Legal aid spending will be held at the level of the last two years in 2020-21, under the Scottish Government's Budget plans announced last week. 

Detailed figures issued with the Budget show planned legal aid spending of £137.5m in 2020-21, the same as in 2019-20, with a figure of £137.4m being shown for 2018-19. The administration element remains at £11.7m and the legal aid fund at £125.8m (down from £126.1m in 2018-19, when £11.3m was spent on administration).

The Scottish Legal Aid Board annual report for 2018-19, however, showed the cost to taxpayers for the year down to £123.7m, from £124.4m the previous year.

In April 2019 an across-the-board fee increase of 3% came into force, the first such rise in many years, pending the conclusions of a working group as to how to determine future increases.

The Budget paper also promises reforms to the legal aid system in Scotland, to “improve access to justice, taking a user-focused approach to the provision of advice and legal services”. Ministers are currently considering how to take forward the recommendations of the review of legal aid under Martyn Evans.

Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service is allocated an extra £6m, though the capital spending element drops from £18.3m to £8m. The Scottish Prison Service, which is struggling to accommodate rising prisoner numbers, sees its budget increased from £393.7m to £442.2m, with capital spending rising from £47.5m to £67.8m.

Central government grants to local authorities to cover criminal justice social work remain unchanged at £86.5m.

Criminal injuries compensation spending is projected to remain at the reduced level of £15.5m (compared with £17.5m in 2018-19), but the administration element reduces from £2.7 to £1.7m while scheme payments rise from £12.8 to £13.8m.

Click here to access the Budget paper. Justice spending is covered in chapter 9.