The Law Society of Scotland has highlighted the ongoing requirement to improve access to justice in its response to the Scottish Government’s legislative programme announced yesterday by the First Minister.

President Eilidh Wiseman said the Society was pleased that access to justice featured prominently within the programme, with bills on third party rights, tackling child poverty, and domestic abuse all due to be introduced, along with the intention to abolish employment tribunal fees.

Ms Wiseman commented: “We support the principles behind the bills aimed at ensuring an accessible and affordable justice system for people living in Scotland. Once introduced, we will scrutinise the proposals and engage with the Government, opposition parties and other key groups to ensure that the resulting legislation is practical and effective."

On the stated intention in the Government's programme to engage with the legal profession on legal aid, Ms Wiseman added: “We have pressed for reform to our legal aid system. Last year we published a series of recommendations for both civil and criminal legal aid to ensure its long term sustainability and we are pleased that the Government has confirmed it will engage with the profession on how this can best be done. It is essential that people can access the legal advice and services they need, regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances, and that those who provide that advice can continue to afford to do so.”

"Devil in the detail" – Faculty

For the Faculty of Advocates, the Dean, Gordon Jackson QC, said: “Much of the Scottish Government’s programme for justice is to be welcomed, for example the realisation that short prison sentences are counterproductive, and hopefully alternative community disposals will not only be suggested but properly resourced.

“Attempts to modernise the system are also positive, and we all share the principles of a system which serves the people of Scotland and is both accessible and affordable.

“As always, the devil will be in the detail and I look forward to the Faculty’s working with the Government in a very constructive way.”