Focus on security & justice after Brexit vote

Justice experts discuss priorities to protect Scottish interests.

A meeting of justice and legal experts today assessed the risks that the UK’s departure from the EU would cause to Scotland’s justice system.

The EU Justice Summit was hosted by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, alongside Michael Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, and Annabelle Ewing, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

The gathering at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh examined four broad areas:

  1. Law enforcement: protecting public safety and security by maintaining direct links between Scotland’s distinct justice agencies and EU counterparts, for example through Europol and cross-border information sharing
  2. Civil law: ensuring continuing arrangements for mutual recognition of decisions in civil, commercial and family law, which are essential to participation in the single market
  3. EU law: safeguarding the benefits provided by consistent interpretation and application of EU law, in areas such as employment rights and consumer protection
  4. Engagement with the UK Government: ensuring the UK Government’s analysis of the merits of EU justice and security measures involves transparent collaboration and takes account of Scotland’s separate legal system

Michael Matheson said:

“The uncertainties Brexit poses for Scotland from a justice and legal perspective are substantial. What was clear from today’s summit is the widespread concern from throughout the sector.

“Participants looked at the implications for law enforcement, civil law issues and what a departure from EU law could mean for Scots Law and the operation of our justice system and agencies.

“The summit strengthened our resolve to ensure we do all we can to safeguard Scotland’s interests. Today’s discussions have given us some valuable insights and perspectives that will help frame our conversations with the UK Government going forward.”

Michael Russell said:

“Following the outcome of the EU referendum, our overriding objective is to protect Scotland’s interests and its relationship with Europe. And in many areas, including justice and security, those interests look very different from other parts of the UK.  

“Scotland has a separate system and approach to justice – one that over the past 40 years has become closely integrated with EU law. EU law is at the heart of our legal system, shapes the powers of the Scottish Parliament and provides rights to our citizens.

“Therefore it is imperative that we are not disadvantaged or side-lined in the negotiations taking place with the rest of Europe. We will continue to press the UK Government for full and transparent involvement in this vital process.”


In attendance at the EU Justice Summit were representatives from:

  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Police Authority
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Faculty of Advocates
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • Standing Council on Europe
  • Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe
  • Forum Conveniens
  • Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
  • Scottish Prison Service
  • Scottish Human Rights Commission
  • Family Law Association
  • HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
  • Scottish Centre for Criminal Justice Research
  • Scottish Institute of Police Research
  • Scottish Arbitration Centre


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