This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Every year at our Politician of The Year Awards we hand out a gong for the best committee MSP. 

I’m not saying it’s not a worthy and deserving category. It is. It’s just that if the prize was for the worst committee MSP then we’d have a proper contest. 

Points could be given to the politician who asks a respected expert witness a pointlessly partisan question, or maybe to the backbencher whose mind drifts off wondering if today is mac and cheese day in the canteen before waking up long enough to ask a question that’s already been answered. 

The winner would have to show a real commitment to asking long, long, long meandering ‘more-of-a-comment-than-a-question’ style questions. 

Bonus points if they do it after the convenor’s asked for succinctity.

What I’m trying to say here is that Holyrood’s committees don’t have the best reputation and that as someone who watches them more than most, that’s a reputation that’s not totally undeserved. 

Just to be clear, I’m not one of those who thinks Westminster’s the gold standard. I mean MPs have at least six times as many lunch options as MSPs to think about.

It’s just that sometimes our representatives confuse scrutiny with turning up.

So, credit where credit’s due; the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee's work on the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill has been excellent. 

There have obviously been some meandering questions, some mac and cheese thoughts and some partisan attacks, but mostly, given that these are some of the biggest reforms to our legal system in years, MSPs have, in my opinion, risen to the task. 

The Herald:
They’ve asked difficult questions of the minister, of the Lord Advocate, of the lawyers and judges and experts.

They’ve teased apart some of the difficulties with the legislation.

The coverage of the reforms has centred mostly on the plan for a pilot of juryless rape trials. Earlier this week, my colleague Kathleen Nutt wrote about a possible rebellion of SNP MSPs when it comes to a vote. 

After watching this week’s sessions of the Justice Committee I’m not entirely convinced it will get that far. 

There are so many difficulties with the pilot, not least the legal issues around the right to a fair trial, the 100% certainty that anyone convicted will appeal and the likely boycott by criminal defence lawyers.

I can easily imagine Justice Secretary Angela Constance dropping it before it even gets to a vote. 

No, the real problem for the government will be Part 4 of the Bill, which includes the plan to reduce jury sizes from 15 to 12 but keeps the number needed for a guilty verdict at eight.

I know this because on Wednesday, former deputy first minister John Swinney, who sits on the Criminal Justice committee, voiced his concerns over the proposal. 

If even John Swinney – a man so loyal to the SNP government he will sleep on its grave when it dies – has concerns then Angela Constance is in trouble. 

The change to jury numbers and the need for a two-thirds majority can’t be taken in isolation. It comes alongside proposals to scrap Scotland’s unique and often controversial not proven verdict.

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Last month, the Lord Advocate told the Committee that taken together, these changes “will make it more difficult to get a conviction” in sex crimes. 

In their submission, the Senators of the College of Justice said that “any jury comprising a cross-section of the public chosen at random could have jurors who ignore the evidence and take an unreasonable position, whatever that may be.”

Basically, having 15 members protects the jury from being derailed by a weirdo. 

But that becomes harder with a jury of 12 and even more so when eight members need to return a guilty verdict.

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The government tried to defend this earlier this week, saying their meta-analysis – not shared with the committee – showed it would lead to more prosecutions. The committee wasn't buying it.  

Committee work is not glamorous and it’s often a slog. But it’s probably the most important part of the parliamentary process. 

It may be a pain for the government, but the Justice Committee is doing its bit to make sure that we get the ultimate prize of good law rather than well-meaning law.