Kezia Dugdale: Suffering of crime victims needs a voice

Humza Yousaf is not convinced about the need for a Victims' Commisioner. Picture: Getty
Humza Yousaf is not convinced about the need for a Victims' Commisioner. Picture: Getty
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LAST month, I asked Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, pictured, to establish a Victims’ Commissioner in Scotland.

There is already a commissioner for England and Wales, and London even has its own, but Scotland is behind the curve.

This is something I’ve been campaigning for after meeting with Kevin Woodburn, the father of Shaun Woodburn who was killed in Edinburgh in a violent attack on New Year’s Day in 2017.

He didn’t know his rights and he feels let down at every turn by a justice system he believes is stacked in favour of the accused.

Mr Yousaf told me he was yet to be convinced that we need a Victims’ Commissioner. At the SNP conference in Glasgow this weekend, he unveiled plans to set up a task force to help improve the criminal justice system from a victims’ point of view.

That’s a very welcome step. I particularly welcome his statement that the “impact of crime can be long-lasting and traumatic”.

But what the Justice Secretary outlined still doesn’t go far enough.

Rather than a task force that will report to ministers in St Andrew’s House, we need a commissioner who will directly engage with and listen to the views of victims and witnesses, and try to help improve the services and support available.

Any improvements to our justice system will come from listening to the families of those affected, not just government-appointed experts.

Mr Yousaf has agreed to meet with Kevin and myself to hear first-hand why we believe a Victims’ Commissioner is long overdue. I hope he will reconsider his views when we meet in the coming weeks.

There’s a whole lot more council can do to keep Capital on the right road

WHEN you hail a taxi in Edinburgh, there is a decent chance the cabbie will bring up the issue of roadworks in the city.

They are, invariably, worse than ever, so the story goes. And it’s not just cabbies who get frustrated – bus journeys take longer, motorists get caught in snarl-ups, cyclists must take detours.

Of course, roadworks have to take place. It is vital that our transport infrastructure is kept in good condition. But it is right to ask questions of council officials if so many roadworks are ongoing simultaneously in one particular area.

I have written to the council after residents in and around the Willowbrae Road area got in touch with me, concerned about the level of disruption.

The roadworks are causing huge delays for commuters and residents, so I want to know when they will end and why so many operations are happening at once.We need to strike the right balance so that our roads are properly upgraded, but in a carefully choreographed way that avoids unnecessary disruption.

Of course, with the council facing huge budget cuts next year, the number of roads getting fixed may reduce. Transport is one department in the firing line, as the administration grapples with yet more cuts imposed by the SNP Government on local authorities.

As frustrating as roadworks can be, they’re not as frustrating as navigating potholed roads that have been neglected because of spending constraints.

Let’s make sure we find the best way to keep our city moving.