SCOTTISH victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal have been warned by Justice Secretary Angela Constance that “some delay may be inevitable” due to a decision made by the UK Government.

The justice delay could occur if Holyrood is forced to introduce its own legislation to exonerate around 100 Post Office subpostmasters convicted in Scotland.

Constance (below) said it was “unclear” why UK Government ministers had ruled that fast-tracked legislation being introduced at Westminster to clear the names of those who were wrongly convicted and pay them compensation would only apply in England and Wales.

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She insisted that having a single Bill, which would apply across all of the UK, would be the “best way to ensure that there is a quick, fair and equal solution for all affected subpostmasters”.

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake confirmed last month the UK Government’s legislation would not cover Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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More than 700 Post Office managers across the UK were convicted after the faulty Horizon accounting software made it appear as if money was missing from branches – with about 100 Post Office subpostmasters in Scotland among those convicted after being wrongly accused of embezzling money.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee, Constance said the Scottish Government is “currently working to develop equivalent legislation to be introduced in the Scottish Parliament to reverse the convictions of subpostmasters convicted in the Scottish courts”

She added that this would “ensure that they are not disadvantaged if the UK Government does not change its position on this matter”.

To help with this, she said she had asked the UK Government for a copy of its proposed Bill, so that “equivalent legislation” could be “introduced in the Scottish Parliament as quickly as possible”.

Constance stressed this was important in “minimising any delay in Scottish subpostmasters having their convictions reversed”.

She told committee convener Audrey Nicol: “It is worth noting, however, that some delay may be inevitable as any legislation would have to be passed after the UK Bill has been passed, to ensure full compatibility with UK legislation and access to the UK compensation scheme for wrongly convicted subpostmasters, in which the Scottish Government and Parliament have no locus.

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“This is a clear reason why UK-wide legislation would be best and this may be a particular issue if the UK Bill is not passed until after the Scottish Parliament has gone into summer recess.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf (below) has already said that while the Scottish Government will bring forward its own legislation “if that is required”, the “easiest and quickest route” would be for the UK Government legislation also to apply north of the border.

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Hollinrake said in February that as prosecutions in both Scotland and Northern Ireland were carried out by the “relevant authorities” in these areas, it was for the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly – which have responsibility for holding these bodies to account – to introduce their own legislation.

He stressed, however, that the UK Government would work with politicians in Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure their schemes are “compatible with the UK compensation scheme, so that compensation can be paid to victims across the whole of the UK”.