A scheme that pays out cash from criminals to help victims has opened for bids later than planned.
The Scottish Government confirmed that the Victim Surcharge Fund is open to applications from organisations that give direct support to victims of crime and their families.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in September that the launch of the fund had been delayed by Covid-19 – but that ministers still aimed to have it running by the end of 2020.
Since November 2019 the courts have been able to require criminals who are told to pay a fine to pay an amount towards supporting victims, which is then paid into the fund – which currently has just over £87,000 in it.
This money can now be used by organisations to provide direct financial assistance to those who have suffered as a result of crime – for example, by paying funeral expenses to help the family of a murder victim, or by covering the cost of new locks and windows for those who have had their home broken into.
It is hoped the first payments will be made in March.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said after the first batch of payments the fund would be reopened for applications on a regular basis, after sufficient cash had been built up.
He said: “It is absolutely right that criminals should pay towards helping victims as they recover from their experience. The money raised through the surcharge will make a real difference to victims and families.
“While overall levels of offending and the number of victims have fallen significantly over the last decade, it can often be frightening and isolating for those who do experience crime.
“This fund will be an important addition to the support we are already making available to those victims.”