A PILOT scheme launched this month by the government to improve access to justice has been welcomed in the Wee County.

Victims in rape and serious sexual assault cases in Scotland will be the first in the UK to have access to transcripts from court cases free of charge as part of the initiative.

The year-long Scottish Government pilot commenced at the start of March and will see complainers whose cases were heard in the High Court be eligible to apply for transcripts of what was said in court, thanks to £100,000 of funding.

Clackmannanshire and Dunblane representative MSP Keith Brown has welcomed the scheme and paid tribute to those who campaigned for transparency, fairness and accountability.

He said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that the justice system is not an easy place for victims of rape and sexual assault and I am really hopeful that this pilot scheme will result in significant improvements in transparency and fairness which will be a real benefit to those affected.

“With this pilot, Scotland is blazing a trail in the UK in working towards a justice system that is trauma-informed and supports victims.

“For many, the experience of being in court can be a bit of a blur and being able to look over exactly what was said in court, in their own time, can help their recovery.”

Cases that began on or after December 31 in 2006, when digital recording was introduced at the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), are eligible.

Complainers in rape or sexual assault cases can apply to get transcripts free of charge if the case was heard in the High Court.

This applies in cases where verdicts of guilty, not guilty and not proven are returned.

MSP Brown added: “Until now, the cost of paying for transcripts has been a real block and this scheme, alongside the proposed Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, is a great step in improving victims’ experience and increase confidence in the justice system.

“I pay tribute to those in my constituency and beyond who have campaigned for greater fairness and accountability in the process of achieving justice and I am pleased to see this SNP Government removing barriers to justice for victims of sexual assault.”

Guidance and application forms will be made available on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.

The pilot scheme will run to March 1 in 2025.

Normally, the cost of transcribing is £91.23 per hour or £1.52 per minute, plus VAT.