In response to the publication of the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service’s plans for the UN climate change conference COP26, today, Tuesday, 7 September, Law Society of Scotland President, Ken Dalling, said:
“COP26 is a landmark event and the biggest of its kind to ever be hosted in Scotland. Bringing with it the possibility of widespread protest, the climate change conference is likely to generate a significant increase in the daily court business to be dealt with by the Scottish criminal justice system. It will be vital to ensure that any additional court business generated as a consequence of the conference is dealt with efficiently. We are pleased to see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service publish its contingency plans for this period.
“However, the fact that the event is likely to add to the already acute pressure on the courts and court backlog as a result of the pandemic cannot be ignored. It is vital therefore, that the legal profession remains fully informed and involved in the planning process to ensure that their own businesses have the capability and resources to deal with the anticipated potential influx of new custody cases in particular. It will be important to continue engagement with local solicitors and bar associations in the weeks running up to and throughout COP26. Co-operation and communication with all parties involved in the court is essential to ensure the successful management of the court business.
“There is also a need for increased resourcing. Defence agents cannot simply absorb an increased workload for no additional payment. Any additional workload and requirement to attend courts, including any weekend courts, must be properly funded. We have pressed for a new daily stand-by fee for firms scheduled to be available for an additional duty allocation over the period of COP26, for uplifts in police station and court duty fees for conference cases, as well as uplifts in non-duty fees for solicitors dealing with cases arising from the conference. These proposals have been discussed with the Scottish Legal Aid Board and we are awaiting the decision on this following consultation with government.
“We will continue to work with our members, the courts and others as part of the COP26 Operational Working Group to ensure that Scotland’s justice system operates smoothly throughout COP26. We do expect however that the reality of the requirement for additional funding is accepted, and that action is taken as a consequence.”
A Law Society conference on Policing operational and legal perspective on managing COP26 is scheduled for 12.30-2pm on 15 September 2021.