SLAB publishes response to consultation on Legal Aid reform

The Scottish Legal Aid Board has published its response to the Scottish Government’s legal aid consultation that focuses on the possibility of reshaping legal aid as a public service.

Taking its lead from the consultation, SLAB’s response identifies a range of possible changes that could be explored if the government wants to adopt a public service approach to the design and delivery of legal aid services.

These possible changes are set out in five illustrative models that move from minimal to radical and show the potential degrees of change that the government could contemplate.

Core to each of the illustrative models is a simplified, more flexible and less bureaucratic case by case funding structure.

Colin Lancaster, SLAB’s Chief Executive, said SLAB was not advocating a particular policy objective or future position in presenting the models and responding to the technical questions in relation to case by case funding.

“Policy making is reserved to Ministers. We highlight what we see as the key issues for Scottish Government to consider throughout our response,” he said.

“At the same time, and for any given policy direction chosen by government, we explore in more detail the kinds of tools government may choose to use, how these might be implemented and how effective these might be in delivering specific outcomes.

“We make no assumptions about whether the Scottish Government will or should choose to go down any particular path.”

The Scottish Government launched the consultation following the 2018 Rethinking Legal Aid review led by Martyn Evans.

Mr Lancaster said that SLAB staff had taken part in events and discussions with other stakeholders in preparing its consultation response.

He said staff had considered with others the strengths and shortcomings of the current system, as well as reviewing the experience of other jurisdictions through published strategies and research.

“While our existing legal aid system helps many thousands of people each year deal with a wide range of legal problems, a more flexible system could help deliver services designed around user need and focused on achieving defined public policy outcomes,” he said.

“Whether to reform and how much to reform is a matter for Ministers. Any specific reforms will no doubt be subject to further detailed development, analysis of costs, benefits and impacts and, if they require legislative or regulatory change, parliamentary approval.”

The consultation response is available in our Publications section.

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