The Legal Services Bill proposes to allow firms such as banks and shops to invest in legal practices and even own them.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "A strong and independent legal profession is part of the institutional framework of a modern democracy.

"The legal profession contributes an estimated £1bn in turnover to the Scottish economy annually. This new legislation will help it grow and compete in the UK and internationally."

The new business structures have been branded "Tesco law" in England but Mr MacAskill denies this will be the case in Scotland.

The removal of restrictions on lawyers going into business with non-legal firms was instigated after a "super-complaint" by consumer group Which? to the Office of Fair Trading.

It claimed the current regulation of Scottish legal firms restricts choice for consumers and prevents alternative business structures being formed. But traditional models for law firms will still be an option for lawyers.

The Bill also proposes a new regulatory framework for the legal profession. The Scottish Government will appoint approved regulators for the new business structures.

Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, said: "This Bill seeks to commodify access to justice in Scotland, and in so doing strikes at the heart of justice, the rule of law and the principles of a fair and democratic society."

Ian Smart, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "It will be vitally important that the Bill ensures the independence of the legal profession, promotes access to justice and maintains robust consumer protections and high standards among those delivering legal services."

Victim Support Scotland said it welcomed moves to extend financial eligibility for civil legal cases.