In Scotland, justice is a devolved matter. This means the provision of legal aid is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, through the Scottish Legal Aid Board. In 2016-17, the cost of criminal and civil legal aid assistance amounted to around £136 million, down from £161 million in 2010-11.
The Law Society of Scotland and others have highlighted that small, high street law firms are struggling to make legal aid work financially viable. This can have very concerning knock-on effects to access to justice, especially in rural communities. After repeatedly cutting the legal aid budget in real terms, the Scottish Government have now promised to improve Scotland's legal aid system and they must follow that though.
My colleagues in Holyrood recognise that access to justice is one of the most important tenets of a civilised society, and that legal aid provisions in Scotland must be simplified and supported by sufficient levels of funding. I am assured they will continue to hold the Scottish Government to account on this important issue so that nobody in Scotland misses out on the assistance they need.
Last reviewed July 2019