SNP ministers have set out their justice blueprint including cracking down on misogyny and improving Scotland’s crumbling prison estate.

The strategy, which will take until March 2026 to roll out in full, will include long-promised plans to make misogyny a specific criminal offence after gender was controversially left out of contentious hate crime legislation.

Under the plans to be brought forward by SNP Justice Secretary Angela Constance, a Misogyny Bill will be introduced to Holyrood to create new criminal offences in a bid to better protect women and girls.

The delivery plan set out that the legislation could be tabled at Holyrood before the summer recess of 2024, with the passage through parliament by the first quarter of 2026. 

Under the plans set out following a review by barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy last year,  sending threatening or abusive messages to women and girls which refer to rape, sexual assault or disfigurement could become a specific crime.

Read more: New misogyny law to criminalise messages about rape

Others include legislation to criminalise misogynistic behaviour, misogynistic harassment, and an offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls. 

The government are also seeking to bring in a statutory aggravation concerning misogyny, which would allow the court to take a misogynistic motive into account when dealing with a crime such as assault, criminal damage or threatening or abusive behaviour.

Ministers have also committed to improving its crumbling prisons estate by opening HMP Highland and starting construction on HMP Glasgow, which will replace the out-of-date and oversubscribed Barlinnie.

Unlike many of the other policies in the delivery plan, there is no timescale for opening HMP Glasgow, only that it is “ongoing”, raising questions over whether it will be rolled out within the three-year period.

In June, the dates and price for HMP Barlinnie were deleted from the small print of a new spreadsheet recording the progress of the Scottish Government's major infrastructure schemes.

The final bill is now subject to work on an outline business case (OBC) while the delivery dates are “to be confirmed” and realigned to fit the “allocated budget profile”.

HMP Barlinnie is operating at 140% capacity with a new prison initially set to open in 2025, but it was delayed until 2027.

Read more: SNP minister: Policing 'safe and secure' despite station closure fears

The jail was declared unfit for purpose by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIPS) in 2020.

Ministers will also roll out a system to digitally manage evidence across Scotland, which they claim will benefit victims and witnesses with cases resolved quicker.

Mediation services will also be expanded for civil disputes in a move the Scottish Government says will save people time, stress and money.

Ms Constance said: “This delivery plan maps out further actions to reform, modernise and strengthen the justice system so it better meets the needs of victims, reduces reoffending, and ensures rates of offending continue to be at historic lows.

“The reforms are bold and wide-ranging – they include action to better protect women and girls, improve services for children and prevent and reduce crime through early intervention.”

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She added: “The vision sets out our transformative vision for the justice sector, and this updated delivery plan, which has been approved by our justice partners, shows the significant process that has been made so far.

“This includes the introduction of the Victims, Witnesses and Criminal Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill – which, if passed, will put victims and witnesses right at the heart of the justice system, and the creation of Bairns’ Hoose test sites to ensure a range of trauma-informed support is available to child victims and witnesses of abuse and harm.

“At the heart of all this work is our determination to build a trauma-informed and person-centred justice system in which individuals and communities can trust.”