The Scottish Legal Aid Board is responsible for managing legal aid in Scotland. Legal aid allows people who would otherwise not be able to afford it, to get help for their legal problems.
Our work is overseen by Board Members, who are appointed by Scottish Ministers. The number of Members can vary from 11 to 15. To give a balanced range of knowledge and experience, they include people with backgrounds in business, the advice sector and the wider community as well as solicitors and advocates and a person with knowledge of court procedure and practice.
Ministers in the Scottish Government decide legal aid policy, set the rules for legal aid and decide the fees to be paid to the legal profession. The Scottish Parliament makes and changes legislation – including the tests for granting legal assistance.
These tests are then applied to every single case. In advice and assistance and some special urgency cases, solicitors apply the tests. For civil and criminal legal aid we apply the tests, except in some criminal and children’s cases, where, until the provisions of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act are implemented, the courts decide.
The budget for legal aid is different from many other public services: it is not a set amount. The Scottish Government gives SLAB the necessary funds to meet the cost of cases. This means we never have to refuse someone legal aid simply because there is no money left to pay for their case.