Funding of £6.7 million has been provided by the Scottish government to help legal aid firms.
Legal aid firms play a crucial role in the justice system and, as Scotland recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, The Legal Aid Business Support and Recovery Fund ensures that legal services are available to those most affected by the pandemic.
Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said: “Scotland’s legal profession has worked extremely hard since the COVID-19 outbreak to help maintain access to justice services in very difficult and challenging circumstances. This fund will help ensure that these crucial services are supported and can fully continue as we move into the next phase of Scotland’s recovery.
“I very much welcome the constructive and collaborative approach taken by the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association and representatives of several Bar Associations on the development of this Fund, and I thank them for their engagement,” she added.
The fund has been established following consultation with the legal profession and will be distributed to legal aid practices as part of the Scottish Government’s Recover, Renew and Transform programme to support the justice sector.
The Recover, Renew and Transform programme, supported with £50 million from the Scottish Government, is working to help a viable publicly funded legal assistance system to respond flexibly to meet the challenges which the pandemic presents, whilst delivering a more effective and efficient justice system.
Pat Thom, co-convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Legal Aid Committee, said: “This new fund is a welcome confirmation that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting legal aid solicitors who have been adversely affected by the pandemic and the promise that all of the £9 million fund, set up under the previous Justice Secretary, would be distributed. It will help ensure solicitors can continue to provide much needed services in communities across Scotland.
“The creation of the new fund follows our constructive discussions with the government, alongside our colleagues in the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association and local bar associations who have made significant contributions to ensure that this much needed financial support can be made available. I encourage all those who are eligible to apply as soon as possible.”
Stuart Murray, of the Aberdeen Bar Association, said: “The Aberdeen Bar Association is grateful to the Scottish Government for reaching out to the SSBA and local Bar Associations in what has been the first real collaborative approach to resolving a number of funding issues for the profession. It is hoped that this approach has set a precedent for working directly with the profession to support and protect access to justice for all.”
The deadline for applications to the Legal Aid Business Support and Recovery Fund is 18 August.