Category Archives: Forfar

Save Our Police Campaign Launch

Angus North and Mearns Liberal Democrats launched a local  campaign to Save Our Police this week-end across the constituency.

Reacting to plans by all three other major parties to centralise the police to a single force, Sanjay Samani, Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Angus North and Mearns, commented:

“In my view the fight against crime in Scotland is now under threat from plans by the SNP and the other parties to centralise our police. Under their plans local police forces would be disbanded and every police officer would be allocated according to national directions not local policing need.”

“I am particularly concerned that by creating a national police force, the chief constable will come under the political control of a government minister and will lose their links with local communities.

“In addition, the cost of centralisation, building a new HQ and new IT systems will costs a fortune and will cost police jobs. The SNP has refused to answer repeated questions about how much their plans will cost, fuelling fears that police officers will lose their jobs to pay for the changes. Some chief constables have estimated it could cost the jobs of 4,000 police officers.”

Angus and Mearns Liberal Democrats want to keep policing local, help the local police to work with the local community and to keep the number of officers high.

“In the course of the next few weeks we will be distributing thousands of leaflets about our campaign across the constituency,” Sanjay continued, “and I would urge residents to sign and return our petition by Freepost, so their voice can be heard.”

“You can also support the campaign on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SaveOurPolice.”

Commenting on the proposals to centralise police decision making, by Holyrood, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said:

“This is a slippery slope to one police force. For 150 years people in this democracy have worried about the government gaining political operational control over policing. The First Minister refuses to see that a National Police Board, appointed without debate in this Parliament – and with no basis in law – moves us down that dangerous road.”

“We need a police service that is responsive to local needs not subject to central diktat and centrally imposed targets.”

Sanjay Samani visiting Forfar police station with Cllr David May

Noranside Staff Deserve to Know Decision Making Process

I was very disappointed to read of the Scottish Prison Service’s decision not to release information relating to Noranside Open Prions under the Freedom of Information Act, on the pretext that, “it would not be in the public interest”.

It is extremely unfair on the staff at the prison for them to be treated in this way. Staff deserve some certainty and clarity from the SNP government about the future of their jobs. They also deserve to know how the decisions around the prison have been reached.

Not only do they have a right to know how the SNP government came to its decision to close the hugely successful prison, but also why they were assured last year that there were no closure plans, and why the decision has now been delayed until after the election.

The SPS must honour its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and release details of any documents relating to the decision to close Noranside.

Click here for Robert Brown’s response on The Courier website.

 

Sanjay At Noranside Prison

Lib Dems back Save Noranside Petition

Local Lib Dems have backed a petition to save Noranside Open Prison to be submitted to the Scottish Justice Secretary.

Cllr David May commented:

“The SNP Minister’s decision to close Noranside will hugely affect the staff and their families from across all of Angus.”

“Whilst they have been offered choices to transfer to other prisons, prison officers may simply not be able to afford the extra travel or disruption to their family life.  Some may even be forced to move home, out of Angus.”

“The decision may also limit their career prospects as more prison officers compete for fewer senior positions.  The impact of this poorly thought through decision will be long lasting.”

Angus and Mearns campaigner, Sanjay Samani, added his support for the petition, saying:

“It is welcome that Nigel Don MSP and John Swinney MSP, have backed Lib Dem Justice Spokesman, Robert Browne MSP in his criticism of Kenny MacAskill’s decision.”

“However, it is entirely within Mr Swinney’s power as Finance Secretary to provide the funding to save Noranside.  So the question has to be asked why he has not done so.”

“It is vital that Noranside Open Prison, and its staff continue their excellent work, rehabilitating criminals, giving them real prospects and minimising reoffending in the area.”

Cllr May also raised concerns about a bonus culture within the prison service, wasting funds that could be better used to keep Noranside open.

“Reports suggest that overcrowding payments, totalling millions, are encouraging prisons to hold on to prisoners that should be released to open prisons like Noranside.”

“There are questions that need to be asked about bonus payments to top officers.”

“In addition, there are plans to pay huge sums to repair Castle Huntly’s roof.  How can that make economic sense, whilst closing Noranside.”

 

SNP in a mess over Noranside Prison

The Scottish Government are in a mess over the closure of Noranside Prison.  SNP Finance Minister, John Swinney MSP has promised to fight the closure, criticising the decision of his own cabinet colleague, Kenny Macaskill MSP.

The SNP need to get their story straight on Noranside.  On the one hand you have the Justice Minister deciding to close the prison and on the other, you have the Finance Minister and colleagues saying it should stay open.

The decision to close the prison makes no sense given the good work done by the prison and the impact on local jobs and the local economy.  The SNP should be supporting local people and businesses in Angus.

Noranside is currently underutilised purely as a result of Kenny Macaskill’s own decisions.  Long term criminals are being released directly from closed prisons without any transition or preparation for a completely changed environment.  Noranside provides an essential service for cutting re-offending rates.

Yet again, we have a simplistic solution from the Scottish Government, who cannot see the wider picture.  And in fact, it seems as if the SNP’s left hand can’t see what the right is doing.

Angus Cllr David May also called for Noranside to remain open, commenting:

“It is clear that the SNP are now totally split over what to do with Noranside. Kenny McCaskill needs to do a U Turn, as Noranside is a vital part of the justice system.  The Angus open prison has an excellent reputation for the rehabilitation of its prisoners.  I have heard that they get their parole and do not return, which is surely what we want from all of our prisons.”

“Furthermore, at a time when a recently released  Scottish government report shows that the prison population is growing, it is astonishing that the SNP Justice minister has announced plans to close what has been described by many as the hugely successful Noranside open prison.”

“In addition it is an open secret that there is still overcrowding in other prisons, as I have heard that one prison governor asked for ideas on how to spend the money he gains from overcrowding.  If this is true and the prison population is rising it really is absurd that Mr Macaskill plans to close Noranside.”

“I am also concerned about reportsof a bonus system in operation in our prison system which only applies to the best paid staff.  If this is the case the SNP Justice and Finance ministers need to explain why they support this especially at a time of cuts and what is the basis for the bonuses.  Surely it is not based on overcrowding?”

What a Christmas Present for Noranside staff

SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to close Noranside Prison is badly thought out and must be reconsidered.

Rumours of the planned closure of Noranside had been rejected as “groundless” by the SNP Government in late November. Now we hear the opposite is true.  This is the worst possible Christmas present from the SNP Government for the 55 employees at Noranside and their families.

It will also be a blow to the many shops and businesses in Forfar and Angus who supply the prison.  To hear this in the week leading up to Christmas could hardly be worse.

Noranside has been underused recently, purely because of Mr MacAskill’s own decisions. We are now hearing that many long term prisoners are already being released directly to the community, rather than via open prisons such as Noranside.  There has to be a real worry about public safety following this ill judged decision.

Angus Cllr David May also commented:

“It is all very well for the SNP minister to say there will be no compulsory redundancies but it is a fact that either the staff will have to move and leave Angus or they will lose their jobs. So much for the assurance that they will be redeployed as the minister is really giving those at Noranside the worst possible Christmas present”

Local Cllr Alison Andrews is on the visiting committee of the prison, and was told recently that there was no chance it was in line for closure.

“The work that goes on at Noranside is absolutely brilliant. Some of these prisoners have been locked up for 20 years or more and it’s vital that we give them some preparation and training before they go back to life outside.”

“If that layer is removed from of the justice system, prisoners will be released directly from closed institutions after years and years, straight out into a completely different world for them.  Their chances of coping with these huge changes are much better if they have had the excellent support, training and preparation from Noranside.”

“I know for a fact that reoffending rates are not as high among those who have had the opportunity to be in an open prison.”

Mrs Andrews is also worried about the future of civilian employees and the way this  directly affect them.

Scottish Government needs to reform procurement process

I noted an article in the Forfar Dispatch about Angus Council contract for new housing stock last month. I agree with “An Angus Employer” who complained in a letter [4 November] that the contract was not awarded to a local Angus business. 

Unfortunately Councils in Scotland are tied to the procurement policies of the SNP government. They have centralised the process and made it extremely difficult for smaller local businesses to be approved to even bid for contracts. The approval process and level of paperwork is beyond local builders and service providers. I have discussed this very issue with builders in Angus before and after this year’s General Election.  

That is why I was delighted to be able to support a new procurement policy for the Scottish Lib Dems at their recent Autumn Conference. This calls for a replacement for the SNP’s procurement body, Scotland Excel, in favour of a unified body that will make local and central government contracts accessible for smaller local businesses. 

I know that local Councillors are as frustrated about the issue as local businesses and have strived to help them meet the arduous requirements imposed on them by the SNP’s simplistic one-size-fits-all procurement policy. 

After next year’s Scottish election, the situation will hopefully change.  Let us hope it is not too late for local firms struggling to stay afloat during the recession.

You can read more about the situation by clicking here for an article in The Courier.