2 Jul 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 02 July 2012

Female Offenders

I firmly believe that those who commit serious crimes deserve to face the prospect of imprisonment. At the same time some people are sent to prison when clearly there is mental health or addiction problem which could be treated without imprisonment.

It’s a depressing reality that in many of these cases, offenders simply revert to their old ways when released, and the costly cycle of imprisonment starts again. Scotland has a poor record when it comes to female offenders. Only 2 per cent of women offenders were involved in serious crime last year, with the vast majority of them not posing a serious risk of harm to the public. And yet the number of women offenders in prison has doubled in the last decade, even though crime is falling. Many female offenders are in and out of prison on a regular basis, often in short sentences, with nothing done to tackle the underlying problem.

I welcome the recent report produced by a commission chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini, the former Lord Advocate. I hope the proposals will lead to effective protection of our communities while recognising that there are better ways to tackle female offending.

Children 1st

Last week Children 1st launched a summer campaign to highlight the problem which alcohol fuelled violence has on the lives of many children. Childhood should be happy and carefree yet sadly, for too many Scottish children, alcohol consumption in the family, ruins that childhood. The charity Children 1st has revealed that more than half of people surveyed have witnessed a person drunk in charge of a child. The campaign “Wish I Wasn’t Here” is spelling out that we all have a responsibility to protect children from violence fuelled by alcohol misuse. Politicians also have a responsibility to act. Scottish Labour is calling for action where a parent is charged with an alcohol related offence, but unfortunately Alex Salmond and the SNP are fixated with raising the price of alcohol and giving the extra profits to the super markets. 

Johnstone Castle Learning Centre

Last week I was given the good news that the Johnstone Castle Learning Centre would remain open. The Centre is a wonderful facility for young and old in Johnstone Castle. A dedicated team of volunteers and staff have helped to make sure the Centre makes a real difference to the local community.

The Centre was under real threat as current funding had run out. Thanks to the intervention of the team of local Councillors, spearheaded by John Hood, funding has been obtained to keep the Centre open and providing a service for young people. The fight goes on to find the money for other services and I hope they are able to do it.

Scottish School Standards

We all like to think that Scotland is a socially progressive country where everyone has the same rights. We also like to think that Scottish education is up there with the best in the world. And yet a recent report of the “Commission on School Reform” has confirmed that pupils from the least privileged areas are half as likely to perform well as those from better off backgrounds. Since the SNP came to power, investment in education has been cut, teacher numbers reduced, classroom assistants are removed from classrooms, teacher morale undermined and opportunities for young people reduced.

We cannot afford to be complacent about Scottish education. The Scottish Government has a responsibility to every pupil in Scotland not just those from better off backgrounds.

Consultation on Carrier bags

There is no doubt that carelessly discarded plastic bags can cause real problems. Apart from the environmental damage, the bags can cause real problems to wildlife. Bags dumped in landfill sites have a long lasting impact. Most of us know we should re use bags but we don’t. Recycling is better than dumping, although this too has a cost. The Scottish Government last week announced a three month consultation on a range of proposals which includes phasing out of free carrier bags. The proposals include a requirement for all retailers to charge a minimum of 5p. This would cover all thin gauge/ disposable carrier bags. The proceeds would be donated to charity; and it’s hoped that up to £5 million could be raised. If you want to have your voice heard, look at the Scottish Government website, or contact your MSP.