The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) welcomes the publication of the report of the Independent Review of Legal Aid.
The report recognises that Scotland has a legal aid system that is wide in scope, broad in eligibility, well-funded in international terms and supported by hundreds of committed and hard working professionals.
The report’s recommendations seek to build on that strong base by ensuring that the system is properly focused on changing user needs and can respond to these effectively by drawing on a wide range of models and methods of delivery.
SLAB looks forward to working with the Scottish Government, the legal profession, their representative bodies and the wider advice sector as these recommendations are considered.
The review is generally complimentary about SLAB’s role in the current system, despite significant statutory and financial constraints that are beyond SLAB’s control. The report notes that these factors – the level of fees and the complexity of the system – also lie at the root of much solicitor criticism of the legal aid system.
As well as addressing such aspects of the day to day operation of the legal aid system, the report highlights the importance of investment in service improvements to better meet user needs and expectations. It points to an emphasis on prevention, collaborative working between bodies, the harnessing of technology and innovative approaches to service delivery to drive these improvements.
The review concludes by recommending that SLAB is transformed into a new body with wider powers as a means of securing effective strategic oversight and development of legal aid delivery as a public service.
We will be working closely with the government to consider the costs and benefits to the public of this and all the recommendations in the report.