SCOTLAND’S courts face an “enormous backlog” of trials after the coronavirus lockdown, Humza Yousaf has warned.

The Justice Secretary said extra cash would be needed to clear it.

Mr Yousaf also revealed that by April 21, Police Scotland had closed 27 non-essential businesses, issued 1554 fixed penalty notices, and arrested 76 people for failing to comply with the regulations on social distancing.

He said compliance was “very high”, but highlighted a rise in dispersals at the weekend, with 565 dispersals and 41 dispersals after warnings on April 19 alone.

As the lockdown went on and the weather improved, there would be “challenges” in social distancing, he said.

A recent Scottish Government paper on how to recover from the current suspension of jury trails suggested 1,600 cases could be delayed by the summer.

Smaller juries, more social distancing in court and increasing the power of sheriffs to pass sentences without a jury are now under now being considered.

Mr Yousaf was speaking to MSPs in an online meeting of Parliament’s Justice Committee.

He and Tory convener Margaret Mitchell paid tribute to the first prison officer to die from Covid-19, who worked at Polmont Young Offenders Institute, and sent condolences to his family. Mr Yousaf said he had been a “very popular and much-loved individual”.

Asked about Covid-19 in Scotland’s prisons, he said 94 people in custody across nine sites were self-isolating, with 12 confirmed cases.

He said prison staff absences were 19.7% of the workforce, down from around 25% at the start of the outbreak.

Asked by Tory MSP Liam Kerr asked about the impact of the lockdown on criminal court cases, Mr Yousaf said the court service had consolidated its work into 10 hub sheriff courts for urgent business, and was doing more in writing, with staff workly remotely.

He said: “There is going to be, frankly, an enormous backlog which is going to have impacts on victims of crime, on the legal profession and the courts. Already a fair bit of effort is going into looking at and reflecting on what action to take to address that backlog.”

He said more money would be needed to clear it: “That is going to require resource. I cannot envisage how that would be done within current budgets.”

He said governments across the world would face Covid-related financial challenges “for the next 12, 24 months if not longer”.

He said was happy to provide MSPs with a regular update on clearing the backlog.