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Defence agents are not striking, merely refusing to do non-remunerated work

A SPOKESMAN for the Scottish Government repeatedly used the term "strike" to characterise the protest action being taken by those defence agents not employed by the state ("Strike action by lawyers condemned", The Herald, December 4).

It is not strike action to refuse to do work for which there is no remuneration offered. My colleagues across the country appear daily in custody courts in summary cases where there is no remuneration offered by the Scottish Legal Aid Board for doing so.

Every day we appear as a courtesy to the court and to our clients in cases where people plead not guilty, without any means of remuneration and at the cost of other remunerative work which we must forego.

Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill has never praised the criminal bar for this public service which is offered daily and without any cost to the public purse but presumes, when it is withdrawn, to instruct his taxpayer-funded spokesman to characterise the bar as acting purely to protect its own fee entitlements.

Those taking the protest action are seeking to defend our criminal justice system from a Justice Secretary who has failed to answer any of the criticisms made of his bill by the Justice Committee but plainly seeks to bully and bluster his way out of this debacle.

This, and the failure of the SNP members of the Justice Committee to sustain their objections to the bill (for reasons they have yet to explain to the public) has left the criminal bar with no option but to withdraw our free goodwill attendances in the custody court.

We can only hope that the public will take notice of what is being done in their name to hinder the right of Scots to a fair trial.

Colin Bissett,

Airdrie Society of Solicitiors,

14 Avonhead Road,

Cumbernauld.

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