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Court lawyers vote for industrial action

24 April 2008

The Glasgow Bar Association is to pursue a threatened move to take industrial action in protest against the Scottish Government's plans to reform legal aid.

A unanimous meeting last night supported action, yet to be specified but short of a complete boycott of the courts, in protest against cuts in summary criminal legal aid.

The Glasgow Bar Association represents a third of Scotland's 1,400 criminal lawyers and its actions are likely to be followed others in different parts of the country.

Earlier this month the Scottish Government published what it called its final proposals for summary criminal legal aid, following an extended consultation period with the profession. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced a number of concessions on the proposals previously put forward by the Scottish Legal Aid Board, which led to widespread protests, but said he had to work to a very tight budget.

The reforms are related to reforms to summary justice procedure. The government claims there is about £4 million of wastage in the current system. However the defence lawyers complain that the rates, paid as fixed fees, have not risen for nine years and believe it is time to take a stand against further cuts.

The Law Society of Scotland described Mr MacAskill's proposals as "a missed opportunity to properly redress underfunding".

GBA President Sara Matheson said her members found the proposed cuts after nine years without a pay rise, "grossly offensive".

Two years ago the association won concessions on payments in solemn cases after threatening to withdraw representation from people accused of sex offences - who are not allowed to represent themselves in court.