A 3% increase in legal aid fees for solicitors and advocates, from April 2019, has been announced today as part of the Scottish Government's response to the independent review of legal aid.

The response to Martyn Evans's review, which reported in February this year, also sets out plans for the establishment of a payment review panel, the streamlining of administrative processes and regulations to simplify fee structures.

A public consultation will be launched next year, with responses informing the design of "a user-focused and flexible legal aid service tailored to meet the needs of a modern Scotland". A bill will be introduced in the current parliamentary session.

Ministers will also "consult the legal profession on early simplifications to criminal fees early in 2019 and continue to work with the Faculty of Advocates and Society of Solicitor Advocates on improvements to the structure of fees for counsel".

Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham, explained: “This Government values the professionals who undertake legal aid work, often for the most vulnerable in our society, therefore I am pleased to be able to announce a 3% increase in fees. This demonstrates our commitment to those delivering this vital service and is a first step in advance of a wider review of legal aid payments.

“We want a legal aid service that is effective and user-focused and our response to Martyn Evans’s review sets out commitments to simplify and update the current system.

“We have also confirmed legal aid provision for cases in housing, immigration, welfare and family law will remain protected, unlike in England & Wales where the legal aid scope for these categories has been cut.

“We will consult and work closely with the legal profession in delivering further improvements and hope this collaboration can lead to a better system for all involved.”


Reacting to the news, the Law Society of Scotland said implementing a new, evidence-based review system must be a priority.

Alison Atack, President of the Law Society of Scotland, commented: “The Government has set out a number of constructive proposals for change over the short and longer term. A top priority must be simplifying what is a highly complex and confusing legal aid system both for the legal profession and members of the public.

“I am very pleased to see the minister’s commitment to a 3% increase in both civil and criminal legal aid rates. The current low rates of pay risk discouraging solicitors from carrying out legal aid work, leaving some of the most vulnerable in society unable to get the expert legal help they need and deserve. I am glad those arguments have been listened to and responded to by the minister.

“However, this rise on its own will not solve the problems we are seeing in the system. That is why the implementation of a new, evidence-based review system must also remain a priority. This is vital to ensure there are fair and sustainable fees for solicitors who carry out this important work in the long term. We welcome the Government’s commitment to moving forward with this and will look forward to discussions taking place as soon as possible.”

Legal aid solicitors have been unimpressed with the rise, with comments on social media such as "derisory and insulting", though the Government response makes it clear that it is intended as an interim holding measure pending the evidence based model coming into play.

Angela Grahame QC, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, commented: "We are grateful for the careful consideration which has clearly been given by the Scottish Government to the Independent Strategic Review of Legal Aid, and welcome its commitment to hold a public consultation in 2019 on the review’s recommendations."

She added: "We were disappointed that the review did not recommend any increase in legal aid fees and are greatly encouraged by the Scottish Government’s approach. For our members to receive this public support from the Scottish Government is heartening, and the decision to increase both civil and criminal legal aid fees demonstrates an acknowledgment of the commitment demonstrated by our members doing legal aid work on a daily basis over many years."

Ms Grahame also welcomed the intention to convene a panel to consider a new payment framework, "which goes beyond the recommendations of the review".

Click here to view the full response.