We must blame ourselves - not London or Brussels - for the state of our justice system - Kenny MacAskill

I’ve never believed in Scottish exceptionalism.

Only Scotland - and Scotland alone - can shoulder the responsibility for the state of the country's justice system. PIC: Phil Wilkinson.

We’ve been good and bad over the years and independence is about taking responsibility for failings, as much as plaudits for successes.

Maybe I’ve indulged in some boosterism but that’s because I think folk react better to encouragement than being berated. I’ve also been proud of our civic institutions and have spoken out for them and defended them vigorously. After all it was those institutions that kept Scotland as a Nation alive, through 300 years of an incorporating union.

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But I’ve been challenged lately by issues in our legal system and organisations operating more widely under it. That saddens me, as I’m proud of my Scots Law Degree, my 20 years practice as a Scots lawyer and my service as Justice Secretary.

But the ills that are worrying me can’t be placed at London’s door, let alone Brussels or anywhere else. Something has gone far wrong I fear and action needs taken. Changes structural and in personnel, as well as in operation, are urgently required.

That’s not the same as saying that the entire system’s flawed and should be abandoned. Far from it, as its stood the test of time and has faced challenges before that its come through. Nor is it to suggest that all working within it, whether the Judiciary, Crown or Police, are failures. That’s most certainly not the case as there are many outstanding individuals in all and almost all serving do so with great commitment and the public interest at heart. But change there must be, as some recent actions are deeply worrying.

Whilst I’ve said I don’t believe in Scottish exceptionalism, I’m still staggered at some events that seem to be playing out in a justice system I’ve always had such faith in. But when individuals are being prosecuted for their blogs, yet others in the mainstream media are exculpated, whats happened to comparative justice?

When a police service that I hold in high regard is speaking to people, tweeting out, and even charging them sometimes for the heinous crimes of chalking on streets and putting up stickers that argue biological facts or using social media likewise, then I wonder where it has all gone wrong.

I never imagined that this could happen in Scotland, let alone under an administration that I was once proud to serve in. But it has and there are now admissions of malicious prosecutions.

So change there must be and fast. First and foremost the dual role of the Lord Advocate in being senior Government Legal Advisor and head of the prosecution service must end. That’s untenable and I can’t help conclude when I looking at actions of organisations that it’s a factor. Chinese walls are inadequate and the influence of government seems insidious on those organisations and likewise within others funded or beholden to the state.

A separation of powers is needed and political influence must be restricted. There’s no one else to blame but ourselves for this but fix it we must.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian.

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