IT is no surprise that Humza Yousaf is keen for his new-look Government to achieve a quick constitutional win, but its proposals for changes in the criminal justice system are a bad choice. Ministers should have foreseen that defence lawyers would be implacably opposed and would withhold their co-operation (“Warning over rape trials with no jury”, The Herald, May 10).

Leaving aside the pros and cons of the proposed changes, there is a wider failure here. By focusing the debate so narrowly on rape cases, the Government has done a disservice to the many thousands of victims and witnesses of all other categories of crime. I do not for a moment seek to deny that rape is a most heinous crime; but it is not the only one. So, while the estimable Rape Crisis Scotland argues passionately in favour of the proposed changes and defence lawyers argue vehemently against them, the plight of victims and witnesses of all other categories of crimes goes unmentioned.

From 2007 to 2014 I was a volunteer with Victim Support Scotland (VSS), a major charity funded almost entirely by the Scottish Government. My role was to give practical information and moral support to all victims and witnesses, at Sheriff and High Court trials. I became frustrated and saddened to see how shabbily victims and witnesses were treated by the criminal justice and court systems. Legally compelled to appear, often months or years after the offence, they were routinely dumped in cheerless waiting rooms and left to wait anxiously for up to six or seven hours. All too often they were sent away to return another day, because their case was postponed. The incidental expenses they received were derisory, and those who had to take time off work were not guaranteed to be paid by their employers. Many were so disillusioned that they vowed never again to report a crime or come forward as a witness.

I did my utmost to persuade senior management at VSS to recognise this, and to make representations to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and the Scottish Government. My pleas fell on deaf ears. The higher echelons of the charity, who largely had no first-hand experience of the court system, appeared reluctant to confront authority, and as my protestations became increasingly vocal (including letters to The Herald) I was seen as a troublemaker and resigned.

The Government is right to say that the status quo in the criminal justice system is not acceptable; it has not been acceptable for a great many years. But the Government, to its shame, has done nothing about it. If it is to achieve its often-declared aim of putting victims and witnesses at the heart of the criminal justice system, it must now undertake a fundamental review of how the institutionally-archaic system treats victims and witnesses of all crimes. This Government’s present proposals are misguided and wholly inadequate.

Iain Stuart, Glasgow.

• IN the past I must confess that I had grave and admittedly layman doubts at times about juries in rape trials. Doubts in the sense that a smart defence lawyer could use the system to gain advantages for the accused. The crime of rape is not normally carried out with witnesses present and in many cases it comes down to the word of the accused against that of the accuser and if doubts can be placed in the minds of the jury about the past life and behaviour of anyone testifying then justice may not be served.

I understand also the anger of the lawyers involved in the present impasse over proposed new laws that could mean jury-less rape trials. But surely if the SNP had thought this all through and involved the legal profession from the first step and had them on board, a compromise could have been found. For example, could not in these specific cases the jury have the same knowledge of the accused’s previous criminal record that the judge has?

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.

Collaboration could be key

IN his letter (May 12) with reference to work for the Ferguson Shipyard, Kevin MacCallum states that "competition is essential'" This is not inevitable. Collaboration is an alternative strategy.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RLNI), unable to find a suitable boatyard for its vessels, created its own boatbuilding facility as an integral part of its organisation, with great success. Having CMAL, Calmac and Fergusons structured as an integrated entity and working on a collaborative plan for Scottish ferries in association with the privately-owned ferry companies and with local authority ferry organisations, would be a good way to proceed.

This does not imply that the private ferry companies should be nationalised or that local initiatives would be suppressed. It would mean that a system approach for the provision of all Scottish ferry services would be adopted to the benefit of all. For example, there would be agreements for sharing in the use of standby vessels based on the integrated plan. The germ of such cooperation can be seen in the present hiring of a Pentland Ferries vessel to CMAL.

Iain A MacLeod, Milngavie.

Read more: How to give Ferguson Marine new lease of life

Fighting a losing battle

WISE words from Allan C Steele (Letters, May 12) with self-preservation in mind for public-spirited punters.

Some years ago a well-meaning friend of mine attempted to intervene and bring calm to a domestic dispute outdoors which had become physical, only to be set upon by both combatants momentarily united by perceived interference, and rewarded with a bloody nose by one and a black eye by the other for his pains. They then recommenced Round 2.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

No news is bad news

HAVING discussed recently with fellow nonagenarians how simple life was in our childhoods, I read today that on April 18, 1930, the announcer on the BBC's 8.45pm news bulletin simply said: "There is no news". Piano music filled the rest of the broadcast.

Nostalgia for the good old days? I'll stick with my cellphone and tablet, and all that they bring to my life.

David Miller, Milngavie.

Why all the interlopers?

WE have had Australia taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest and various American and European acts appearing on Britain’s Got Talent. You’d think the clue would be in the title.

Brian Watt, Edinburgh.