Our purpose and strategic objectives

Our Purpose

To manage and improve continuously publicly funded legal assistance and to advise Scottish Ministers on its strategic development for the benefit of society

Strategic Objectives

Our strategic objectives are:

  • To deliver improvements to legal aid processes that increase efficiency and improve the experience of system users and customers.
  • To advise Scottish Ministers on the strategic development of legal assistance and its contribution to a Scotland in which rights are supported and disputes are resolved fairly and swiftly.
  • To ensure that our organisation has the culture and capability to be responsive to our customers, the justice system and developments in legal and advice services.
  • To build and maintain effective and collaborative relationships with the legal and advice sector and our public sector partners as we seek to achieve our Purpose and contribute to wider Scottish Government aims.

By fulfilling our purpose and strategic objectives, both we and legal aid will better contribute to the achievement of Scottish Government aims, an efficient justice system and improved outcomes for those who need services supported by legal aid.

What our work involves

Our framework document

This governance and accountability framework document sets out the broad framework within which we operate and defines key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between us and the Scottish Government.

File Type Size
Framework document 372 KB | 21 March 2019 PDF 372 KB

Role of the Board

Our work is overseen by a board, whose members are appointed by Scottish Ministers.

The Board’s main roles are to set our strategic direction and oversee our finances and performance.

The number of board members can vary between 11 and 15. To provide a balanced range of knowledge and experience, they include people from the wider community as well as solicitors and advocates.

Board committees

Board committee structure and membership

Read about the committees of the Board and their membership.

Standing orders

Our standing orders set out how the business of the Board and its committees operate.

File Type Size
Board Standing Orders 325 KB | 3 March 2020 PDF 325 KB

How the Scottish legal aid system works

Ministers in the Scottish Government:

  • Decide legal aid policy.
  • Set the rules for legal aid.
  • Decide the fees to be paid to the legal profession.

The Scottish Parliament makes and changes legislation – including the tests for granting legal assistance. These tests are then applied to every single case.

In advice and assistance solicitors apply the tests.

For civil, criminal and children’s legal aid, we apply the tests.

The budget for the Legal Aid Fund is different from many other public services: it is not a capped amount.

Since the Legal Aid Fund is uncapped this means we never have to refuse someone legal aid because there is no money left to pay for their case.

Legal assistance is available from private practice solicitors, law centres and solicitors employed by us in the Public Defence Solicitors’ Office for criminal cases and in the Civil Legal Assistance Office for civil cases.

Private practice solicitors are paid on a case by case basis from the Legal Aid Fund. Employed solicitors are paid a salary as our employees.