Law Society Respond To Legal Aid Cuts
Legal aid budget for 2016-17
Responding to the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget for 2016-17, announced yesterday, Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society of Scotland, made the following statement to legal aid practitioners:
“The 2016-17 budget allocation for the legal aid fund has been set at £126.1 million, the lowest it has been for well over a decade. This is a reduction from the 2015-16 budget of over 7% (from £136.1 million to £126.1 million).
“Legal aid spending is demand led and not limited by the budget and so we would expect the Scottish Government to continue to meet all its obligations in terms of demand for legal aid over the coming year. However, as you are aware, through its savings initiatives, the Government tries to reduce expenditure to meet the budget allocation.
“The Scottish Government has set the financial target for 2016-17 at a level that:
Is lower, in cash terms, than levels of legal aid expenditure from over 20 years ago (in 1994/95 the total expenditure on legal assistance was £132.1 million).
Is clearly unrealistic if you are trying to maintain an effective and sustainable legal aid system. Given existing figures, in order to reach its target, the Government would need to cut expenditure by at least £10 million by 2016-17. We do not see how this can possibly be achieved without seriously damaging both access to justice and the justice system.
“The Government has already made significant savings over the years and already achieves very good value for money in terms of our legal aid system. It has made savings, both in real terms and in cash terms. Further reductions are likely to be damaging to those who need legal help.
“Legal aid delivers a vital service up and down the country to people with legal issues and it can deliver life changing assistance to people in need. It is designed to help individuals on low and modest incomes gain access to legal advice, assistance and representation. We also know that investment in legal aid makes good economic sense – spending on legal aid and ensuring people have access to quality advice at an early stage can and does save money in other areas of government spending.”
At Hamilton Ross we are very concerned about the impact the cuts will have on families throughout Scotland but particularly in the towns of Lanarkshire such as Airdrie Motherwell, Coatbridge, Hamilton, Wishaw, Bellshill and Coatbridge. We are greatly concerned that those who need assistance most will be hardest hit.View all →