A BILL to automatically exonerate sub-postmasters en masse for convictions connected with the Post Office Horizon scandal has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said the bill would be treated as emergency legislation so it can be passed as quickly as possible.

She said: “The scale of the scandal and the length of time that the victims have waited for justice means we are taking an unprecedented step of introducing legislation to right this terrible wrong and asking Parliament for it to be processed as an emergency bill.”

Constance hit out at the UK Government for refusing to extend its legislation to cover Scottish sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted of defrauding the Post Office.

But Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain (below) had previously argued against mass exonerations in Scotland, telling Parliament that “not every case in which Horizon evidence is present will represent a miscarriage of justice”.

The National: Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC

The Scottish Government said that if the bill was passed, Scottish victims of miscarriages of justice would be able to apply to the UK compensation scheme.

READ MORE: UK Government accused of 'cynically politicising' Horizon scandal

Constance (below) said: “Innocent sub-postmasters had their lives ruined by being wrongly convicted of offences of dishonesty on the evidence of the faulty Post Office Horizon system.

“The quickest, easiest route to overturn these miscarriages of justice would have been for the UK Government to extend their Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill to cover sub-postmasters in Scotland.

The National: Angela Constance

“However, our repeated requests for this were refused. Our bill, therefore, mirrors that of UK legislation to ensure parity for affected sub-postmasters in Scotland with those elsewhere in the UK and to ensure access to the UK Government’s compensation scheme.”

She added: “The Scottish Government will not do anything to jeopardise equality and parity for victims, so the final stage of the bill cannot be considered in the Scottish Parliament until after the UK legislation has been passed.

READ MORE: Scots Post Office scandal victims face justice delay 'due to UK Government decision'

“This will ensure that MSPs can take account of any amendments made to the UK bill.”

The bill is expected to be debated for the first time at Stage 1 on Tuesday, May 21, then again the following day at Stage 2.

The Post Office Horizon scandal is thought to constitute one of the greatest miscarriage of justice in UK history, with hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of fraud and other offences because of faults in their accounting software.

It grabbed national attention over Christmas when the saga was dramatised by ITV in the programme Mr Bates vs The Post Office.