Scottish Legal Aid Board annual report

27 Nov


THE annual number of grants of legal aid has continued a downward trend, to below the 200,000 mark, while the cost to the taxpayer has risen.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board annual report for 2019-20 showed that grants stood at 199,726, a ten per cent fall over five years. As recently as 2013-14, the figure had been 246,284.

In recent years, the cost of legal assistance had been falling steadily, but this year it rose five per cent to £130.8 million, from £123.7 million. Criminal assistance accounted for £75.9 million (£73.4 million in 2018-19), and civil for £46.1 million (from £42 million).

Overall, payments to Advocates totalled £13.1 million (from £12.5 million last year). Payments to solicitors were £95.6 million (from £93.3 million), and for solicitor-advocates, the payments were £2.6 million (from £2.3 million).

Ronnie Renucci, QC, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “The most important figure, and the one that should be focused on, is the 199,726 people who benefitted from legal aid and who otherwise would have been denied access to justice - a fundamental right that post-COVID will only become more acute in the testing years ahead.

“The Faculty remains committed to assisting those most in need and who rely on legal aid in order to ensure continued access to justice. This commitment means that those who require legal assistance are not disadvantaged and are able to obtain the best representation in both our criminal and civil courts."