SCOTLAND’S “struggling” prosecution service has had its budget cut by £4 million at a time when legal practitioners are calling for more resources to meet a rising workload.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) will receive £109.5m in 2017-18 – down from £113.5m this year, Derek Mackay announced in what he described as a “sound settlement”.

The cut coincides with Holyrood’s Justice Committee inquiry into the effectiveness of the service, which is facing delays and cost pressures as a result of legislative changes and a rise in historical sexual abuse cases.

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Conservative justice spokesman Douglas Ross accused the Government of damaging a service that is already under-resourced.

“Witness after witness have said that this service is not sufficiently resourced, yet he has cut its budget by £4m,” he told MSPs.

SNP MSPs’ grumbles of dissent turned to howls as Mr Ross ordered them to “shush!” and continued laying into the Finance Secretary.

“The COPFS is a key pillar of our criminal justice system,” he said.

“Why, then, have the SNP Government cut its budget in spite of key evidence of witnesses to this inquiry?”

Mr Mackay accused the Tories of repeatedly demanding higher spending on all public services while also calling for unsustainable tax cuts.

He said: “I have engaged with the justice system in Scotland and I am satisfied the budget position that I have outlined will continue to support the service to continue in a sustainable and satisfactory way, so I do believe it is a sound settlement for the service.”

In October, the Faculty of Advocates said: “It is clear that the increased demands placed on COPFS’s limited resources by the increased number of sexual and domestic abuse cases represent a significant challenge both to COPFS and to the criminal justice system.

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“It is hoped sufficient resources are put in place so that those challenges are met.”

In September, Brian McConnachie, QC, a former senior prosecutor at the Crown Office, claimed Scottish Government cuts to the justice system had left COPFS under resourced.

He said: “They don’t have the kind of resources they require to properly carry out the prosecution of crime.

“It does seem there are cases that are not being properly prepared, cases having to be put off on numerous occasions because COPFS has had trouble finding witnesses or providing full disclosure to the defence.”

He added: “People appreciate the money isn’t endless, but the skimping that has been done in every aspect of the legal system ... if you’re going to continually do that then what you will end up with is a substandard justice system.”

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Gordon Jackson, QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said there had been a “feeling the decision-making processes are not as good as they once were and the frontline is struggling with the resources available”.Fiona Eadie, a representative of public servants’ union FDA, said the pressure on COPFS’s budget is “incompatible with these increased demands”.