Scotland politics

Review of Scottish legal aid system

Courtroom Image copyright Scottish Court Service
Image caption More than £130m was spent on legal aid in 2015-16

The Scottish government has announced an independent review of the country's legal aid system.

The year-long assessment of publicly funded legal advice and representation will be chaired by Carnegie Trust Chairman Martyn Evans.

Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing told MSPs the current approach is based on legislation almost 30 years old.

Both the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Law Society of Scotland have called for a more modern and efficient system.

Mr Evans will lead an expert advisory group including legal aid board chief Colin Lancaster, several members of the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates, and representatives from Police Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland.

In 2015-16, £137.8m was spent on legal aid, the majority going on criminal legal assistance.

The previous Scottish government passed some reforms in 2013 aimed at cutting the bill.

Image caption Annabelle Ewing said Scotland needed a "flexible and progressive system" of legal aid

Ms Ewing said: "I am proud we have a legal aid system that enforces people's rights and upholds social justice. Our guiding principle is to focus legal aid on those who need it most and we have maintained access to publicly funded legal aid in both civil and criminal cases.

"With legislation that dates back to the 1980s, change is needed and the time is right to conduct a comprehensive review of legal aid. This is about ensuring we have a flexible and progressive system that is sustainable and cost effective."

Mr Evans said: "The provision of timely and effective legal assistance is a necessary part of a fair and equitable society. It's important therefore that Scotland has a system that delivers the best possible support to those who rely on it.

"I am pleased to be asked to chair the review of legal aid and, over the coming months, I look forward to engaging with and hearing from the widest range of people with an interest in this area."

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