Enhanced fees for lawyers to support profession.
Community Safety Minister Ash Regan has made a “substantial and credible offer” of support to Legal Aid practitioners.
A robust package of support was set out by Ms Regan in a letter to the sector today which builds on the increases to fees already introduced over the past three years.
The offer directly addresses issues raised as priorities by the legal profession and has been made following extensive engagement to provide a sustainable way forward for criminal defence solicitors.
It sets out:
- A package of funding worth £11m. This is equivalent to an 10.3% increase in solicitors’ fees, on top of the £10m increase already introduced, and would bring the total recurring increase to legal fees since 2019 to over 25.2%
- Significant extension of a legal traineeship scheme for a further two years at a cost of an additional £1m
- And a framework for agreeing regular, evidence-based, fee reviews that directly addresses issues raised by the legal profession as priorities
Minister for Community Safety Ash Regan said:
“This is a substantial and credible offer following extensive engagement with the sector and I’d urge lawyers to accept it.
“Our aim always has been to find a settlement that responds to the concerns raised by members of the profession and builds on the increases to fees already introduced over the past three years.
“We also have to find an agreement that is affordable in the context of public finances and supports the on-going process of justice recovery and transformation.
“The offer has been made in the context of a very challenging financial position and that is why I must emphasise there is no scope for further immediate increases beyond this offer. Additionally I have asked for a cessation of planned disruptive action which has the potential to be damaging to witnesses and complainers.
“Scotland has the finest legal aid system in the world and this credible and robust package will support vitally important criminal defence work as the justice sector continues its recovery from the COVID period.”
Ms Regan wrote to the sector to set out a clear and credible offer on 01 July, 2022.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the Scottish Government acted immediately to make required legislative changes to support an enhanced scheme of interim payments, recognising the difficulty firms could be placed in financially due to cash flow.
Due to significant drop in demand for legal aid services during 2020-21 the Scottish Government provided £9m in additional funding to legal aid providers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was through grant awards that have been paid to a total of 419 firms across Scotland, to support them while work was unavailable.
Award sums differed depending on the circumstances of the firm (including other areas of income such as furlough), but ranged from an average of £10,452 to firms in the lower banding, to £67,971, on average, for firms in the highest banding. Some recipients received significantly more than the average.
The Legal Aid Fund is demand led. Reductions in spend derive from reduced demand and it is inaccurate to classify reduction in spend as “cuts”.
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