TACKLING the daunting backlog of problems in Scotland’s justice system will require “radical” spending measures, MSPs have said ahead of next month’s budget.

Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee urged the Scottish Government to “explore additional funding that would be more radical” than the £3billion this year.

MSPs said this was “one of the smaller areas of spend” compared to over £16.6bn for health and sport and almost £10bn for communities and local government.

Spending more would be more “likely to break the cycle of long court delays, overcrowded prisons and a high remand population”.

The committee also called for “sustained increases in capital budgets” to allow Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to modernise their buildings, vehicles and IT.

Citing the high prison population, drug misuse in jails, the large number of untried prisoners and the presence of serious and organised crime groups, they also called for a “sustained, above inflation injection of funds into the prison budget. 

The committee also said “targeted investments now” on projects such as recovery cafes and residential rehabilitation projects could help “deliver savings in the longer term”.

The MSPs said: “It is our view that the current budget challenges are a symptom of the wider problems in the justice sector that have not been significantly addressed over many years. Bcause these major challenges have not been tackled, we are now facing the need for even greater investment.”

The MSPs also highlighted the backlog of court cases built up during the Covid pandemic, warning tackling it would have “a massive effect that will be felt right across the system”.

Their report noted: “The courts will be much busier, with greater demands placed on our judges, prosecutors, defence agents, victim support organisations, expert and police witnesses, social work, etc. Inevitably, a substantial proportion of those on trial will be sent to prison, placing greater demands on an already stretched prison service.”

SNP Convener Audrey Nicoll said: “We believe that there is a case for further spending to support the justice system to meet the many challenges it is facing.

“However, we recognise that money is not unlimited and that some of the seemingly intractable issues faced by our courts, prisons and other justice partners will not be fixed simply by loosening the purse strings.

“We believe joined-up actions, achieving long-term goals such as reducing reoffending, could prove transformational. This would improve outcomes for society as well as the budget for the sector.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are grateful for the Criminal Justice Committee’s Pre-Budget Scrutiny Report, which will be carefully considered in relation to the ongoing budget discussions.”

SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is due to present the draft budget for 2022/23 on December 9.

Meanwhile, the independent Scottish Sentencing Council will today publish its 2021-24 business plan with a pledge to focus on “gender-based and sexual violence”, and develop guidelines on the sentencing of domestic abuse.