Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

TOM PETERKIN: Scottish Government’s jury trials U-turn was inevitable given the need for coronavirus consensus

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell confirmed the volte-face
Constitution Secretary Michael Russell confirmed the volte-face

As far as U-turns go, it must have been one of the quickest ones in Scottish political history.

A matter of hours after lawyers and opposition politicians expressed outrage at plans to temporarily abandon jury trials, ministers had caved in.

Emergency powers to hold trials without jury were abandoned and discussions on how to keep the wheels of justice turning during the coronavirus crisis were put off until another day.

Under normal circumstances, there would be no way that Scottish ministers would have been quick to bow to pressure. In days gone by ministers have stubbornly persisted with unpopular legislation no matter the volume of the outcry. The controversial named person legislation, for example, did not come unstuck until it was challenged in court.

But these are not normal circumstances, and this was another example of the consensual attitude that Scotland’s politicians are taking care to adopt. Even the post U-turn crowing from the opposition was uncharacteristically dignified.

From the moment Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf tweeted that he was “listening” and seeking compromise a government climb-down was on the cards. Within a few minutes of Holyrood reconvening, Constitution Secretary Michael Russell had confirmed it.

But notwithstanding the constructive tone, there little option for the Scottish Government given the vigorous opposition from the legal profession.

Dracionian….premature, disproportionate and ill-advised,” was how the Scottish Criminal Bar Association (SCBA) described plans to give judges and sheriffs the power to deliver verdicts.

With the Conservatives and Lib Dems also objecting vociferously, it would have been unwise for Nicola Sturgeon to go into the trenches on this one. The last thing needed right now is an avoidable political bunfight to distract from the vital business of tackling the pandemic.

Highly controversial gender legislation to be abandoned

Meanwhile, it was understandable that the Scottish Government felt the need to ditch large parts of its legislative programme given the need to concentrate political and civil service minds on the coronavirus crisis.

The most eye-catching proposal to fall by the wayside was the Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill, a highly controversial proposal to make it easier for individuals to change gender.

This piece of legislation has exposed deep divisions within the SNP and many predicted it would dominate Scottish politics in the run-up to the 2021 Scottish election. Several senior SNP figures have expressed deep concern that legislation could result in women and girls becoming victims of predatory men or see them lose access to single-sex services.

This issue had the potential to rip the SNP apart. Announcing the abandonment of the plans for now, Parliament Minister Graeme Day, MSP for Angus South, said it was “regrettable” the legislation had been ditched.

But even those working remotely from a laptop many miles from Holyrood, could hear very deep sighs of relief coming from the SNP benches.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

More from the Press and Journal