Legal aid left in the dark despite welcome focus on justice sector
The Law Society of Scotland says the Scottish Government is right to focus on the justice sector in its 2023-24 Programme for Government, but is deeply concerned that legal aid has again been ignored.
Humza Yousaf delivered his first Programme for Government as First Minister this afternoon, announcing welcome changes in areas of concern for the justice sector including human rights, judicial factors and a renewed commitment to support justice agencies to reduce court backlogs.
The programme also outlines continued progress on Bills already before the Scottish Parliament, including the Regulation of Legal Services Bill and the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform Bill.
Law Society of Scotland President Sheila Webster said: “A modern and effective legal and justice sector is of fundamental importance, so we’re pleased to see a number of related initiatives included in the Scottish Government’s legislative agenda.
“But we’re bitterly disappointed to see another year where Scotland’s legal aid sector has been left in the dark without long-lasting reform that protects access to justice for the most vulnerable people in our society. That inaction will have follow-on impacts for some of the positive initiatives announced today.
“We welcome the Government’s ambition of creating a new framework for embedding international human rights in Scotland. This marks an important commitment to human rights protections in Scotland within the limits of devolved competence. The detail of the Bill, particularly on the delivery of these rights and the resources dedicated to them, will be crucial in delivering these aims.
“The Law Society is similarly keen to work with the Government on a Bill to modernise Scotland’s outdated laws around Judicial Factors. It’s a role that’s of fundamental importance in protecting the public’s property when financial concerns arise in solicitor firms.
“We will engage across the Scottish Government’s legislative agenda, acting in the public interest as we are doing currently to ensure proposed inappropriate political interference in the legal sector is stripped from the Regulation of Legal Services Bill.”