Scotland's justice institutions 'not fit for purpose', says veteran journalist in first Holyrood speech
A veteran investigative journalist turned Scottish Conservative MSP has launched a scathing attack on the Scottish Government's justice system.
Russell Findlay, who was elected to Holyrood via the Scottish Conservative list at last month’s election, criticised the “bad faith, back covering and secrecy” within Scotland’s justice institutions.
The West Scotland MSP has changed careers after 27 years as an investigative journalist, including stints at STV, the Scottish Sun and Sunday Mail.
Mr Findlay spent much of his career investigating organised crime. In 2015, he was the victim of an acid attack from a hitman hired to maim him.
It was this incident, he told the Scottish Parliament chamber, that inspired him to get involved in politics and move away from journalism.
In his maiden speech, closing for the Scottish Conservatives in a justice debate, Mr Findlay said that injustice was “rife” in Scotland, with legal regulation such as police complaints, judicial complaints, and parole boards “not fit for purpose”.
He said: “Injustice is rife in modern Scotland. It has a corrosive impact. Its effects are profound, often consuming lives or cutting them short.
“While injustices will always occur, they are compounded when there is no redress and no accountability.
“Too often, public bodies use unlimited funds to crush legitimate complaints, wage war on whistleblowers and use non-disclosure agreements to hide the ugly truth from the paying public.
“Bad faith, back covering and secrecy contaminate too many of our institutions.”
Mr Findlay also attacked the SNP and nationalism, stating that Holyrood “has the power” to fix the issues facing Scottish justice.
He said: “Elsewhere in our United Kingdom, many of these very same serious problems have been identified and reformed – to the benefit of the public.
“One of the most nauseating aspects of nationalism is the myth of self-righteous superiority and exceptionalism.
“The injustices I am speaking about are entirely made in Scotland. This Parliament has the power to fix them.
“But the SNP prefer to dupe our citizens with a relentless diet of manufactured grievance and dishonestly blaming all our ills on Westminster. Scotland deserves so much better.”
He added: “My personal experience of the criminal justice system confirmed everything I had seen as a journalist. It made me angry.
“It made me realise that unless people stand up and be counted, nothing will change.”
Mr Findlay’s maiden speech was delivered as Scotland's new justice secretary Keith Brown said there was a “very strong case” for abolishing the nation’s controversial not proven verdict.
Mr Brown said there were “complex issues” involving the verdict – which is not used in other parts of the UK – and these needed to be carefully considered.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said it is time to look at whether Scotland retains not proven, as part of efforts to tackle the “shamefully low” conviction rates for rape and sexual assault.
The SNP manifesto for May’s Holyrood election committed the party to consulting on its abolition.
Mr Brown said it was “fairly plain that amongst the various parties in this chamber there are different views” on the issue of not proven.
He said it was right that a proper consultation was carried out, adding there would be “implications for other parts of the justice system” if the verdict was scrapped.