The Justice Secretary has warned that Scotland may have to rely on an outdated extradition agreement from the 1950s following Brexit.
Michael Matheson told a meeting of justice and legal experts that there was a “real danger” the police’s ability to track and apprehend criminals abroad would be weakened as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU.
He suggested the loss of the European arrest warrant would leave Scotland with extradition agreements no longer recognised by EU member states or that it may have to create new bilateral agreements.
Mr Matheson said: “European arrest warrants are extremely valuable. The quickest we have been able to get someone arrested from the point of issuing a European Arrest Warrant in another country is five hours.
“The average timescale of dealing with those European Arrest Warrants to someone being apprehended is 42 days.
“Prior to having European arrest warrants, you had to use extradition proceedings – the average timescale for those was nine months. The challenge now though is that as more and more of the member states operate under the European arrest warrant, many of them no longer recognise the original extradition treaty.
“When we come out of the EU, if we are no longer able to utilise European arrest warrants, there is a real danger that we will be even worse off than we were before the extradition treaty, which then creates real issues about how we extradite these individuals back to Scotland.”
The Home Office has said it would opt into a framework allowing for the continued use of the warrant after Brexit.
Mr Matheson added: “We make much greater use of European institutions and European networks than England and Wales do.
“Our justice system is very much embedded in those EU institutions and networks. To lose that would have a negative impact.”