McArthur warns again of “legal aid deserts” in rural areas as Law Society pulls out of talks

15 May 2024
Kirkwall Sheriff Court

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has repeated warnings of “legal aid deserts” emerging in rural Scotland, following the Law Society’s withdrawal from talks on reviewing legal aid fees with the Scottish Government.

During Justice Questions in parliament today, Mr McArthur highlighted recent figures from the Scottish Legal Aid Board showing that there are now no private solicitors taking part in either court or police station duty schemes in Orkney. If current trends continue, he added, many rural and island areas could become so-called legal aid “deserts”.

Last month it was reported that the Law Society of Scotland had withdrawn from the Legal Aid Remuneration Project and Research Analysis Group, set up by the Scottish Government. A spokesperson for the Society explained that “[n]o tangible progress has been made” and that they had “lost confidence in any positive outcome”.

Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

“The number of legal aid solicitors, both civil and criminal, has been falling for years. Those who continue to undertake legal aid work are having to cover an ever larger area and there are reports of firms on the Scottish mainland becoming less willing to take on island clients. All of this adds up to a serious problem for islanders looking to access justice, including some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

“Like last year’s pause in island jury trials, the difficulties of accessing legal aid shows how vulnerable islands are within Scotland’s justice system. To see figures suggesting that no private solicitors take part in these duty schemes in Orkney is extremely concerning, and highlights real failings in the management of the legal aid scheme.

“The Law Society’s withdrawal from talks must act as a wake-up call to ministers. They need to deliver meaningful reform of the legal aid system, rebuild confidence within the sector and ensure access to justice exists for everyone in Scotland wherever they live.”

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.