Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Labour Activist Mike Dailly proposes abolishing the Scottish Legal Aid Board, quango replaced by quango, lots of talk, nothing really about justice

Dear All

One of the quangos that I would like to see buried is the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Their take on justice isn’t truth or the merits of the case but if you fit into an allocated minority slot.

If you do then they will fund your case.

Now a group of lawyers is proposing the abolition of the quango that distributes legal aid.

Good idea?

Yes, but the $64,000 question will be will this move lead to a better service for all Scots?

Another question is the source of the proposed closure, a key committee of the Law Society of Scotland.

The Law Society of Scotland hasn't got a great track record of defending the individual against crooked lawyers.

In fact you could say it stinks.

Their Access to Justice Committee says that shutting down the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Slab) will save £40 million over 5 years and should be replaced by a new “one-stop shop” body funded and managed by lawyers.

Already, this should send alarm bells ringing even for people who have nothing to do with the legal profession.

Would this new one stop shop be controlled by the Law Society of Scotland who has fought tooth and nail against ‘Tesco Law’; the opening up of legal services by third parties?

Committee convener and Labour Party Activist Mike Dailly stressed the plan was designed to protect front-line services.

The current bill for Legal Aid in Scotland stands at roughly £190m and a lot of that money goes on Lawyers’ fees.

Dailly is well known as part of the Govan Law Centre in Glasgow, he said:

“We can either sit back and wait for front-line legal services for vulnerable people to be cut, or we can seize the initiative. We are confident a new one-stop-shop that handled all legal complaints, payments and strategic planning could save the taxpayer up to £40m over the next five years, with further savings over the longer term.”

The pitch from Dailly isn’t about improvements to justice; it is firmly fixed on cash with a little part tacked on the end about helping vulnerable people as almost an after thought.

The new one stop shop would be called the Scottish Legal Services Commission but I don’t think that I am reading anything which inspires me think this is anything but changing one set of people at the trough for another set.

As a carrot, Dailly says public spending watchdog Audit Scotland would be given new powers to check legal aid is spent properly.

That doesn’t mean that those who need Legal Aid will get or they will change the current system of how the money is allocated in the first case.

I am not convinced that the Scottish Legal Services Commission is anything other than the Law Society of Scotland making a power grab headed up by Labour Party Activist Mike Dailly.

Dailly who writes on the letters Page of the Glasgow Herald doesn’t impress me, one quango replaced by another.

Ordinary people want a better quality service based on the merits of their case.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University


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