The findings from the 2019/20 survey of civil legal aid solicitors showed a strong commitment to legal aid amongst the profession.
The majority of respondents had undertaken civil legal assistance for over 10 years, and expected still to do so in three years’ time.
The main concerns raised by solicitors about legal aid were around fee levels and the amount of administration involved in making applications and submitting accounts.
The Scottish Government’s on-going review of legal aid is considering both of these issues. We will continue to work with them on these concerns during the next stages of the review.
Our 2018/19 review of the evidence in relation to civil legal services and rurality in Scotland found little direct evidence of specifically rural problems in accessing legal services.
However it did highlight that rural areas typically had worse access to public transport and digital services.
The research for both these reports was undertaken before the Covid-19 pandemic, so we know things have changed in relation to how people access legal services.
For instance, the use of video-conferencing and text messages is now more prevalent due to the lockdown.
In late 2019, when the survey civil solicitors’ fieldwork was undertaken, most solicitors said they ‘never’ used these to communicate with clients or other organisations.
Meanwhile, the need to use digital communications during the pandemic suggests that rural communities may have been affected more than those in urban areas.
We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and other organisations to help shape how the legal aid system will look in the future.
We will also continue to involve stakeholders, including through our research work.