Patrick Macdonald, who is studying law at Aberdeen University, brought the case against his mother, Margaret Macdonald, herself a lawyer, before Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Under the Family Law (Scotland) Act of 1985, students in Scotland up to the age of 25 can seek "alimony" from their parents if they refuse to pay for the cost of their higher education.
But Mrs Macdonald, who earns pounds 45,000 a year, cannot help her son because she supports four other children and finances her home without help from her ex-husband, her lawyer Jenny Gibbs told the court. Earlier, the court heard that Patrick's father, Hugh, a 54-year-old former advocate with whom Patrick lives, was unemployed and had declared himself bankrupt shortly after an acrimonious divorce from Mrs Macdonald. Sheriff Daphne Robertson adjourned the case until tomorrow, when she will make an interim order on payments.
Before yesterday's hearing Ms Macdonald, 53, a solicitor at the Scottish Office, singled out the use of legal aid for criticism. "It just seems cockeyed that the Government would fund students to sue their parents," she said. "It sends out the message: `Don't bother to apply for a student loan, just sue your parents and you will get legal aid'."
Whatever the outcome , it will have no bearing on parents and students in England and Wales. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said: "Parents have no legal liability for the payment of contributions towards an offspring's maintenance [in England and Wales]," she said. "There is no equivalent legislation."