Introduction and background
The contributions to this brief collection emerge from a Seminar held in April 2015 at the OU in Scotland. With financial support from the Open University in Scotland, the Seminar was convened by the International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research (now the Harm and Evidence Research Collective) at The Open University and by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and followed the publication by CCJS in March 2015 of its report on The Coalition Years: Criminal Justice in the United Kingdom: 2010 to 2015, available from CrimeAndJustice.org.
Focusing specifically on the Scottish context, the main speakers at the Seminar focused on different aspects of the Scottish criminal justice context and offered some comparisons of developments in Scotland against those in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. Taking place only a matter of weeks before the May 7 2015 General Election, the discussion reflected on the key trends in criminal justice policy making by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition UK Government and the extent to which Scotland was following a different trajectory, given that the Scottish Government is SNP-led. Ongoing debates around processes of divergence and or of convergence in criminal justice policy making between Scotland and other countries in the UK also echo long standing arguments about the welfarist or punitivist approach of such policies. These debates are now taking place in the context of the deepening crisis of the UK state which, despite the outcome of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, is increasingly threatened by the dominant political trajectories of Scotland, as evidence in May 2015 with the emergence of the SNP as the third largest party in Westminster.