Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has called for the specific needs of rural and island communities to be taken fully into account by the independent review of legal aid that was announced today in parliament.
The review, supported by Scottish Liberal Democrats, will examine what changes need to be made to legal in light of a changing justice, social, economic and technological landscape so that support remains available for those who need it.
Speaking in the chamber today, Mr McArthur urged the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing MSP, to ensure the review “takes account of any specific issues in a rural our island setting concerning legal aid and access to justice more generally.”
The Minister confirmed that the review group would consider this point.
The review, which is expected to last a year, is being chaired by Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie Trust, and will include among its panel members, former Liberal Democrat MSP, Alison McInnes.
Following the exchanges, Mr McArthur said:
“Legal aid is a vital part of our justice system, It is the means of ensuring that those who need it can receive the legal advice and representation that are essential in any justice system.
“However, with pressure on legal aid budgets and changes in the justice system, it is right that the government is undertaking this review. While many of the issues under consideration will be the same across the country, I know that there are particular challenges in rural and island areas. Getting access to solicitors who are prepared to do legal aid work, for example, can be difficult in some places.
“I therefore welcome confirmation from the Minister that the review group will be asked to look specifically at legal aid and access to justice more generally for islanders and those in rural areas. This is something I will also be raising with the review group directly in due course.”