The Lord President sketched the following picture of Scots in dire need of legal help: scots legal news
The Edinburgh Bar Association and Legal Aid in Scotland
The Edinburgh Bar Association (EBA) is the professional body for barristers in Scotland.
The EBA is very supportive of the provision of legal aid and we are firmly of the view that it is an important part of our society’s commitment to ensuring access to justice for all. We are also very aware of the vital role that legal aid plays in supporting vulnerable people and communities across Scotland.
We are therefore concerned that the Scottish Government has misrepresented legal aid in Scotland in its recent public statements. In particular, we are concerned about the suggestion that legal aid is only available for “serious” cases. This is simply not true.
For example, legal aid is available for family law cases, employment law cases, housing law cases and immigration law cases. It is also available for criminal defence work in some circumstances.
The EBA believes that it is vital that the Scottish Government recognises the importance of legal aid and provides accurate information about it to the public. We would be happy to meet with ministers to discuss this issue further and we would encourage them to visit one of our member firms to see first-hand how vital legal aid is in supporting vulnerable people and communities
Scottish Government Mischaracterizing Legal Aid In Scotland
The Scottish Government has been accused of “mischaracterising” legal aid in Scotland. The government has been accused of making false claims about the amount of money spent on legal aid and the number of people who benefit from it.
In a statement, SLAB said: “We are concerned that the Scottish Government is seeking to mislead the public about the true nature and cost of legal aid in Scotland.”
The government has claimed that legal aid costs £120 million a year, but SLAB says this figure is “grossly inaccurate”. It says the true figure is closer to £50 million. The government has also claimed that only 1% of Scots benefit from legal aid, but SLAB says this figure is also wrong. It says the true figure is closer to 4%.
SLAB’s criticisms come as the Scottish Government prepares to launch a consultation on reforming legal aid. The consultation will consider whether to introduce means-testing for legal aid, as well as other changes.
Why the Scottish Government is Wrong
In a blog post on the Scottish Government website, the Scottish Government has mischaracterized legal aid in Scotland.
The post says that the Scottish Government is “committed to ensuring that everyone in Scotland has access to justice” and that “legal aid plays an important role in delivering this commitment”.
However, the reality is that the Scottish Government has been consistently underfunding legal aid since 2010. In 2015/16, the Scottish Legal Aid Board had a budget of just £82 million – a cut of over 30% in real terms since 2010/11.
This has led to a reduction in the number of solicitors and Advocate Depute who are able to provide legal aid services, as well as a reduction in the types of cases which are eligible for legal aid.
As a result, many people in Scotland are now being denied access to justice. In particular, those on low incomes or with complex legal problems are often unable to get the help they need.
The Scottish Government needs to urgently increase funding for legal aid so that everyone in Scotland can have access to justice.
What the Scottish Government should do about Legal Aid
The Scottish Government should provide more funding for legal aid.
The Scottish Government should also increase the number of lawyers who are able to provide legal aid.
Furthermore, the Scottish Government should make it easier for people to access legal aid.