Humza Yousaf 'utterly furious' as UK sidelines Scottish Horizon victims

Humza Yousaf has slated a decision by the UK Governement not to extend legislation pardoning wrongly convicted sub-postmasters to Scotland <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Humza Yousaf has slated a decision by the UK Governement not to extend legislation pardoning wrongly convicted sub-postmasters to Scotland (Image: PA)

FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has said he is “utterly furious” after the UK Government opted not to extend legislation pardoning wrongfully convicted sub-postmasters to Scotland.

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill will exonerate those convicted on the basis of the faulty Horizon accounting software, in every UK nation but Scotland.

Northern Ireland was also initially excluded, but UK Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said it had become apparent the nation “does not have the ability to rapidly address the 26 convictions known to be within its purview”.

The Scottish Government is to bring forward its own legislation to exonerate sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted because of faulty software, but Holyrood ministers insist that it would be better if a UK Government bill could be expanded to also cover Scotland.

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Scotland’s Justice Secretary Angela Constance has said the move by the UK Government to extend the legislation to Northern Ireland and not Scotland is “outrageous” and Yousaf has now accused Westminster of treating Scottish victims like a "political pawn".

He told LBC: “I am utterly furious by the fact the UK Government have chosen to extend their legislation to every single part of the United Kingdom except Scotland.

“The unfair treatment of Scottish sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses is completely unacceptable.

“We got a letter from the UK Government saying their extending this bill to Northern Ireland but not to Scotland.

"That is outrageous and the fact of the matter is that it’s hard to think the UK Government are doing anything other than using our Scottish sub-postmasters and mistresses as a political pawn.”

The National: Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office Minister
The National: Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office Minister

Post Office minister Hollinrake (above) told Constance that without action from Westminster there was a “risk of significant delay to justice for postmasters in Northern Ireland”, adding this would result in a “lack of parity with others affected across the UK”.

He confirmed: “We have therefore concluded that the bill should be amended to quash convictions in Northern Ireland in light of these unique circumstances.”

However, he said Scotland was an “historically separate legal jurisdiction”, noting prosecutions had not been carried out by the Post Office, but by the Lord Advocate, the most senior prosecutor north of the Border.

As a result, Hollinrake said: “It remains the UK Government’s view that it is more appropriate for the Scottish Government to bring forward proposals to address prosecutions on this matter in Scotland, and for these to be scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament.”

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Constance said: “We fully support the extension of this bill to cover Northern Ireland, but it is outrageous that the UK Government has declined to also include Scotland.

“This ignoring of Scotland is typical of Westminster’s attitude.

“It means that sub-postmasters north of the Border will be the only victims in the UK not covered by the legislation at Westminster, which is precisely where the miscarriage of justice has its origins and was overseen by successive Tory and Labour governments.

“It is a betrayal of Scotland’s Horizon victims for UK ministers to behave in this manner.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: "Justice is a devolved matter in Scotland so it is right that Scottish ministers remain accountable for decisions taken in Scotland."

Justice is also devolved to Northern Ireland.