Category Archives: Justice

Labour Hypocrisy on Lobbying

In the wake of the Adam Werritty scandal surrounding Liam Fox MP, the Labour party are apparently demanding a lobbying register.  It might surprise you to know that such a bill was introduced to the House of Commons by the Lib Dems in 2006 and it was voted down by 284 Labour MP’s.

You will be pleased to know that just such a register is in the Coalition agreements from 2010, as demanded by the Lib Dems.

Gareth Thomas MP, Shadow Cabinent Office minister said:

“David Cameron has still not introduced the compulsory register of lobbyists he promised.

“In the wake of the Adam Werritty and Atlantic Bridge activities it is now essential we have greater transparency.

“The government should bring forward as a matter of urgency plans for a compulsory register of lobbyists with records being kept of meetings between lobbyists and ministers.”

Read the full article on the BBC by clicking here.

Every Lib Dem member, supporter and MP agrees.  Which is why we have been calling for regulation of lobbying for years.  In fact we introduced a bill to the House of Commons calling for a reporting of corporate expenditure on lobbying and putting a cap on their lobbying expenditure.

Remember, this is all before the Stephen Byers “Cab For Hire” incident.

Any guesses for Labour MP’s who voted against the motion?  You guessed it Ed Milliband, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, and one Gareth Thomas.

Also of note, the Conservatives did not bother to vote.  And 5 of the 6 SNP MPs also voted against the Lib Dem bill, including Angus MP, Mike Weir.

You can see full details of the Bill and all those MPs who voted against it by clicking here.

Image courtesy of BBC

Image from BBC.

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

Lib Dem Achievements in Government

Over the last few weeks, I have been disappointed to hear fellow Liberal Democrats repeat the accusations of our opposition, and in particular certain portions of the national media who have been desperately trying to portray Lib Dems in a negative light.  There is a continuing misconception that the Liberal Democrats sacrificed too much to the Conservatives during coalition negotiations. Here’s the real story of what we have achieved in Government.

This document is already 3 months old, so the list has grown since then, but it is a good starting point.

Lib Dem Achievements in Government

 

After the first TV debate during the General Election campaign, our opponents recognised that Nick Clegg was our strongest asset.  Since the morning of the second debate, there has been a sustained attack on him personally and on the reputation of the party as a whole.  Even Ed Milliband has resorted to personal attacks on Nick Clegg.  It is disgraceful, gutter politics.  Unfortunately, if you throw enough mud, it will eventually stick.

Nick Clegg is the antithesis of Teflon Tony Blair.  His record, as demonstrated above, is one to be proud of.  I for one, do not think I could cope with excrement posted through my door, my effigy being burnt, being called a traitor and receiving death threats and still come out fighting the way that Nick Clegg did at the Sheffield Lib Dem Conference.

I cannot agree with those in the party that take the attitude that they are in politics to fight Conservatism as a result of Thatcher’s legacy.  Saying that we would only go into a coalition with a discredited, illiberal, economically incompetent Labour Party would doom our party into subservience.

I came into politics and joined the Lib dems to make a difference on issue that I cared about, whether it was the environment, children’s welfare or civil liberties.  I believe in the values of the party, that local people know best about their area, that solutions should last and that everyone deserves a fair chance.

Those values, issues and policies are now being successfully implemented in Government, and it is a record that we should all be proud of.

 

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.