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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-15414: Neil Bibby (West Scotland)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 19 March 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what its strategy is for widening access to support in the justice system for people and communities living in poverty.

Answered by: Annabelle Ewing 29 March 2018

The Scottish Government’s believes in a safe, just and resilient Scotland. We want to provide a justice system that is fair and equitable for everyone in Scotland.

Widening access to justice for individuals and communities, such as those living in poverty, includes improving information and advice services, giving people greater options to resolve disputes without court action wherever possible, having a flourishing legal services market and, where necessary, providing legal aid for court proceedings.

The Scottish Government is widening access to justice by:

  • encouraging the use of resolution services such as mediation and arbitration which can be cheaper and less time consuming than going to court
  • reforming the system of legal aid so that it focuses on those who need it most
  • simplifying Scotland’s tribunals system to ensure it is user-friendly and independent
  • working to introduce alternative business structures in the legal services market to improve customer choice
  • using IT innovation to improve data management, ensuring that people working in the justice system can access the right information at the right time, benefiting the people who rely on the system
  • making sure that high quality legal advice and general advice and information is available to ensure people can avoid problems or resolve disputes as quickly as possible
  • The Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill, currently before the Scottish Parliament, will increase access to justice by creating a more accessible, affordable and equitable civil justice system for Scotland that:
  • makes the costs of civil action more predictable,
  • increases the funding options for pursuers of civil actions; and
  • introduces a greater level of equality to the funding relationship between claimants and defenders in personal injury actions.

The Scottish Government is reviewing our support for advice services across Scotland to ensure advice is available and accessible to all who need it.

We are considering how existing resources can be best used to deliver improved reach, quality and impact, including exploring the opportunities new technology could provide to offer more accessible and efficient advice services for some people.

We will work closely with Local Authorities to ensure we offer a joined up approach to public funding of advice services.

Demand for advice services across Scotland is growing, particularly due to the impact of UK Welfare changes. We have increased our welfare advice services budget from £3.1 million in 2017-18 to £3.6 million in 2018-19 to enable us to improve our support for advice, informed by key recommendations emerging from the advice services review.