SNP hits back at accusations poor have limited access to legal aid

The Law Society of Scotland has called for an increase in fees for legal aid

The Law Society of Scotland has called for an increase in fees for legal aid

More than 40,000 people living in the poorest areas of a Scottish city do not have direct access to a single firm offering legal aid, according to analysis.

Research by the Law Society of Scotland found there were no firms operating in 50 of Aberdeen’s “most deprived” data-zones.

In the worst affected areas, there were 29 firms for 100,000 people and nearly nine in 10 had no local access at all.

The Society says chronic shortages of firms offering legal aid is being compounded by the fact that fees agreed in 1999 had only increased by 10 per cent, compared to an inflation increase of 55%.

However, the Scottish Government said it was “up to legal firms or solicitors” to offer services or to take a case on legal aid within an area, and added: “we can’t compel them to do so”.

It said the decline in the number of legal aid firms reflects, in the main, long-term declines in both criminal and civil case-loads.

READ MORE: Ministers say Scots legal aid system is among the best in the world as lawyers say court justice is ‘on brink of collapse’

Support for civil court actions is only offered to people with a disposable income of less than £293 per month – above that amount, there is a cost to be paid, which can be up to full repayment of fees.

The most common civil court cases include divorce and child contact or custody, adoption and immigration and asylum cases but may also involve medical negligence or securing social welfare payments.

The Scottish Government recently proposed an £11 million increase in spend across both criminal and civil legal aid – but this has been described

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