Letter: It's our own justice system that's wrong

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Could it be possible that instead of the Supreme Court "undermining Scottish justice" as Alex Salmond claims (your report, 26 May), it might be providing a badly needed wake-up call to the government that all is not well within the Scottish justice system?

It is certainly arguable that this court's recent Cadder judgment, which ruled that suspects were entitled to a lawyer before being questioned by the police, had been clearly signalled but that our Crown Office and judiciary chose to ignore it and bury their collective heads in the sand.

The reality for many people is that despite government tinkering and judicial first aid, access to "justice" remains a costly, time-consuming and often frustrating and debilitating experience.

Major injustices like Lockerbie stagger on year after year, with our justice system and government in denial and apparently incapable of seeking a resolution to this indelible stain on the Scottish justice system.

The Crown Office, despite claims to the contrary, remains an organisation in which privilege and the status quo is valued over openness and accountability. Some of our judiciary could be accused of insularity and incestuous self-interest.

Mr Salmond should take care in hitching his wagon to such a system. Support for Scotland, its people and institutions is one thing; however, support for major justice institutions badly in need of overhaul is another.

In working towards independence, the First Minister must be careful that these very Scottish institutions he so reveres don't ultimately undermine him and his goal.

If the High Court of Justiciary is to be the "final arbiter of criminal cases in Scotland", as Mr Salmond wants, then he must ensure that it and the supporting justice system is fit for purpose and examine the rulings emanating from the Supreme Court to see what they really say about our system.

I believe the way forward, as Scotland's people express their collective will to have more power over their destiny, is for our SNP government to institute an independent and wide-ranging review of our justice system aimed at ensuring we have a modern and forward-looking system capable of helping us fulfil that destiny.

Iain A J McKie

South Beach Road


Alex Salmond may well be right in his belief that the Supreme Court has no part to play in Scots law. I wouldn't know.

However, the House of Lords has since 1709 had criminal jurisdiction of Scotland. And many millions of Scots have been enormously grateful for that fact.

In 1709 the Lords released a "criminal" from Edinburgh jail whose offence was wanting to worship his God as he pleased and preach his gospel as he saw fit.

The usual nationalist riots occurred, of course, but the Scots from then on had freedom of speech whether they wanted it or not, damn it.

Also, in 1707, Scotland, unlike England, was under the absolute rule of aristocrats (not the people) who sought to keep their power over the Church and over the law. Self interest was the chief reason for these powers in the treaty, and Scottish national interest had nothing to do with it.

Luckily, Westminster decided to drag Scotland out of the 17th century and in very quick order abolished the old baronial courts (ie the real Scots law) and the burning of witches (ie the real Scots kirk).

When Westminster modernised the criminal jurisdiction of Scotland and made the people free to worship, to speak their mind, freed them from legal persecution and insisted on their right to a fair trial, at every step they were loudly opposed by Scottish nationalists prattling on about the sanctity of Scots law.

Alex Salmond may or may not have right on his side when he complains about the Supreme Court, but at least he is consistent with the line followed by his nationalist forbears.

Robert Veitch

Paisley Drive