Justice and Safety
Weekly round-up – April 21
The announcement of new curbs against drug-driving, funding to tackle sectarianism and taking delivery of new fire & rescue vehicles were among the items on Ministers’ agenda this week.
Mental health training
This week Justice Secretary Michael Matheson saw mental health training for police officers in action in Glenrothes. The event formed part of the on-going consultation for Policing 2026, which makes clear the changing nature of policing and how assisting those in distress forms a significant part of the work of Police Scotland. Mr Matheson met trainer Sergeant Laura Gibson and a number of officers involved in the course and heard that Police Scotland are at the forefront of this kind of training and that around 17,500 officers will have been trained by next month.
New fire appliances
Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing was with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service as they took delivery of five brand new fire appliances. The new vehicles – to be deployed across the country – arrived at Holyrood Park after making their way through Edinburgh. A total of four Aerial Ladder Platforms (ALPs)
and a Turntable Ladder appliance (TTL) were unveiled on Wednesday with a spectacular convoy that set-off from Edinburgh’s George IV Bridge under a police escort.
Ms Ewing said: “Scotland benefits from a fire & rescue service with highly-skilled and professional staff, and it is right that they have access to the latest technologies and equipment to safeguard our communities from a range of incidents and potential threats.
Access to justice for in-care abuse survivors
Ms Ewing also welcomed the Justice Committee’s endorsement, on Thursday, of the general principles of a Bill to remove the three-year ‘time-bar’ preventing childhood abuse survivors from seeking civil damages in court.
Commenting on the MSPs’ Stage One report into the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill, Ms Ewing said:
“The Scottish Government has been taking forward a range of measures to help right the wrongs committed against those who as children were failed so badly by the very individuals and institutions who should have cared for them most, including bringing this legislation to Parliament.
“I am grateful to the Committee for their detailed scrutiny of the Bill and welcome their support for its general principles. Their report raises a number of important issues which the Government will reflect on and I look forward to a constructive debate next week to examine these in further detail.”
The Bill is one of a range of steps that the Scottish Government has taken to support survivors abused in care, in line with the recommendations set out in the Scottish Human Rights Commission Interaction Plan on Historical Abuse in Care. Other measures include an independent public inquiry, an in-care survivor support fund and consultation and engagement on the question of financial redress.
£500,000 to for projects aimed at tackling sectarianism were unveiled by Ms Ewing on Thursday. Beneficiaries include Nil By Mouth, Youthlink, Sense Over Sectarianism and Youth Scotland and to coincide with the announcement, Ms Ewing met 14-year-old Jamie Boothman whose poem won an Action on Sectarianism award this year.
Jamie said: “I entered the competition because I feel that sectarianism does not get enough attention and should be opposed so that Scotland can have a brighter future rather than promoting prejudice between groups. It felt great winning as it feels as if my work has made a difference no matter how small.” Watch Jamie reading his award-winning piece below.
And on Friday, Michael Matheson announced that drug-driving limits and roadside testing will be introduced in Scotland. The move builds on Scotland’s tough drink-driving limits and existing laws against drug-driving with new curbs against motorists who endanger other road-users by taking the wheel under the influence of drugs.
The changes includes ensuring that there will be no requirement to prove that someone was driving in an impaired manner, meaning that it should be easier to hold drug-drivers to account. Mr Matheson said: “While it is a long-standing offence to drive while impaired by drugs, by introducing new drug driving limits and roadside testing for the presence of drugs, we will strengthen the ability of our police and prosecutors to tackle the minority of drivers who recklessly put other road-users and themselves at risk.
“Subject to Parliament’s agreement and once the new regime is in force, Scotland will be at forefront of efforts across the UK to tackle drivers who either drink or take drugs – with both the lowest drink-drive limit operating in these islands and drug-driving limits in place.”