Legal Aid In Scotland – A Guide to Eligibility & Legal Aid Contributions

In a previous blog we gave a brief overview about the eligibility criteria for Legal Aid Advice and Assistance (“A&A”). As mentioned in that blog, A&A only covers office based work. If your case proceeds to court and you require assistance with funding from the Scottish Legal Aid Board , you will have to apply for what is known as Civil Legal Aid (“CLA”) and the eligibility criteria for this is very different to the criteria for A&A.

Our family lawyers in Paisley can provide expert advice as to whether you are eligible for CLA and we have provided the following helpful guide.

Means and Merit Test

CLA will not only require a financial assessment, but also a merit assessment. The Legal Aid Board will only provide CLA funding if they believe that there are good prospects of success. To clarify, it may be the case that you qualify for legal aid funding based on your income, but if the legal aid board do not think your case has a good chance of being successful then they are unlikely to grant your CLA Application. It is important to note from the outset, that the same applies here as it does with Advice and Assistance, that if you live with a partner, both you and your partner’s capital and income will be taken into consideration

Financial Assessment – Capital

For the financial assessment, if you have capital (Capital means savings and anything else of value the client and their partner, if appropriate, own) to the value of £13,017 or more then it is unlikely that the legal aid board will grant your CLA Application. This is the upper limit and you would need to satisfy the Legal Aid Board that without their funding you could not afford to raise proceedings, despite having more than £13,017 of capital. In our experience, it is not likely that you will be successful if you have more than £13,017 of capital.

Financial Assessment – Income

If you had less than £13,017 of capital, then the next thing to consider would be your income.

If you are in receipt of passport benefits (Income Support, an income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or Universal Credit) then you would be automatically eligible in terms of your financial assessment.

If you are not in receipt of benefits, for a CLA Application, the Legal Aid Board are interested in your disposable income. That is your income that is leftover after you have paid for all of your outgoings (mortgage, rent, car finance etc). The disposable income limit for CLA is considerably higher, in our experience, than most client’s would expect. You can have up to £26,239 disposable income and still be eligible for Legal Aid.

Let’s look at an example:-

Stacey wishes to raise a court action. Stacey earns £52,000 per year, after tax, her net income per month is £3103.20. Stacey has the following outgoings each month:-

  • £700 mortgage
  • £200 council tax
  • £70 gas and electricity
  • £210 car finance
  • £70 car insurance
  • £150 credit card payments

Stacey is able to provide evidence of all of these payments each month. Stacey does not have any capital. Stacey’s disposable income each month is £1703.20. This works out as £20,438.40 per year. This means Stacey WILL be eligible for Civil Legal Aid based on her finances. However, Stacey will have a contribution to pay.


Depending on your disposable income, you may have a contribution to pay towards your case. Please see the table below.

Disposable income

Contribution rates applied to income in that range

Below £3,521


£3,522 – £11,540


£11,541 – £15,743


£15,744- £26,239


Over £26,239

Not eligible

To clarify, the percentages in each category are what percent of your legal aid fees you will pay. The legal aid board estimate how much your case will cost from the outset, and will ask you to set up a direct debit to pay your fees over a period of 2 or 3 years in monthly instalments.

Lets continue with our example to show how the contribution would work in practice.

As Stacey’s disposable income is £20,438.40, she will have to pay 100% of her fees. You may be confused at this stage as to why she would apply for Legal Aid if she is having to pay 100% of her fees. As Stacey is eligible for Legal Aid, her fees will be charged at Legal Aid rates which are much less than private fees. The Legal Aid board would estimate Stacey’s case cost and arrange a payment plan with her. For example if Stacey’s case is estimated to cost £6,000 she would pay this sum to the Legal Aid Board over a period of two or three years. 

If Stacey’s disposable income had been £6,000 she would fall into the category of paying 33% of her fees. Again, if Stacey’s case was estimated to cost £6,000, with this level of disposable income, she would pay a contribution of around £1,920 to the Legal Aid Board over a period of two years or three years.

Contact Us

In our experience, many clients are surprised to realise they are eligible for Civil Legal Aid. The Scottish Legal Aid Board helps many clients pursue or defend matters who otherwise would not be able to afford to do so.

To find out more and arrange your free introductory appointment please contact our family lawyers in Paisley on 0141 887 5271. Alternatively, please complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch. We can offer video appointments via FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom within our outwith normal business hours.