Monday, December 12, 2011
Is it not time to sack Justice Sec Kenny MacAskill as anger grows over plans to abolish independent jail monitors, what happened to democracy?
This is a story which is ironic and also not funny.
It also shows yet again that ‘justice’ under the leadership of Kenny MacAskill is the worst run portfolio in the SNP Government.
Scotland’s prison visiting committees have learned that there are plans to replace them with an advocacy service run by a government department.
This has been likened to Scotland being compared to a “South American dictatorship” but without the bananas.
There has been an SNP “consultation” in which there were 60 responses submitted to the Scottish Government.
59 in favour of keeping the present arrangement and 1 against, not surprising the negative response was from the Scottish Prison Service.
They are not keen on independent monitors and so it seems neither is the SNP Government.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has since written to members to explain they will be disbanded early next year.
Is it not time to sack Kenny MacAskill or demoted him to deputy justice sec, a post without any responsibility.
Justice under the SNP has failed to shine since MacAskill was appointed by Alex Salmond in 2007.
Ian Hamilton of Stone of Destiny fame has no respect for Kenny MacAskill and has openly blogged on his concerns how justice under MacAskill’s helm is going wrong.
The facts are that a Scottish Government review has suggested the committees played an important role in monitoring and providing independent analysis of prison and prisoner conditions.
SNP Ministers have decided to replace the committees with advocacy panels for reasons of “effectiveness”.
Which begs the question, if independence is wrong for reasons of “effectiveness”, does that also extend to independence being wrong because the SNP have already condemned separation as being ineffective?
And the independent monitor has had a major endorsement, when a official Russian delegation visited to find out more about them.
It seems that the Russians can recognise a good idea when it is staring them point blank in the face.
Tom Swinney, vice chairman of the Barlinnie Visiting Committee said:
“How can Scotland, unlike every other part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, not have prison visiting committees and instead have no truly independent unfettered citizens checking what goes on in our prisons? This happens in totalitarian states such as Syria and was common in South American dictatorships”.
And in South American dictatorships, their leaders eventually get replaced when they become so out of touch.
“I wonder how the present law can be changed without complaints from Amnesty, the UN or indeed the European Court of Human Rights. The provision of an advocacy service is welcome but it cannot hold the prison service to account or be independent while a contracted provider of services to SPS.”
This statement is 100%, Scotland is a corrupt country and with the removal of independent monitors, it seems that Scotland is going backwards not as the SNP tend to suggest forward.
A 2005 review concluded:
“Visiting committees continue to provide a unique community-based means of ensuring that the people detained on our behalves in prison are decently treated, regardless of what they have done. Visiting committees should be the community’s eyes and ears in the prison system... The group agreed that VCs should be retained but that there was a need to re-examine the ways in which they were currently functioning.”
With the SNP trying to promote more community engagement in health, this flies in the face of the SNP policy of community engagement.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said:
“In line with our ambition to build a prison service fit for the 21st century we will be replacing the Prison Visiting Committees with a dedicated independent prisoner advocacy service. We are very grateful to the members of the committees for their hard work and dedication over the years”.
A whole paragraph to say ‘fuck you’ seems overly excessive to me.
In an ominous sign the spokeswoman said:
“This new service will place great emphasis on supporting prisoners to address their offending behaviour and to contribute to reducing reoffending”.
It seems already that complaints are to be given lip service.
A rather sad day for Scotland when people are being frozen out of justice, it isn’t enough that justice is done, it has to be seen to be done.
It is time to sack Kenny MacAskill as Justice Minster, we can’t move forward to an independence vote when such doubts exist under his watch.
Alex Salmond said in his winning speech:
“The nation can be better, it wants to be better, and I will do all I can as First Minister to make it better. We have given ourselves the permission to be bold and we will govern fairly and wisely, with an eye to the future but a heart to forgive”.
It seems that Alex Salmond can deliver a carefully crafted speech to a highly polished standard what a great pity we can’t have 'fair and wise' in the prison service by retaining independent monitors.
We need substance over style and spin Alex.
Spin will only carry you so far, then comes the day people ask you direct questions to your face.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University