The Law Society of Scotland has said the jurisdiction’s current legal aid system is not fit for purpose, calling for a ‘root and branch change’. 

Society president Alistair Morris said: ‘The current legal aid system is almost 30 years old. In that time there has been extensive change which has resulted in a system that is hugely complex, with even highly experienced solicitors reporting that they find it difficult to navigate.

‘We don’t believe that the current system is fit for purpose and, with the ongoing reforms to modernise the wider court and justice system, the time is right for root and branch change.

‘We need to rethink legal aid as a whole and look at where efficiencies can be made and how savings can be reinvested to ensure that people can obtain legal advice when they need it most, regardless of their status or wealth.’

The Society has published a discussion paper to generate debate on how to improve publicly funded legal advice and services.

The paper presents a range of ideas for reform of both criminal and civil legal aid, including:

  • Streamlining the block fee system and introducing a single criminal legal assistance certificate to replace the current range of categories;
  • Reinvesting savings made in the legal assistance system;
  • Creating a system to encourage early resolution of cases;
  • Provision of affordable loans for civil cases to replace the current client contribution system administered by the Scottish Legal Aid Board.