Scotland’s legal aid solicitors will enjoy a more upbeat Christmas than their counterparts south of the border following a hike in fee rates.

All civil and criminal legal aid rates north of the border will increase by 3% from next April, after the Scottish government published its response to an independent review of the system conducted by Carnegie Trust chief executive Martyn Evans.

The government’s response also sets out plans for a payment review panel, the streamlining of administrative processes and regulations to simplify fee structures. A public consultation will be launched next year.

Ash Denham, community safety minister at Holyrood, described the 3% fee hike as a ‘first step’ in advance of a wider review of legal aid payments. She added: ’We have also confirmed legal aid provision for cases in housing, immigration, welfare and family law will remain protected, unlike in England and Wales where the legal aid scope for these categories has been cut.

’We will consult and work closely with the legal profession in delivering further improvements and hope this collaboration can lead to a better system for all involved.’