Programme for Government 2023 to 2024

Focuses on equality, opportunity and community.

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Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs

Angela Constance MSP

The safety and security of the public is my top priority. It is fundamental to the success of our three missions. Genuine equality and opportunity are dependent on ensuring we live in a just, safe, and resilient Scotland where everyone can reach their potential and contribute fully to society.

Building more resilient communities means we will always support our core public services, including Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), and continue to improve understanding and preparedness for a range of hazards and threats through multi-agency planning.

We must prevent crime and harm in our communities, particularly where we know some individuals are more likely to experience crime than others. And when crime does occur, reduce its harm whilst ensuring everyone has access to justice enabling them to uphold their legal rights. We must also continue to tackle all forms of violence, including violence and sexual offending against women and girls, and ensure robust justice responses and support for survivor services.

We will continue to improve the experience of justice – ensuring that victims and witnesses of crime are treated with compassion and are at the heart of the justice system. We have already reduced the backlog of cases in our justice system by over a third and will continue to improve the efficiency of justice and ultimately reduce waiting times. We must also ensure that justice services work effectively with people to address their offending behaviours, therefore reducing reoffending, reducing crime, and creating safer communities.

Victims of crime are at the heart of our work to build a trauma-informed, person-centred justice system. The Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill proposes a significant package of reforms specifically designed to improve the experience of victims and witnesses of crime in the justice system.

We have continued to support keeping The Promise for care experienced children, young people and their families by progressing the passage of the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill through Parliament. To support the Bill, we will be expanding investment in alternatives to custody for children, thereby ending new placements of under 18s in Young Offenders Institutions by the end of 2024. The recent National Community Justice Strategy delivery plan includes a series of measurable actions to shift the balance between custody and justice in the community.

The Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Act 2023 was passed by Parliament in June and work is now underway to ensure that remand is focused on those that pose the greatest risk to public safety and that improved support is available for people leaving prison.

Our Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill aims to ensure allegations of misconduct are dealt with more transparently and effectively. It will strengthen the police complaints and misconduct system by enhancing scrutiny and underlining the importance of maintaining the high standards expected of Scotland’s police officers.

Delivering in the year ahead

In the coming year, I will take forward the following critical activity.

Prioritising our public services and delivering public service reform

  • Support justice agencies to reduce court backlogs, including aiming to end the backlog of summary cases during 2024 and reduce waiting times for justice.
  • Act on the findings of His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland Thematic Review of the servicing of mental health demand on policing.
  • Support Police Scotland in its plan to roll out body worn cameras to officers over the next two years, to over 14,000 officers and staff from 2024.
  • Following the successful digital evidence pilot, Police Scotland will seek to build on the Scottish Government’s investment to make it easier to submit digital evidence to report poor road user behaviour, in support of making Scotland’s roads safer for all – especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Support the SFRS to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of all their staff who work to protect communities, including ensuring progress concerning decontamination requirements.

Supporting everyone to feel safe in their communities

  • Work with partners to implement the new Violence Prevention Framework, including the expansion of the Navigator programme to support more people to stabilise their lives and reduce crime, the development of a social media campaign to support young people away from violence, and the adoption of bystander approaches to empower individuals to challenge their peers in a safe way.
  • Continue to reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 – through our Cash Back for Communities programme – into diversionary activities for young people most at risk of being involved in antisocial behaviour, offending or reoffending to support the communities that are most affected by crime.
  • Publish a Hate Crime Strategy Delivery Plan, setting out our immediate and longer-term activity in support of the Hate Crime Strategy, including implementation of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 in early 2024.
  • Work with SFRS to ensure continuing priority is given to the implementation of their wildfire strategy.

Improving the experience of justice for victims and survivors

  • Progress implementation of the trauma-informed justice knowledge and skills framework and improve justice system communications, ensuring we are able to compassionately recognise and respond to a victim’s or a survivor’s trauma and avoid re-traumatisation.
  • Act on the considerations of the Women’s Justice Leadership Panel to address gender inequality and improve women’s experiences within the justice system, to help achieve a gender-informed justice system.
  • Launch Bairns’ Hoose Pathfinders in autumn 2023, a key action in our keeping The Promise Implementation Plan and Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, enabling a whole-system approach for child victims and witnesses of abuse and harm.

Tackling violence against women and girls

  • Establish a Ministerial Oversight Group to ensure momentum on delivering the cross-portfolio Equally Safe Strategy, including the refresh of the priorities.
  • Consider our wider approach to tackling domestic abuse and work to develop Scotland’s first national multi-agency Domestic Homicide Review model.
  • Bring forward legislation to criminalise misogynistic conduct as informed by the public consultation on Baroness Helena Kennedy KC’s report.

Reducing reoffending and limiting the negative effects of short term imprisonment

  • Progress delivery of the National Community Justice Strategy by working with Community Justice Partners to drive improvement and advance towards the longstanding aim of encouraging a person-centred, trauma-informed, and rehabilitative approach.
  • Continue to invest in the prison estate, working towards replacing prisons in Inverness and Glasgow to ensure modern facilities that promote rehabilitation into communities and reduced reoffending.
  • Continue to provide trauma-informed care and management to women in custody, including through the new national facility HMP & YOI Stirling and Community Custody Units in Dundee and Glasgow, supporting the best chance for women to not reoffend and to return successfully to their communities.



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