A CONSULTATION on abolishing Scotland’s “not proven” verdict is due to start this year.

The change was one of several reforms to the justice system set out by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her Programme for Government to Holyrood yesterday.

Those who wish to abolish the controversial third verdict, which is not used in jurisdictions outside Scotland, say removing it will help to address low conviction rates in rape and sexual assault cases.

Another consultation is due to take place on whether the dual role of the Scottish Government law officers should be separated.

The Lord Advocate is currently both the head of the Crown Office and the chief legal advisor to the Scottish Government.

READ MORE: 'Very strong case' for abolishing Not Proven verdict, Justice Secretary says

Following the dispute over the handling of harassment complaints about Alex Salmond, other parties including the former First Minister’s Alba had called for these two roles to be separated.

Sturgeon committed to examining the issue when the current Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC, was appointed in April.

The First Minister also said the Gender Recognition Reform Bill would be introduced to Holyrood during the first year of the current Parliament.

Last week, the Government confirmed it was moving ahead with the legislation, which aims to reform the legal process which allows people to change their gender following the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens.

Sturgeon said: “I understand that some have sincerely held concerns about this legislation. It is therefore worth stressing what it will do – but also what it will not do.

“It will make the existing process of gender recognition less degrading, intrusive and traumatic.

“In other words, it will make life easier for one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society. I think that is something any Parliament should feel a responsibility to do.

“What it will not do is remove any of the legal protections that women currently have.”

She added: “We should never forget that the biggest threats to women’s safety come – as has always been the case – from abusive and predatory men; from deep seated sexism and misogyny; and, in some parts of the world, from lawmakers intent on taking away basic freedoms and removing the rights of women to control our own bodies.”

During her statement she also pledged to invest £100 million over the course of the parliament to tackle domestic abuse and violence against women, and support the frontline organisations who help them.

​READ MORE: How Not Proven verdict played its part in controversial trial

She added that the government would also take account of the recommendations of the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice, which is due to report next year.

“We will also take forward our ground-breaking Women’s Health Plan. And move to incorporate key human rights conventions into domestic law,” she stated.

As well as plans to strengthen existing homelessness prevention legislation, the statement included proposals to invest £50m in a new Ending Homelessness Together Fund over the course of the parliament, with £12m in 2021-22.

Crisis, the homelessness charity, said the new measures aimed at preventing people from losing their homes could make Scotland a world-leader in tackling the issue. Plans to consult on new homelessness prevention duties follow publication of the Scotland Prevention Review Group report earlier this year.