Building a New Scotland: Justice in an independent Scotland

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


The ‘Building a New Scotland’ series is intended to give people in Scotland the information they need to make an informed choice about independence. This paper focuses on Scotland’s justice system, which is already largely devolved, and sets out the case for the powers of independence.

Keeping people safe is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government and is central to our Vision for Justice in Scotland,[7] which was set out in early 2022. Our vision is of a just, safe and resilient Scotland, where people are able to exercise their human and civic rights.

As stated in the Vision for Justice in Scotland, to address the causes of crime, Scotland’s public services together must tackle societal inequalities such as child poverty, mental ill health, addiction, and adverse childhood experiences.[8] With independence, Scotland would have the opportunity to enhance and further embed our approach to justice, an approach that seeks to deal with many issues as public health issues rather than justice ones, particularly areas of addiction like drugs and gambling.

An independent Scotland would also be an open, engaged, and positive international partner able to play a key role in justice issues across borders. Joining the EU as an independent nation would enable Scotland to regain access to cross-border systems essential to fighting crime and bringing justice to victims which were lost following Brexit.[9]

The structure of this paper

This paper is set out in four main parts:

Our approach to justice sets out our Vision for Justice in Scotland and the progress we have made in working towards meeting our aims, and how that would be strengthened by the increase in powers and responsibility that would be gained through independence.

Justice in an independent Scotland looks at how we would develop our justice system to encompass those areas that are currently reserved.

Making a difference describes how Scotland could use the powers of independence to improve outcomes for people and communities.

Strengthening cooperation sets out how we would work with the UK, EU, and internationally to tackle the increasingly international threats from crime.



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