Legal aid spending in Scotland rose by £7m in 2019-20, according to the Scottish Legal Aid Board's annual report for the year, just published.

The total cost of providing legal assistance was £130.8m, up from £123.7m in the previous year.

The increase reflects a rise in demand for certain services and the 3% increase in fees paid to solicitors and advocates that came into force in April 2019.

Criminal legal assistance expenditure increased by 3% to £75.8m, driven by a higher spend on solemn criminal legal aid, which rose by £2.8m to £33.1m. Spending on summary cases fell by more than £1m to £24m. Advice and assistance and ABWOR together rose by £450,000 to £13.1m.

Overall expenditure on civil legal assistance increased by £4.2m, a figure that takes account of a £2.1m drop in income from expenses in successful cases funded by SLAB and a reduction in income from contributions as a result of changes in the benefits system that resulted in more people being eligible without a contribution, as well as the absence of income from the Money Advice Service. Civil advice and assistance and ABWOR rose by more than £2m; grant funding fell by almost £2m.

The cost of children’s legal assistance was broadly in line with last year at £5.3m.

The report states that with accounting adjustments, the net cost of operations showed a bigger rise, from £117.1m in 2018-19 to £139.4m in 2019-20.

SLAB's administration costs rose by £770,000 to £12.44m, largely due to higher staff and pension costs.

Colin Lancaster, chief executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, commented: "The £7.1m increased cost of legal assistance in 2019-20 clearly illustrates how our legal aid system is designed around case by case funding and is demand led rather than restricted by a fixed budget."

You can read the annual report here