Even with reduced court business, more work must be done to ensure all of Scotland’s court estate is safe for users, says our President, Amanda Millar.

Speaking after the announcement by the Lord President of further restrictions in court business to meet the public health crisis, Amanda, said: “It is right that all steps are taken to protect court users. However, today’s announcement will impact witnesses, accused, complainers as well as many hard pressed legal firms who have been struggling to survive the sharp drop in court work over the last year.

“The limited number of cases to be heard inside court buildings must be dealt with as safely as possible. Regrettably, this has not been the experience of many solicitors over recent weeks. Even with this proposed reduction in business, the Court Service needs to move rapidly to ensure their buildings are able to conduct the business safely and effectively.

“Looking ahead, it is essential to start planning now for returning court business to previous levels just as soon as it is safe to do so. This should include enhancing covid safety measures across the court estate, which many solicitors have considered to be inadequate over recent weeks. This will not be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Creative solutions will be required to address the growing backlog of cases. Early vaccination of court staff and solicitors could make a big difference on this. We look forward to working with government and its agencies to help address all these issues.

“There is also the immediate challenge of protecting those solicitors who are struggling most from the sudden reduction in work. Last month, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice announced a new COVID resilience fund for legal aid firms. Given today’s announcement, the Scottish Government must look to expand the fund and speed up delivery of this essential financial support. Without urgent funding, there is a real risk of firms going under, creating an access to justice crisis across the country."