Legal aid earnings

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You reveal (8 November) that Scotland’s lawyers are threatening strike action in response to cuts in legal aid and the requirement that lawyers representing clients charged under summary procedure will be required (on behalf of the Scottish Legal Aid Board) to collect contributions from those clients.

Last week, the board published figures revealing that some of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers are now on the verge of a living wage: one lawyer alone received more than £400,000 in legal aid fees from the board – and therefore the taxpayer.

What the numbers did not reveal was what many of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers have to do to merit their living wage. Faced with overwhelming evidence of their clients’ guilt, they frequently have to devise complex and deeply philosophical pleas of mitigation: he only meant to kill two of them; as a rule, he does not carry a weapon on a Tuesday; they accept that petrol through a letter box followed by a match, can be quite harmful; she now realises that drinking the whole bottle of vodka impaired her driving; normally, he is unarmed when he mugs his victims.

If the strike goes ahead and lasts long enough (given the legal aid board’s latest figures), the board will soon accumulate reserves approaching the GDP of a thriving Scandinavian economy.

Thomas Crooks

Dundas Street