Editorial: Teflon Nicola coming unstuck on Scottish justice system

Editorial: Teflon Nicola coming unstuck on Scottish justice system

Graham Ogilvy

So, today it’s the beleaguered staff at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service balloting on strike action. Yesterday, it was the hard-pressed members of the Edinburgh and Glasgow bar associations taking action.

Both of these actions, to which Scottish Legal News is entirely sympathetic, are the latest alarms to go off warning that the Scottish justice system has descended into an omnishambles.

But is anyone in the Scottish government listening? It is a constant source of amazement, and it pains us to say it, that Nicola Sturgeon seems as oblivious to the crisis in our justice system as Boris Johnson is to the crisis in the English justice system.

How on earth have we arrived at a situation where a social democratic-leaning government in Holyrood can preside over a legal aid regime just as regressive as that administered by the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals currently ruling the Westminster roost?

When a bright-eyed young Nicola, armed with her law degree from Glasgow University, took up her first job at Drumchapel Law Centre (whose successor, the Drumchapel Money Advice Centre, now faces closure) could she ever have imagined that she would preside over the slow strangulation of legal aid and access to justice?

Could she ever have dreamed that malicious prosecution, an unimaginable hypothetical subject consigned to ethics classes, could become a reality in 21st century Scotland? And does she really believe that the victims of that malicious prosecution would have been able to secure redress had they not been wealthy men supported by their firms?

Can she be satisfied that, despite Scotland seeing itself as a progressive, Northern European country, we have the third highest prison population in Europe after an England currently in the grip of right-wing headbangers and a Spain that still wrestles with its fascist past?

It is shocking to reflect that we now live in a land where malicious prosecution is a reality, where trial by jury is constantly under threat and where citizens are more likely to be jailed – while at the same time access to justice is fast becoming a privilege of the rich.

Few would doubt that Nicola Sturgeon has more empathy and decency in her little finger than is possessed by the entire motley crew in 10 Downing Street. She is the Teflon Don of Scottish politics but she is coming unstuck on Scottish justice.

That saddens us because Scotland deserves better and, deep down, Nicola knows it too.

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