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Legal aid is help towards the costs of legal advice and representation, for those who qualify, paid for out of public funds. It is designed to help individuals on low and modest incomes gain access to the legal system. 


Legal aid may be free, or someone may have to pay towards the cost of their case, for example through paying a contribution or from the money or property that they win or keep as a result of their legal action. Legal aid is accessed through a solicitor.

There are two main types of legal aid help: advice and assistance and legal aid. Together these are called legal assistance.

Advice and assistance covers a wide range of matters, so long as they are matters of Scots law. It pays for advice from a solicitor but, apart from a few exceptions under assistance by way of representation (ABWOR), it will not cover 'representation' – that is, putting the case in court. 

Legal aid provides funding for a solicitor to put the case in court and some tribunals. It covers the preparation work, as well as the hearing itself, and can provide funding for advocates, experts and other costs. (Cases often begin with advice and assistance, and legal aid may be the next step if necessary).

The main types of case that advice and assistance and legal aid can help with are:

How does the legal aid system operate in Scotland?

The Scottish Government decides legal aid policy and the Scottish Parliament makes and changes legislation. The Scottish Legal Aid Board manages the legal aid system in Scotland within the scope of our governing legislation and advises Scottish Ministers.

Legal assistance is available from private practice solicitors, law centres and solicitors employed by SLAB in the Public Defence Solicitors' Office for criminal cases and in the Civil Legal Assistance Offices for civil cases. Private practice solicitors are paid on a case by case basis from public money. Employed solicitors are paid a salary as employees of SLAB. The Legal Aid Fund meets the cost of cases and is uncapped. Funded cases must relate to matters of Scots Law.

In 2011-12, the Scottish Government has reduced the money it gives to SLAB to meet our running costs, after being frozen for three years. SLAB has to live within this budget but continue to develop and modernise the administration of legal aid, take on new responsibilities and meet inflationary costs.


Quick links

02, Mar, 2015

Contacting SLAB through new free online BSL interpreting service

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18, Feb, 2015

Launch of new child poverty prevention project in West Lothian

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18, Feb, 2015

Cabinet minister visits debt advice project

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16, Feb, 2015

Introduction of telephone call routing system

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11, Feb, 2015

Police station duty scheme update

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09, Feb, 2015

SLAB's response to Law Society of Scotland's Discussion paper on legal assistance in Scotland

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05, Feb, 2015

Legal Aid Online planned maintenance - Sunday 8 February

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02, Feb, 2015

SLAB move to Thistle House

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19, Jan, 2015

Launch of first good practice principles for funders of advice

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15, Jan, 2015

Advice projects help 18,000 people cope with challenges of benefit changes

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14, Jan, 2015

Police station duty scheme update

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31, Oct, 2014

Annual Report 2013-2014

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19, Oct, 2014

New projects to help families tackle money worries

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13, Oct, 2014

Police station duty scheme update

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