Scotland's biggest criminal defence lawyer group is warning the government that the criminal justice system is heading for an "impending collapse".

It's been revealed that the number of solicitors who were registered to provide legal aid has shot down from 1,459 in 2007, when the SNP came to power, to just 966 today.

Scottish Government public spend on legal aid has seen a real term drop of 45% allowing for inflation over the last decade.

The Herald reports that over the same period, money ploughed into the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal has risen by nearly 70%.

Stuart Murray, president of the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association representative body, wrote in a message to Angela Constance that the justice system in Scotland is now approaching a "tipping point".

"One of the cornerstones of any democratic system is the right of access to justice. In order to exercise that right, an accused person requires access to an experienced criminal solicitor. Scotland has a rich history of maintaining that fundamental right for accused persons. Unfortunately, those rights now seem destined to become a thing of the past.

"To suggest that the criminal defence bar is in danger of collapsing is gross understatement. The profession is collapsing and the financial burden of continuing to operate law firms under the current political regime is more than most can bear.

"A cornerstone of any working justice system is the right to a fair trial. We are now approaching a tipping point in Scotland where many accused persons, as a direct result of a lack of investment by the Scottish Government, can no longer access justice. We now live in a jurisdiction where the government funds the state run prosecution and withhold funding from the criminal defence profession."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Legal Aid Fund is demand-led and directly linked to application numbers. We recognise the important role of legal aid providers which is we have provided significant additional funding and increases in remuneration, investing £31 million in legal aid since 2021, despite the clear and significant constraints on our finances from the UK Government settlement. The most recent increase in April resulting in an £11million package of legal aid reforms - a 10.25% increase.

"We are however aware of the concerns... The Minister for Victims and Community Safety established, and co-chairs—along with the Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland and the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, the Future of the Legal Profession Working Group. This group will examine the evidence and identify measures that we can collectively take to address recruitment and retention in relation to criminal defence."

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