A study into why so many people are held in prison before appearing in court has been commissioned by the Scottish Government.

With one in five people in Scotland’s jails being held on remand, the research will attempt to discover the reasons for this and consider alternatives to imprisonment.

The research will involve watching court cases and interviewing criminal justice professionals, with the findings used to inform alternatives to remand and further consideration of how bail law operates.

First Minister’s QuestionsHumza Yousaf said remand will always be necessary in some instances (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While decisions on whether to remand in custody or grant bail to an accused person ahead of trial are a matter for courts, we are continuing to strengthen the provision of credible alternatives to custody and reduce disruptive pre-trial imprisonment.

“Remand will always be necessary in some cases to protect the public.

“As part of our ‘smart justice’ evidence-led approach, we are exploring ways to help reduce Scotland’s high prison population and prevent the damaging impact of remand where appropriate.

“This exploratory research will help inform our actions on remand, an issue which has also been highlighted by the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Justice Committee.”

The study will be carried out by KSO Research on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The firm’s director, Dr Kate Skellington Orr, said: “The research presents a timely opportunity to better understand decisions and explore innovation, including constructive options in the community.”

Nancy Loucks, chief executive of charity Families Outside, said “Imprisonment fractures families, with younger children particularly sensitive to sudden and traumatic separation from a parent or other family member.

“A young child will not draw a distinction between custody for remand or sentence – only that they have had their family taken away from them, with consequences as serious as removal from home, school, friends, and placement in care.”