A definition of civil legal aid is provided in section 13 of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986. This should be read in conjunction with Part I of Schedule 2 to the Act (which indicates the courts in which legal aid may be granted for proceedings) and Part II of Schedule 2 to the Act (which excludes legal aid from certain proceedings).

Legal aid consists of representation by a solicitor and, where appropriate, by counsel in any proceedings covered by the Act. It includes all assistance usually given by solicitor or counsel in the steps preliminary to or incidental to proceedings, or in arriving at or giving effect to a settlement to prevent them or bring them to an end. Where it is appropriate for representation to be provided by counsel, that representation may instead be provided by a solicitor holding rights of audience by virtue of section 25A (rights of audience) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 in proceedings before the court or courts in which the solicitor holds such a right of audience.

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