responses from 57 of Scotland’s law firms carrying out legal aid work, highlights a real risk that people relying on legal aid to help them, whether facing unlawful eviction, resolving custody of their children, or defending a criminal charge, may soon be unable to find a legal aid solicitor because many solicitors simply can’t afford to carry out legal aid work.

The report is part of our important ‘access to justice’ work and it is clear that Scotland’s legal aid system needs an urgent overhaul. We will work with the Scottish Government, Scottish Legal Aid Board and the newly created independent legal aid review group to ensure Scotland’s legal aid system delivers for those who depend upon it.

We would like to offer our thanks to the law firms who took the time to help us with our research and provided such invaluable, detailed submissions for this report.

Please take the time to read The Financial Health of Legal Aid Firms in Scotland and contribute to the debate, using #DefendLegalAid on social media. Or you can email your views, thoughts and observations to

Please note the £6.65 per hour figure in the research was reported as £6.29 in the February edition of our Journal magazine (published 20 February 2017). Since the magazine went to print at the beginning of February, the report’s author Otterburn Legal Consulting, carried out additional analysis and the figure has been updated to £6.65.


Legal Assistance in Scotland - Fit for the 21st Century

In November 2014, the Law Society’s Legal Aid Committee published a discussion paper on legal assistance in Scotland. The consultation period closed on 30 January 2015.

We received over 50 responses from individuals and organisations. We have published these responses along with our consultation report. After analysing the consultation responses, in May 2015 we published our 18 key proposals in our recommendations paper ‘Legal Assistance in Scotland - Fit for the 21st Century’.

Read the consultation responses

Read the consultation report

Read the 18 key proposals in our recommendations paper ‘Legal Assistance in Scotland - Fit for the 21st Century

If you have any queries or comments, or to find out more about the Society's work on legal aid please contact us on  You can also join the conversation on twitter @lawscot #legalaid and solicitors can join our LinkedIn Legal Aid group.

Why are we making these proposals?

We do not believe that the current system is fit for purpose and at a time when there are ongoing reforms to modernise the wider court and justice system, we need to rethink the system as a whole and look at where efficiencies can be made and how savings can be reinvested into legal aid.

We relied on members and stakeholders to help inform our views on these important issues. We consulted with a wide range of justice system stakeholders as well as the Scottish Government and Scottish Legal Aid Board.


Taxation decisions

The Society will publish on our website a collection of taxation decisions in relation to legal aid cases across Scotland. It is hoped that this will provide solicitors with an easy method of sharing information and gaining a better picture of trends in taxations throughout the country.

If you have any decisions which you think would be useful for other practitioners, please send a copy of the decision together with any other relevant information to Marina Sinclair-Chin.


Expert witnesses

A copy of the Society's draft proposal on experts is available to download from this page. We hope that this proposal would both create a simplified procedure for finding and instructing an expert, and result in significant savings to the legal aid fund. This proposal is being discussed with SLAB, and we would welcome your thoughts and comments so that we can take these forward in our discussions.

To find out more about the Society's work on legal aid and access to justice, please contact Andrew Alexander on 0131 226 8886 or follow ScotLegalAid on Twitter.