Legal aid

The legal aid system provides publicly funded legal advice and representation for those most in need. It is a key part of providing access to justice.

The majority of legal aid fund expenditure is on legal services provided by solicitors in private practice who are paid on a case by case basis.

Review of legal aid

An independent review of the legal aid system was carried out in 2017, to ensure it is simpler, user-focused and more flexible - as well as sustainable and cost-effective.

The review, chaired by Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive Martyn Evans, published its report - Rethinking Legal Aid: an independent strategic review - in February 2018.

The report sets out a 10 year vision and makes 67 recommendations, including:

  • putting the user at the centre including creating a consumer panel
  • developing a new system for setting fees paid to solicitors conducting legal aid work
  • establishing a new arm's length body responsible for delivery of publicly-funded legal assistance

We will publish our response to the report in due course.

For background, minutes of meetings and evidence go to the gov.scot/archive.

Legal Aid Business Support and Recovery Fund

The Legal Aid Business Support and Recovery Fund recognises the critical role legal aid firms play in the justice sector as Scotland recovers from COVID-19. It also ensures the availability of legal services for those most affected by the pandemic.

The fund has been established following close consultation with the legal profession and will be distributed to legal aid practices as part of the Scottish Government’s Recover, Renew and Transform programme to support the justice sector.

Criminal legal aid fee structures

We are also working with the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB), which manages and administers legal aid, and the Law Society of Scotland to streamline and modernise the way criminal legal aid fees are structured.

This will help make the system more effective by reducing unnecessary costs.

Code of Practice for criminal legal assistance

Solicitors and firms who want to carry out criminal legal assistance must be registered with SLAB and comply with the Code of Practice for Criminal Legal Assistance.

The code protects people who require criminal legal assistance by ensuring the solicitors comply with all legal, ethical and professional obligations.

An updated version of the code came into effect in January 2018.

For information on how to get help with legal costs go to: https://www.slab.org.uk/public/