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Justice in an independent Scotland

Supporting safe and resilient communities.

Independence would enable Scotland to take its own decisions to address issues such as drugs and gambling, and increase cooperation with international justice partners, according to a new paper published by Justice Secretary Angela Constance.

‘Justice in an independent Scotland’, the 13th paper in the ‘Building a New Scotland’ series, sets out the Scottish Government’s intended approach for the justice system following independence, including aspects which are currently reserved to the UK Government.

It also outlines how Scotland could, through cooperation with international partners and – through European Union membership and representation on the Council of Europe, United Nations and Interpol – play a full part in addressing global issues including cross-border crime, serious organised crime and cyber-crime.

Proposals in the paper include:

  • restoring police and prosecutors’ access to measures like the cross-border European Arrest Warrant, which were lost following Brexit, in line with the government’s commitment to rejoin the EU as an independent country
  • extending the public health approach being taken to violence reduction into the currently reserved areas of drug policy reform and gambling
  • full incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law to further enhance children’s rights
  • a framework for human rights law to protect and promote fundamental freedoms, including those in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Ms Constance said:

“Scotland’s justice system has a long and distinguished history and I am proud of the work we have done over many years to strengthen and modernise it. The level of recorded crime has fallen to near 50-year lows and homicides are at their lowest levels since comparable records began. We are also building a trauma-informed approach to our justice system.

“However, there is more we could do with independence. Scotland’s police and prosecutors would regain access to tools to pursue criminals across borders which were lost following Brexit, such as the Schengen Information System and the European Arrest Warrant. These are essential to combatting sophisticated criminal networks and helping victims get justice even where a perpetrator resides outwith Scotland.

“With the power to take our own decisions, we could also enhance and further embed our public health approach to justice issues, extending this to addiction such as drugs and gambling.

“This would enable future governments to consider measures that would better address the specific needs and circumstances of people in our communities, such as safer drug consumption facilities, raising the legal age of gambling, and strengthened firearm licensing.

“Combined with the broader economic, employment and social security powers that would come with independence – as set out throughout the Building a New Scotland series of papers – we could take a more effective approach to improving justice outcomes, reducing burdens on the justice system and further reducing the number of victims of crime.”


Building a New Scotland: Justice in an independent Scotland – (

The Scottish justice system already has its own courts, tribunals, judiciary, prosecution service, police service, prisons, fire and rescue service and other justice agencies, as well as its own legal profession. Scotland’s distinctiveness as a legal jurisdiction long pre-dates devolution and was preserved in the Acts of Union.


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