Legal Aid Scheme

The legal aid system in Scotland provides free or subsidised legal assistance for those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves. Scottish Ministers are responsible for setting legal aid policy i.e. deciding what assistance is available and in what circumstances.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (the Board), a non-departmental public body responsible to Scottish Ministers, administers the legal aid system in Scotland. All applications for legal aid are considered independently of Government. Scottish Ministers are prohibited by law from intervening or commenting on the Board's handling of individual applications. The Management Statement and Financial Memorandum sets out the broad framework, within which the Board operates and also defines the roles and responsibilities of Scottish Ministers and the sponsor department in monitoring and facilitating the Board's work.

The Board is responsible in most cases for granting legal aid.  This type of assistance is available in relation to civil and criminal matters but does not usually cover representation in a court or at a tribunal.

Assistance by way of representation (ABWOR) is a form of A & A which allows a lawyer to represent a client in specified civil and criminal proceedings in certain courts and tribunals. As with A & A, ABWOR is subject to a test of financial eligibility which is carried out by a solicitor. However, in some instances prior authorisation may be required by the Legal Aid Board.

Legal aid pays for advice and representation by solicitors and counsel. It also pays for outlays e.g. travel costs, expert reports, etc. Remuneration is based on the work done by the solicitor, rather than the value of the case and different rates of pay apply to different categories of work.