In February 2017 the former Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing, invited Martyn Evans, CEO of the Carnegie Trust, to chair an Independent Strategic Review of Legal Aid in Scotland. Over the following year Martyn Evans, supported by a review group made up of legal and consumer professionals and academics, engaged with a wide-range of stakeholders, including members of the legal profession, representative bodies, the third sector and the public before producing his report and providing his recommendations to Scottish Ministers.
The Chair's report: "Rethinking Legal Aid", set out a long term vision of a citizen-focused legal aid service in Scotland for all forms of publicly funded legal assistance. That vision is underpinned by a mission to create and sustain public trust and provider confidence in the legal aid system. The report provides us with an opportunity to develop a new statutory framework for a modern, forward-looking and person-centred legal aid service for Scotland. It identified six strategic aims, and consequently 67 recommendations on how that vision could be achieved and how shorter term improvements might be made.
In November 2018 I published the Scottish Government response to that Review and announced my intention to consult on the basis of those recommendations.
In that response I indicated that I was not persuaded that the Scottish Legal Aid Board should be replaced by a new arm's length body; I do, however, support the suggestion that the powers available to the Board should be made more flexible and coherent. This consultation seeks your views on whether you support such changes. I also welcomed the recommendation to maintain the wide scope of legal aid and seek your views on this too.
As was stated in my response, the Scottish Government is open to further views on how the report recommendations should be taken forward and this consultation is intentionally broadly set to capture the fullest range of views on the recommendations and what level of reform is supported. In building a user-centred service, it is vital that the user voice is captured at this early stage. The views expressed in response to this consultation will inform decisions as to whether there is the appetite for radical reform of legal aid and the legislative change required to achieve that.
Minister for Community Safety