LAWYERS from Helensburgh refused to attend court on Monday in a row over government funding during the pandemic.

Members of the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association (SSBA) held a one-day boycott of courts across the country in protest at the level of support given to the profession during the pandemic.

The SSBA claims that fewer than one in three legal aid law firms who applied to a £9 million government resilience fund were accepted, and that only £2.3m of that fund was handed out.

Solicitor Scott Adair, secretary of the Faculty of Solicitors of Dunbartonshire, whose members backed the boycott, told the Advertiser: “Many, many cases, both civil and criminal, have been continued administratively, and continue to be so continued, and there are many cases that started as far back as 2019 that have not yet been concluded because of the pandemic.

“This is obviously not ideal for anybody involved in the court process.

“As far as the solicitors are concerned we have had to fund our own PPE, buy screens for offices, change our working practices and find funding to purchase appropriate technology, both hardware and software, to deal with large numbers of virtual hearings.

“The whole essence of a court solicitor is to be able to stand up in court and argue your case in person, not be a disembodied voice on a conference call, trying to fight for your client’s rights.

“The government promised £9 million with the resilience fund. Only a quarter of it has been allocated.

“A traineeship fund was promised by the government to allow solicitors to employ new lawyers. There has not been a single grant from this fund.”

One nominated solicitor dealt with all new custody cases that called at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Monday, with all cases continued to a later date.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to providing support to the profession and are working as a matter of urgency to explore options for distributing all unallocated funds from the £9 million budget set aside for the resilience fund.

“The Justice Secretary held talks with the Law Society last week, where he confirmed he is committed to ensuring more funds are made available. He is happy to engage with criminal bar associations and discussions with the profession are ongoing.”

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