Funding for criminal justice in the spotlight


MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee are to examine all areas of the Scottish Government’s criminal justice budget in the coming weeks, and consider whether the current funding patterns are sustainable, effective and achieving good outcomes.

Ahead of making recommendations to the Scottish Government on how it spends money on justice services, the Committee is looking to hear opinions on funding for bodies such as prisons, courts, police, fire and rescue, victim support and community justice initiatives.

It will also consider whether funding is in place to support the sector to recover from Covid, and whether any of the changes brought in to help cope with the pandemic may lead to longer term savings, if those were desirable and made permanent.

Speaking as the call for views was launched, Criminal Justice Committee Convener, Audrey Nicoll MSP, said:

“Criminal Justice services play a crucial role in keeping Scotland safe, supporting complainers and victims of crime, working to rehabilitate offenders, and diverting people who are at risk of doing wrong.

“Our Committee wants to take a wide look at the funding for these services – public and voluntary – and examine whether what we have in place supports the justice system to do what we ask of it.

Ms Nicoll continued:

“It goes without saying that we will need to consider the impact of Covid-19 on the justice sector’s budgets.

“We asked a great deal of those working on the frontline and administering justice throughout the pandemic.

“And while there may be savings from some of the new ways of working, overall, the sector will need a lot of help to recover from the pandemic – for instance, to deal with the huge backlog of trials.”


The call for views can be found at this link.

Specifically, the Committee is seeking views on:

The impact of COVID

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget for the criminal justice sector to recover from COVID-19?

• What the cost will be of making permanent some of the temporary changes  brought in because of the pandemic (if these are to become permanent)?

• Whether organisations in the criminal justice sector have enough budget and staff to be able to cope with a return to pre-pandemic levels of working (e.g. expected growth in the number of court trials)?

• Whether there have been any savings and efficiencies because of the different way of working during the pandemic, what these savings have been used for elsewhere, and could they be kept once the pandemic is over?

• Where are the opportunities for future reform and savings?

The budget provided for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget for the work expected of the COPFS?

• What is the expected impact of the budget of the COPFS from the recent cases of malicious prosecution?

Prisons, prison reform and secure care

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget for the work expected of the Scottish Prison Service?

• Whether enough money has been allocated for the future modernisation of the prison estate beyond the work currently underway at HMP Glasgow and HMP Cornton Vale?

• Whether the current funding model for secure care in Scotland needs reformed?

Police and fire and rescue

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget for Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service?

• In particular, is there enough budget to modernise the services, their buildings, vehicles and equipment etc?

The support for victims of crime

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget to enable organisations to support victims of crime?

Legal aid

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget to enable people to access justice through the support provided by legal aid in criminal cases?

• Whether further budget and reforms are necessary to tackle the problem of accessing legal aid in remote and rural areas of Scotland?

• Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget to attract people to work for organisations providing services funded by legal aid (e.g. defence solicitors)?

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government

• What money will be required to finance the different criminal justice policies set out in the new Programme for Government and whether any new and extra finance has been allocated for the various initiatives?

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