It's with some relief that one can take a break from writing something about Scotland that doesn't involve either condoms or football referees, and get back to one's usual pastime of knocking the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government'.
The Tartanissimo has decreed that sheriffs will no longer have the power to grant Legal Aid in solemn criminal cases, this power now reverting exclusively to the Scottish Legal Aid Board. My own recollections of dealing with that body mainly involve feeling a very strong sense of frustration, my imagination conjuring up an image of banks of semi-literate 16-year old clerkessess, upon whom the enormous power of determining whether those with rights would be able to exercise them had been bestowed indiscriminately and without accountability.
I am sure that the SLAB under which the hopes of justice held by a generation of Scots has been buried is managed as efficiently as it can be. It owes its existence, and the consequent pay and perks of those who work within it, to the ideologically driven, power mad philosophies of the Thatcher government - SLAB could almost be an avatar of that government's centralising tendency, a tendency criticised so thoroughly by writers as diverse as Norman Davies and Simon Jenkins. There was nothing wrong with the pre-SLAB Legal Aid system; but it was administered by solicitors, those who used it, and as such it had to go.
And the last remnant of that system has now gone, and, from what I can see, for no reason other than spite and the desire to ingather power. Unlike what might sometimes have been the case in some local Legal Aid boards, the sheriffs have never had a financial stake in the success or failure of the Legal Aid system. Their wages get paid regardless of whether the accused has Legal Aid or not. However, in solemn cases they were able to determine whether a grant of Legal Aid was in the interests of justice. According to the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government', they aren't to be trusted with that decision any more.
The SNP do seem like such shits sometimes.