Friday, June 7, 2013

Scottish independence: SNP Government saying no to inmate votes at independence referendum shows that they are out of touch with modern thinking, everyone should have a stake in society, it sends the wrong message of ‘them and us’

Dear All

Votes for prisoners isn’t terribly trendy for politicians to do, the general feeling is that if they do allow this, there would be public outrage, fuelled in part by opposition parties, quick to accuse them of being ‘weak on crime’.

Progress impeded by fear, apathy and the fact that politicians couldn’t care less.

The Scottish independence campaign is dead, it isn’t official yet; the SNP has effectively destroyed any real chance of independence succeeding.

It is a shambles.

Now, the Scottish Government is according to a former Chief Inspector of Prisons guilty of “weakness” and trying to “wriggle” out of European law over its refusal to allow prisoners a vote in the independence referendum.

Apparently Alex Salmond doesn’t want the referendum tainted.

The Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan said the measure has “no punishment value.”

Is he correct?

Well, most prisoners don’t vote in any case, they stand apart from society; their lives are filled with disappointment and rejection.

Everything they try ends more or less in failure, hence high returns to prison, no prospects and no hope of a better tomorrow.

By denying prisoners a vote it doesn’t teach them inmates to behave like “good citizens”; if we want people to be good, we must allow them opportunities to do good.

We already know that environment can play a part on a person’s behavior, peer pressure to some extent counts. People can change, if they get the help and support they need, there will be falls, but we expect that during any transition.

Start up problems.

SNP ministers have insisted that the referendum is exempt from a 2004 European Court judgment which ended the blanket ban on inmates voting in normal elections.

Whether you agree with their view and I don’t, it shows that the SNP are less than principled when it comes to human rights.

Human rights are just for nice people it seems, and people they like, oh, and the rich.

So, who is against, well the SNP, Labour and of course the Tories!

Pro voting rights are the Lib Dems and the Greens.

The Lib Dems and Greens attempt to change the franchise bill for the referendum at Holyrood will end in failure, nothing can change that, it’s a numbers game.

Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said:

“It seems disproportionate to deny someone serving a short sentence a say in the future of their country. It seems nonsensical and arbitrary that someone sentenced in the summer will be shut out of this decision whilst someone caught in the spring will be allowed to vote.”

If two people commit the same offence, one could end up in prison and the other get a community sentence, is therefore right that one gets the vote and the other doesn’t?

A range of figures from the worlds of law, justice, academia and the arts made a bid to persuade MSPs to back prisoner votes for the referendum in an open letter earlier this year but the ‘listening’ SNP Government is already deaf.

They are quite willing to listen if you agree with them; that is what they call engagement.

Leading human rights lawyer Tony Kelly has said that a legal challenge to the blanket ban in the referendum is likely.

As the old saying goes, ‘there is money in them thar hills’, he has been contacted by an unnamed inmate wanting to fight the ban, and probably wants a few quid.

The Howard League (for penal reform) Scotland backs a degree of prisoner voting, saying the UK is out of step with most of Western Europe in upholding a blanket ban.

Howard League Scotland said:

“We make this as a moral case, not a legal one. There is an opportunity for the parliament to put down a marker about the value placed on democratic rights, social justice and effective rehabilitation in Scotland.”

They added:

“The question of voting rights for prisoners in the referendum is more acute than in general elections. This vote will determine the constitutional future of their country and may not be repeated in their lifetime.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:

“The Scottish Government does not agree that convicted prisoners should be able to vote while they are in prison.”

Given the disastrous failure of their campaign, you would think they would be open to try and garner any avenue that could be used to bump up the numbers.

The Tories say if someone sacrifices their right to live freely in society, through criminal acts, then other consequences must follow. It is proportionate and right that one of those consequences is the loss of the right to vote. The party believes most people consider it objectionable that someone in jail for breaking the law; should in prison continue to have the right to influence making the law.

If you take that view as read, what they are saying is that it is okay to discriminate on the basis that a majority could be formed around the principle.

In reality, most of the political parties are committed to the rhetoric of being ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’, hence painted into a corner, they already consider these people to be of lesser worth anyway.

These people also rarely vote and the general apathy is mutual, however the European Court ruling is a valid position which has merit in ethics and law.

And as we have seen, when the SNP venture outside Scotland to places such as the UK Supreme Court, it isn’t unusual for them to be handed their ass.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University


Anonymous said...

Surprising decision given the "fact" that the SNP will walk into the EU club.
Wha's like us?
In terms of the debate of course.

Anonymous said...

well said, rights are rights