Legal aid in crisis as number of solicitors withdrawing “skyrockets”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to address the serious capacity issues in the legal aid system, after a freedom of information request revealed a fourfold increase in the number of solicitors withdrawing from providing cover in police stations.

The new figures acquired by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show that in 2018 to date 272 solicitors have withdrawn from the police station duty rota which ensures advice can be provided to suspects. This compares to 64 in 2017 and 69 in 2016.

There have been bulk withdrawals from the police station duty plans in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Livingston.

Liam McArthur said:

“The number of solicitors withdrawing from this legal aid programme has skyrocketed. The scale of the departures show that legal aid as it currently operates doesn’t work for those tasked to provide this critical service.

“The government knew that the rules which came into force in January would lead to significantly increased workloads. There was cross-party support for giving everyone being questioned in a police station the right to legal advice. However, the failure to resource and prepare properly for this has led to many professionals having to opt out.

“Legal aid provision is becoming more fragile by the day. In some areas people have to rely on telephone advice. That’s not good enough in a 21st century legal system.

“Capacity is a serious concern. Ministers need to step in and revolve this.”

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