An activist group of lawyers has emerged in Scotland seeking to pile pressure on Holyrood to provide urgent support to legal aid solicitors.
The newly formed Scottish Solicitors Bar Association came to prominence this month when it posted a statement on Twitter, accusing the Scottish government of failing to properly distribute a Covid-19 resilience fund.
The association announced that practitioners across Scotland would take part in a one-day custody court boycott, which took place last Monday.
Solicitor Julia McPartlin, president of the association, told the Gazette that the decision to boycott was one for individual local faculties. The association’s role was to facilitate communications.
The association works closely with the Law Society of Scotland, but McPartlin said ‘there are constraints on what the Law Society can and cannot do’. For instance, the Society – a statutory and regulatory body – cannot arrange or encourage direct action. ‘That’s a step they cannot take but we can,’ McPartlin said.
The association’s committee comprises two members from each of the sheriffdoms in Scotland who, McPartlin said, are at the coalface. ‘I would like to think what we do will complement the Society’s work but we are able to go further in terms of action’ she said.
The association currently has 300 members. McPartlin said: ‘We get a lot of students asking to join. We thought “of course we should welcome them in”. A lot of what we’re fighting for is protecting the future of the legal aid profession and encouraging new blood into the profession.’