The response analysis to last year's consultation reforming the legal aid system in Scotland has been published by the Scottish Government.
Taking place following the report of the review of the system under Martyn Evans, the consultation sought views to help inform the development of legislation to help achieve the Government's vision of a leading system to support citizens in defending their rights while also creating and sustaining public trust.
The legal profession provided 28 of the 61 responses received, though the report notes that some individuals simply emailed to state their support of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Bar Associations even though these bodies differed in their views in some respects.
Nearly all respondents supported the view that the user should be at the centre of the legal aid system. However, while the majority agreed that the current model of provision could be strengthened, and most felt that increased targeting of specific areas of law and geography would enhance flexibility and provision of services, there was no clear consensus on how to achieve this. The third sector and law centres were supportive of targeted grant funding and contracts, while the legal profession considered increased payment levels to be key here.
Overwhelmingly, respondents supported not only retaining the current scope of legal aid but also widening it, specifically legal aid provision for group actions, tribunals and issues related to human rights.
There was also majority backing for action to support and enhance the work of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, including better training, more consistency in decision making, and enhanced information sharing between organisations.
However majority support for more flexibility in the system, including the ability of SLAB to use grants and exclusive contracts to target services, was not echoed by the legal profession. A proposal to introduce a memorandum of understanding between legal aid providers and SLAB also polarised views.
Simplified eligibility assessments at the outset of the process were also backed, with fairness being the key for all respondents.