Building a New Scotland: Justice in an independent Scotland

This paper sets out the Scottish Government's vision for justice in an independent Scotland.


Scotland has long had its own legal and justice system. It has its own courts, tribunals, judiciary, prosecution service, police service, prisons, 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 1707.[177] We have many strengths and successes to build on, which provide confidence that we can add the remaining elements we would need to deliver fair and effective justice in an independent Scotland.

Our Vision for Justice in Scotland[178] set out the ambition for a just, safe, resilient Scotland. Our reforms are focussed on renewing efforts on prevention and early intervention while addressing the needs of all users and empowering our people and communities to exercise their rights and responsibilities. An approach founded in equality and human rights; that puts people at the centre of what we do; is informed by recognised, credible, and robust evidence; and is taken forward through collaboration and partnership.

In the areas where the UK Government retains control, this can restrict the ability to align policy, legislation, and delivery to fully address the specific needs and circumstances which prevail in Scotland, and to take creative approaches based on a public health approach, where we focus on prevention. And this Government is clear that an independent Scotland should have a framework for human rights law that protects and promotes fundamental freedoms, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

With independence, Scotland would represent itself on the international stage, with a seat at the table at the Council of Europe, United Nations, and Interpol. Through cooperation with our international partners, an independent Scotland would advance our shared objectives, addressing global challenges and working together to tackle sophisticated criminal networks.

Independence would not be to the detriment of the relationships that already exist within these islands. Our separate legal system and distinct criminal justice system mean that there are already arrangements concerning how our police and prosecutors cooperate across the existing jurisdictional border between Scotland and England. Independence would allow us to build on these relationships and forge new ones, working with other nations as equals on our shared goals.



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