Solicitors fear the poorest will be denied justice when Legal Aid cuts bite

ALMOST £1.5million was paid last year from the Legal Aid fund to court solicitors operating in the Borders, writes Bob Burgess.

The figures are revealed in the annual report of the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

The biggest local earner was the practice of Bannerman and Burke who operate from offices in Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk, followed by Ian Smith and Partners of Galashiels and Duns.

Of solicitors based outwith the area, but who operate locally, the biggest earner was George More and Company from Edinburgh whose lawyers regularly appear at the four Borders courts of Selkirk, Jedburgh, Peebles and Duns.

The publicly-funded Legal Aid scheme provides solicitors for the low paid in both criminal cases and civil actions. Legal Aid is seen as an essential arm of the Scottish justice system – providing legal representation for those who cannot afford to pay out of their own pockets.

There’s no limit on how much the Scottish Government decides to put into the Legal Aid purse – a situation that exists south of the border.

But as the country tightens its belt, the Law Society of Scotland is worried that an 8.1 per cent cut in funding – from £150million to £140million – could result in justice being denied to the very people Legal Aid is meant to assist. And this week the Law Society produced a Scottish election manifesto calling for law to be taught to school pupils.