Scotland’s Justice Secretary has demanded an “urgent” meeting with the UK Government’s Post Office minister over legislation to clear the names of subpostmasters caught up in the Horizon IT scandal.

The call came as MPs debated the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill in the Commons. 

There have been more than 900 convictions linked to the software, including around 60 in Scotland.

The new law will apply to England and Wales only and will overturn convictions of theft, fraud, false accounting, money laundering and any linked offences handed down in connection with prosecutions brought between 23 September 1996 and 31 December 2018.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has repeatedly said his preference is to pass a Legislative Consent Motion to allow the UK Government's legal fix to apply north of the border.

However, ministers in London have been equally clear that as justice is devolved and as prosecutions were undertaken in a completely separate system it is for ministers in Edinburgh to come up with their own solution. 

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC has also said that there can be no quick solution for the Scottish victims and that it was “imperative that due process is followed.”

She said the “right process” for people to clear their names was through the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) and the High Court of Appeal.

READ MORE: Scots post office victims will need to wait for Holyrood legislation

However, in a letter to Kevin Holinrake, Angela Constance claimed Michael Gove had told the Scottish Government on 12 March that the UK Government was “open to extending the Bill to Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

She said she then followed this up two days later, asking for a response before the second reading of the Bill, but never received a reply.

Ms Constance continued: “To date you and I have had only one short discussion on the day the Bill was announced, and despite your undertaking to keep in touch I am yet to receive a reply to my letter of 23 February 2024.

“This lack of Ministerial contact is concerning, especially given that time is clearly of the essence, and in light of your government’s repeated assurances that you will work with the devolved administrations to ensure compatibility and equitability of treatment across the UK.”

The SNP minister said that when concerns were raised by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr Hollinrake found time to meet with representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive, “but that same courtesy has not been extended to the Scottish Government.”

READ MORE: Scotland's Lord Advocate apologises to Post Office victims

Opening the debate on the second reading of the Bill in the Commons, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch told MPs: “The Government can’t turn back the clock or undo the damage that’s been done.

“But we will seek to right the wrongs of the past as best we can, by restoring people’s good names and ensuring that those subject to this tragic miscarriage of justice receive fair and full redress, this Bill represents a crucial step in delivering that.”

She added: “We recognise that postmasters have suffered too much for far too long, which is why convictions will be quashed automatically when the Bill receives royal assent. Removing the need for people to apply to have their conviction overturned.”

In her speech, SNP frontbencher Marion Fellows said she was “deeply disappointed” the Bill did not apply to Scotland.

She told the Commons: “The whole business of Horizon arose here under Post Office Limited, which is wholly owned by the UK Government, being the central shareholder. So there is a logic to saying the mess is made here, it should be cleared up here.”

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael suggested it was open to the Scottish Parliament to pass a similar Bill in three days by an emergency process, but Ms Fellows said there was no guarantee this could happen.

She added: “I think it is becoming clear that I will be seeking to amend this Bill, I will be taking advice and I will attempt to do what will be done in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP’s Ian Paisley had earlier asked if Labour would support Northern Ireland being added to the remit of the Bill, telling the Commons: “I would appeal to the Opposition spokesman to support if a motion were to come forward to instruct the House to extend this Bill to cover Northern Ireland, would the Opposition support such a motion so that those fine words and good will are turned into strong action?”

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds replied: “I can tell colleagues the Labour Party does support those calls. I understand this would be a complex constitutional undertaking, but as I say given every party in Northern Ireland and every minister I believe in the new assembly are calling for their inclusion in this Bill, I think we have to recognise that.”