Overview of factors we must consider

Please note this guidance does not apply to outlays in respect of British Sign Language interpreters.

Interpreters and translation

Interpreters and translation costs are chargeable as outlays in your account. No prior approval is required unless the outlay(s) incurred exceed £3,000 in Civil/Children’s and £2,000 in Criminal (excluding VAT). Costs which exceed those limits is deemed to be unusually large expenditure and the prior approval of the relevant Applications Department is required before you undertake the work.

There are no prescribed rates under the legal aid regulations for outlays which are incurred in respect of legal services provided under the legal aid or advice and assistance regulations. However, to assist in securing interpreter and translation services we have developed a database of providers that will assist you to employ an interpreter and translator at a price that represents value for money and will ensure consistency around pricing for travel, waiting time and other associated charges.

The database is available here.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, SCRA, Hospital Manager and such are responsible for the arrangement and costs of an interpreter engaged in order to conduct any court or tribunal diet, where required. However, where in addition the assisted person needs their own interpreter in attendance in order to communicate with their solicitor either before, during or after the hearing then the solicitor should provide reasons in support of any such claim.

Rates and terms

The key rates and terms for language interpreting and translation are:

  1. All rates set out exclude VAT.
  2. Face to face and telephone interpreting are paid at the same rates. These are up to £30 per hour, with a one hour minimum charge and payment will then be made for each subsequent quarter hour of time. Time spent should reflect actual time engaged.
  3. Cancellation fees of £30 if client does not turn up.
  4. Actual waiting time is payable at £3.75 per 15 minutes where the time is not within the minimum charge of one hour. Waiting between meetings, waiting due to a client not turning up or waiting as a result of you being held up at court/tribunal may be chargeable subject to the tests of reasonableness.
  5. The hourly rate includes all travel expenses up to the first 60 miles (round trip) and includes any out of pocket expenses such as petrol costs or bus fares.
  6. Where travel is over 60 miles, the full cost of the journey will be paid. We pay travel at £15 per hour and standard class fares or mileage in line with SLAB’s standard mileage rate.
  7. Distance is calculated from the nearest branch office or interpreter’s home.
  8. Travel time and costs should be apportioned between clients.
  9. Translation is paid at £95 per 1000 words. The rate is applied on pro-rata basis against the document word count at £0.095 per word.
  10. Translation of documents up to 300 words will be paid a fee of £28.50.
  11. Translation of multiple documents where the majority of information remains the same (such as marriage or birth certificates) and where the language is the same are paid at a single standard fee of £28.50. Where the documents are being translated into two different languages a separate fee is allowable for each document.
  12. COPFS are liable to pay for translating documents they disclose.
  13. Transcription is paid at £30 per hour, only for the relevant parts of a recording.

Pro-forma invoice for interpreter or translator fees

We have produced a pro-forma invoice for the interpreter to use to ensure that the information provided is consistent and sufficient for our assessment. Download the pro-forma invoice here.

We recommend that you and the interpreter use this form to certify that the information in the invoice is accurate.

Agencies can:

  • Use their existing invoicing arrangements
  • Attach the signed pro-forma completed at your office or, alternatively, a copy of their own time sheet.

If an interpreter is not prepared to accept the terms and conditions required by us then they should normally not be employed.

The contractual and invoicing arrangements will continue to be between the supplier and you as the instructing solicitor.

Payment of an interpreter’s fee should be made within a reasonable timescale, subject to the agreement you make.  Reimbursement of outlays can be made for these outlays under advice and assistance, subject to the current qualifying rules.

If you wish to employ an interpreter or translator outwith our standard terms and rates, you must apply for a letter of comfort from Accounts Assessment before the work is undertaken.

How to bill and verify interpreters’ invoices

What is required from an interpreter

Whether the interpreter is self-employed/freelance, or is employed by a company, the interpreter or their employer is responsible for their own billing and must send their invoice to the solicitor for the service they have provided.

Most freelance interpreters tend to use our template invoice (PDF), although some interpreters will have their own style of invoice.

Before we can accept and consider the interpreter’s invoice for payment, the interpreter’s invoice must include the following information:

  • the interpreter’s name and where relevant the name of their employer (required if the interpreter works for a company/agency that provides interpreting services)
  • the interpreter’s contact details and where relevant their employer’s details
  • the interpreter’s VAT registration number, if they are VAT registered
  • the invoice number
  • the date the invoice was issued
  • the name of the client that the service was being provided for
  • the location of the assignment
  • the date of the assignment (being the date the interpreting service was provided)
  • the time of the assignment and the time it lasted (the actual time from and to should be accurately recorded, for example 10:00 to 10:48) – the time should not be rounded up to the nearest 15 minutes.

The interpreter should sign the invoice or if working remotely should email this to the solicitor (a copy of the email from the interpreter enclosing their invoice to the solicitor must be uploaded/submitted with the claim in the absence of the interpreter’s signature).

What is required from a solicitor

The solicitor should:

  • check that the information recorded on the interpreter’s invoice is accurate for the particular assignment; and
  • should sign the invoice confirming this; or
  • alternatively, when submitting the outlay claim to us for payment should send a notification confirming that the information on the invoice submitted is accurate.

We will not be able to accept any interpreter’s claims without this information having been provided.

Letter of Comfort where the solicitor is unable to secure services at the published rates

In circumstances where the service provider will only accept instructions to act at rates higher than our published rates you should make an application to us explaining:

  • the attempts which have been made to secure an interpreter/translator at the published rates, failing which, the most competitive rate that you have managed to source
  • the reason why the interpreter/translator considers that an enhanced rate is appropriate
  • Any other commentary that you consider is appropriate in support of the request.

We will carefully consider each request on its own merits.

Applications should be made by email to support.accounts@slab.org.uk. Where an urgent response is required contact can be made by telephoning Debbie Scott on 0131 240 2185 or Charlene Mason on 0131 240 2052.

Payment rates for interpreters

With the exception of cases where we have approved an enhanced rate under the letter of comfort procedures we will pay up to £30 per hour for interpreters. We will not pay any additional sums for:

  • Bookings at short notice
  • Work done out with normal business hours
  • Work under any other special terms and conditions not approved by us.

We will pay the interpreter for the actual time engaged, rounded up to the nearest quarter hour, at £7.50 per 15 minutes. If the total time engaged is less than one hour, we will pay a minimum charge of one hour for work done at the location of an assignment, court or tribunal; whether they are involved in one or a number of matters. For example:

  • A single client A is seen for 35 minutes = £30 the minimum one hour charge is payable
  • A single client B is seen for 1 hour 10 minutes will be rounded up to 1 hour 15 minutes = £37.50.

In circumstances where two or more clients are seen at the same location, the total actual time spent must be aggregated before calculating the fee that can be paid. It is not appropriate for the time to be rounded up to the nearest quarter hour for each client that has been seen. In the event that the total time engaged is less than one hour we will pay a minimum charge of one hour.

Payment for interpreter waiting time

Waiting time is included within the minimum charge of one hour.

We will look at the time the appointment was due to start when considering the waiting time.

If the client arrives late and the interpreter has to wait, they will be paid for the time spent at the appointment or from the commencement of the hearing. However, if you are late then we should not be charged waiting time by the interpreter. You should expect to be billed by the interpreter.  However, if you have been held up at court, then consideration will be given to meeting the waiting costs of the interpreter, depending on the circumstances.

Scheduling interpreter meetings

All meetings with interpreters should be scheduled, where possible, to ensure that there are no gaps between meetings to reduce the risk of the interpreter not being entitled to any payment.

Where this is not possible, we will consider the circumstances of how this arose and discuss with you, if appropriate, what is payable.

If payment is deemed to be appropriate, a rate of £3.75 will be chargeable per 15 minutes.

Travel and subsistence

The hourly rate payable for translation and interpreting includes:

  • All travel expenses up to the first 60 miles (round trip).

A payment can be allowed for journeys in excess of 60 miles in respect of both travelling time and for transport costs as set out below.

You should ensure when employing an interpreter that they:

  • Undertake work with due regard to economy
  • Implement good time management to minimise their costs
  • Equally apportion any chargeable travelling time and transport costs between clients, if more than one client is seen in the location on the same day
  • Use an interpreter local to the assignment, where possible.

Travelling time

Any travelling time applicable to journeys in excess of 60 miles (round trip) will be paid at half the hourly rate (£15). Travelling time should be calculated from the contractor’s place of business or the interpreter’s home, whichever is the closest to the assignment.  Travelling time should be apportioned equally between all clients seen.

Transport costs

For trips in excess of 60 miles (round trip), we will:

  • Pay the most economic method of travel taking into account the overall costs of tickets, mileage and travelling time; and
  • Pay the full cost of the journey including the first 60 miles.

Public transport

Public transport is paid at standard fare rates.  The cost of bus tickets and train fares should be apportioned equally between all clients seen, and vouching should be produced in support of claims.

Travel by car

For car journeys, we will pay mileage in accordance with the rates published by HMRC. The mileage rate payable from 1 April 2022 is 45p per mile.

Travel costs should always be apportioned equally between all clients seen.

Interpreting Services required for Supervised Contact

You do not require our prior approval to instruct an interpreter where the applicant requires the services of an interpreter to help facilitate communication at the contact centre.

The exception would be if the cost incurred exceeds £3,000 or falls within the definition of work of an unusual nature.

You will be responsible for instructing the interpreter whose costs will form an outlay in your legal aid account.

Payment will be made in accordance with SLAB’s published rates and guidance.

Interpreter arrangements for Dungavel

Visits to Dungavel generally involve minimal waiting time. Any waiting time at the start of the day should be charged to the first client seen.

No charge can be made for interpreters during:

  • The lunch period where no meetings are permitted by Dungavel
  • Any periods either side of lunch where no business is being done.

If the interpreter returns with you, no waiting time can be claimed for waiting for a lift.

Interpreter cancellation fees

A cancellation fee will only be paid if the interpreter was not able to carry out any other work.

You will be liable to pay for last minute cancellations, if they have been caused by you.

If the client fails to turn up a cancellation fee will be paid.  A maximum of one hour will be paid unless, of course, other work is undertaken at the same place or location.

Where the first client fails to turn up but other meetings are scheduled at the same location, a fee will be paid for the time spent waiting up to a maximum of one hour. However, if any of the other scheduled meetings takes place earlier due to the cancellation, we will only pay for the actual time spent waiting and the minimum charge of one hour will be allocated to the first client that has been seen.  If waiting time is chargeable this will be payable at the lower rate of £3.75 per 15 minutes.

Interpreter attendance at police stations

Where required we would expect the police to provide an interpreter to interview the client. It should not be necessary to instruct an interpreter to attend the police station on behalf of your client, except in unusual circumstances.  Any charges made in respect of such attendances will require to be justified at the accounts stage.

For attendance at a police station between the hours of 10pm and 7am, we will pay for a taxi or use of a private car (payable at the prevailing mileage rate) without reference to the 60 mile threshold. No enhanced hourly rates will be paid for the interviews and travelling time will be paid at the rate of £15 per hour.

Payment rate for translators

We will pay £95 per 1000 words for translating documents, which is inclusive of the proof reading. The cost is applied pro rata against the document word count. For example, a document of 700 words would be chargeable at £66.50 (or £0.095 per word).

For lengthy documents costing in excess of £3,000 in Civil/Children’s and £2,000 in Criminal, you should:

  • Obtain competitive quotes
  • Seek our prior approval before the work is instructed.

Documents less than 300 words

For documents of less than 300 words, a minimum charge of £28.50 will normally be allowed.

For “formal” documents such as marriage and birth certificates where there is minimal information but multiple documents require to be translated, we would expect the £28.50 charge to cover all certificates. In determining the fee payable, we will have regard to the type of document translated.

No additional charges

No additional charge is allowed for:

  • Proof reading the translated document
  • The administration associated in typing the translation
  • Counting the words.

This is absorbed into the charge allowable for translating the document.

We are not ordinarily responsible for the translation of routine letters to clients. We expect the interpreter or the client to note down any important details in their own language during meetings to minimise the need to have letters translated.

Additionally, it should not normally be necessary to have any of the following documents translated on behalf of the client:

  • Complaints
  • Petitions/Indictments
  • Any other court documents.

The relevant issues can be discussed at the meetings in the presence of the interpreter.  However, if this is deemed to be essential, you may wish to make a request to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as they are responsible for the translation of documents issued by them.  This would also apply to the disclosure package, tapes and transcripts.


Where it is necessary to transcribe a recording, for example in situations where there is a dispute about what was said at an interview, only the relevant parts of the recording need to be transcribed rather than the whole recording.  The cost of transcribing will be based on the standard hourly rate of £30.

The interpreter should clearly note the:

  • Duration of the recording
  • Time taken to transcribe the recording.