MURDERERS and organised crime bosses on the run from the law stand to benefit from the UK losing access to vital European security arrangements after Brexit, Scotland’s Justice Secretary has said.

Humza Yousaf insisted no future arrangements could be as good as those currently in place, such as through the European Arrest Warrant and Europol – the EU’s law enforcement agency.

He said a foreign national who committed murder in Scotland and absconded to Europe was apprehended within five hours in 2012 due to a European Arrest Warrant.

Meanwhile, ongoing efforts to snare five Scots allegedly linked to a massive organised crime network would be substantially delayed if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

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Speaking on BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Yousaf said: "Anything that is a move away from what we currently have, is a dilution of what we have, the only people that will benefit will be those that are trying to escape from the law.

"It doesn't matter how many preparations we make, the UK Government makes, the Met Police force or indeed Police Scotland make, it doesn't matter what we put in place, if you do not have access to something like the European Arrest Warrant, the only people that will benefit will be those who are able to evade justice for longer."

Mr Yousaf insisted the process for apprehending criminals after the UK leaves the EU could take significantly longer.

He said: "We can be as stringent as we want, we can be as robust as we possibly want, and we are doing that, but if we don't have an extradition treaty with a country, that could take over and above a year.

"If we have an extradition treaty with a third country, in a bilateral agreement, it would take months and months.

"Some countries do not have extradition treaties with the UK that are currently members of the European Union.

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"Therefore you have to rely on previous extradition treaties that we have. Part one of these treaties alone would take months and months, and if somebody was absconding for some of the worst crimes, murder, rape or anything else, then that gives them plenty of time to evade the law."

It follows comments from Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, who said criminals could potentially exploit the UK no longer being part of measures such as the European Arrest Warrant.

Mr Yousaf was asked about current efforts to track down two brothers suspected of heading up a massive organised crime gang.

European Arrest Warrants have been issued for James Gillespie, 45, and his brother Barry, 41, as well as three of their alleged associates.

The Justice Secretary said this wouldn’t be possible outside of the EU’s current structures – meaning any potential extradition would take months, rather than hours.