Legal Aid Reform in Scotland: Consultation

Closed 19 Sep 2019

Opened 27 Jun 2019

Overview

Three overarching foundations of reform have been identified, namely that legal aid:

i) has the user voice at its centre;
ii) has flexibility to address and adapt to user need; and
iii) should be regarded as a public service.

Views are firstly invited on these foundations for change, which could promote a major shift in how legal aid policy is formulated, how legal aid services can be delivered, and how legal aid is perceived. The consultation explores the rationale to move away from a system currently focused on those who provide legal services funded by the Legal Aid Fund, that is constrained by the existing statutory framework and unable to act responsively to external developments, and whose purpose may be misunderstood and undervalued by many members of the public.

The consultation then examines, in more detail, how this change agenda can be delivered with reference to:

i) scope and oversight
ii) improving access and targeted interventions
iii) simplicity and fairness
iv) enhanced powers and best value

These sub-sections build on the discussion around the general principles for change.

‘Scope and oversight’ sets out the Scottish Government’s broad parameters insofar as the need to retain legal aid availability for a wide range of justiciable actions, and to retain the Scottish Legal Aid Board rather than establish a new public body.

‘Improving access and targeted interventions’ further develops consideration around how best legal aid can facilitate advice and representation needs be met in a flexible, planned and responsive manner. It is not enough to have a service that is available without considering how those who need it can access it.

‘Simplicity and fairness’ recognises the inherent tension between making access to services more simple and transparent against trade-offs such as potentially changing the demographic of assisted persons if aspects of the existing eligibility models are removed.

‘Enhanced powers and Best Value’ looks at what changes are necessary to empower the Scottish Legal Aid Board to capture the user voice and to oversee delivery of a public service that engages with Best Value.

Why We Are Consulting

To help secure that Scotland continues to have a world leading legal aid system, substantive improvements to the structure and delivery of legal aid are required. This consultation will help establish supported ways in which to achieve this.

Read the consultation paper.

What Happens Next

Analysis of the consultation responses, which will be published and will help to inform the development of legislation to reform legal aid in Scotland.

Interests

  • Communities and Third Sector
  • Equality, Welfare and Rights
  • Public Sector
  • Law and Order