News In Focus
Key meeting discusses legal aid savings proposals
Representatives of local faculties of solicitors from around Scotland meet at the Law Society of Scotland today to discuss how to implement the Scottish Government's budgeted cuts in legal aid spending.
A key topic will be proposals for a significant expansion of the Public Defence Solicitors Office. The Scottish Legal Aid Board initially proposed to achieve the necessary savings by allocating to PDSO solicitors between 60 and 75% of duty solicitor weeks in all courts where the PDSO currently operates or where it is proposed to open (Aberdeen, Fife, Paisley/Greenock/Dumbarton, and Lanarkshire).
In a letter to faculties on 23 December, the Society's Legal Aid Convener Oliver Adair suggested that the profession would find such a level of expansion "entirely unacceptable". He reported that the Society had proposed a range of possible alternative savings to Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, "including small reductions across all legal aid rates, and other more particular reductions involving use of counsel in sheriff court cases and the level of core payments for prosecutions in the stipendiary magistrate court". These resulted in further costing models and proposals being presented which will be on today's agenda.
In his letter Mr Adair emphasised that the Society was having to work with a non-negotiable level of cuts and that proposed reductions in fees in no way reflected its view of the levels of work involved. He added: "Whilst we recognise that issues of such importance require to be considered within a very challenging time frame, equally as should be clear from the chronology of events set out in this letter, it is one which has been, for the most part, beyond our control."
Click here for the Society's briefing page and to access Oliver Adair's letter.