Building a New Scotland: Justice in an independent Scotland

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

Strengthening cooperation

European Union

As noted in ‘Building a New Scotland: an independent Scotland in the EU[172], Scotland has lost out on access to one of the world’s most developed and integrated international justice and crime-fighting ecosystems. For example, the loss of the European Arrest Warrant means many EU member states will no longer surrender their nationals to face justice in Scotland. As a result, some victims of crime in Scotland may have to travel abroad and take part in foreign criminal proceedings in the hope of obtaining justice. Others may not see justice done at all.

Scotland has lost out on access to real time Europe-wide alerts and notices about wanted or missing persons through the EU’s Schengen Information System. Police Scotland instead has to use slower, less effective systems to check if people are wanted in the EU for serious crime[173].

Re-joining the EU would allow Scotland to take full advantage of EU law enforcement cooperation and technology to keep Scotland safe.

Since EU exit, measures have had to be brought in to try to replicate, as far as possible, some of the systems to which we no longer have access.

The Scottish Government’s vision is for an independent Scotland to apply to join the EU as soon as possible after independence. Re-joining the EU would ensure that Scotland could enjoy the benefits of access to those systems and networks again. As stated in ‘Building a New Scotland: An independent Scotland in the EU,’ by participating fully as an independent state we would equip Scotland’s police and prosecutors with more tools to better combat sophisticated criminal networks.[174]

As a member of the EU, Scotland would play its part in the further development of justice, home affairs, security, and defence policies. Our justice system, with its single national police force and single prosecution authority, is already a contributor to the administration of justice across

Europe.[175] We have experience of having a hybrid legal system, straddling both civil and common law traditions. As an EU member state, an independent Scotland could draw on this to contribute to the EU’s legal institutions and development of good law.

International cooperation

As an independent state, Scotland would be expected to play its role in international justice cooperation with other states and partners across the world. Through EU membership, joining the Council of Europe, United Nations, and Interpol, an independent Scotland would expect to see the already good cooperation internationally continue.

An independent Scotland would be able to consider how best to serve its own interests through the deployment of police and prosecution resources abroad.[176] The exact shape, nature, and resourcing of that network would be for the government of an independent Scotland to determine, bearing in mind the threat picture posed by transnational crime at that time.

Becoming independent would change the nature of cooperation between Scottish and UK authorities. Cooperation with the UK would remain important for an independent Scotland. Currently, Scotland’s separate legal system and distinct criminal justice system mean that there are already important differences in how Scottish authorities cooperate with their counterparts across the UK. An independent Scotland would seek a comprehensive justice cooperation agreement with the UK, including on extradition, mutual legal assistance, and cross-border operations in order to combat criminality across the UK and ensure criminals cannot escape justice by changing jurisdiction.

There are already arrangements concerning how our police and prosecutors cooperate across the existing jurisdictional border between Scotland and England, and the Scottish Government would expect that similar arrangements would be agreed in the event of independence.



Back to top