John Mulholland, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Legal aid in Scotland is provided so that any person who wishes to enforce or protect a legal right has access to legal assistance if they are unable to pay for it without undue financial hardship for them or their families. It is a right of itself and is a mark of a civilised society. It is provided for in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and is a principle of our understanding of what the rule of law is.
“Our members, working in the most challenging professional circumstances provide the very best quality advice and representation to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our communities. We know this is true because of the robust checks which are in place to ensure it. Our members are audited by the Scottish Legal Aid Board in regular cycles to ensure compliance with the appropriate legal aid legislation, regulations and codes of conduct. Accounts submitted by them are also scrutinised to ensure that work done on behalf of an assisted person is reasonable, advances the case and has been carried out with due regard to economy. Legal aid work is also quality checked by a regular programme of peer review. This way any quality issues can be easily identified and recommendations made for improvements and best practice. All of this together should give the public confidence in this vital system.
“Beyond these specific legal aid checks solicitors must of course act in accordance with the Law Society's own high professional and ethical standards. However it is much, much more than that. Solicitors must also act in the best interests of their clients at all times. It is a fundamental principle which our members have robustly defended with the benefit of legal aid since 1949 and will always continue to do so.”