Friday, 29 May 2009

Keep Politics Out of the Scottish Police Service

The opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament seem hell bent on getting the resignation of an SNP minister and Kenny MacAskill's been in the frame the past week.  They've given up for the moment on Fiona Hyslop the education secretary I see.

It appears the First Minister knew, at FMQs yesterday, that another prisoner had absconded from Castle Huntly in Tayside but did not inform the parliament.

A spokesman for Alex Salmond insisted he had been absolutely right not to mention the latest absconder in the Parliament because it was up to police when information on absconders was released and Tayside Police had not yet publicised the information.  He admitted Mr Salmond had known about Brown (the latest absconder) on Wednesday night, but added : "It would be utterly extraordinary to suggest that any minister should interfere with an operational matter for Tayside Police."

I entirely agree with the First Minister's stance.  We don't want politicians interfering with our police service.  One look at the Metropolitian Police should be enough to remind us what happens in these circumstances.


naldo said...

You would say that, Subrosa, as you are an ardent supprter of the SNP.

I've got no more time for the SNP than any other party in the Parliament and am beginning to see power and its trappings swelling the heads and puffing out the chest of our government's esteeemed minsters.

But i must agree that Kenny MacAskill can hardly be held accountable for some guy doing a runner from jail and it would be ridiculous if Kenny had blown the whistle before the polis.

Leave the man alone.

From what i can see, he's doing no too bad a job. The opposition look like a shower of opportunists to me over this.

McGonagall said...

I had a beer with Kenny once at the SNP club long before he was elevated to his high position. He's a good guy and a member of the tartan army. However, I think he's been lamentable in his position as justice minister. No balls. But in the present regards he's absolutely correct.

subrosa said...

No Naldo, I'm no ardent supporter of the SNP but I support independence and I support the SNP in principle.

My point was that the opposition are so desperate to get a government scalp that they'll stoop to anything.

Also I don't want to see politicians involved with the police service as they are with the Met. The Met will take years to shrug off Jacqui Smith's interference.

subrosa said...

Aye he is a nice guy scunnert, but I think he's been elevated beyond his capabilities, although I can understand why he was and it would have been because of his legal knowledge.

He's right on this though.

CrazyDaisy said...


I agree with your point of view, it needs to be kept entirely seperate otherwise we'll have the same shit as in Westmidden when the parties are tittletattle-in on each other and then using the Polis to do their dirty deeds as we saw with the Met!


Crazy D

Nikostratos said...

And we don't want First Minster misleading the Scottish Parliament and by doing so the Scottish people.

And how simply saying an individual had absconded can be interfering in operational matters is a load of hogwash.

All the First Minister had to do was state an individual was missing and the Category of the prisoner.
for the rest he could of used the smoke screen of 'operational matters'

If he needed a fig leaf to hide behind.

you lot believe in protecting Alex Salmond at all costs even if in the end it led to some innocent person being dead in the street.

Nikostratos said...

posted by Kezia Dugdale at 15:18

Here's an article Kenny MacAskill wrote in March 2006 about why the Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson should've resigned after prisoners escaped from Reliance vans.

There's no doubt in Kenny's mind - when things go wrong, the buck stops with the Justice Minister.

Why Cathy has to quit;
Sunday Express - 5 March 2006


MUCH has been said about the need for responsibility to be taken in personal behaviour.

Individuals need to recognise that actions have consequences and that behaving badly or committing a crime means you have to take responsibility for it and accept the outcomes that will follow.

People in this country are sick and tired of lame excuses for serious, never mind minor, crimes and limp attempts to legitimise what is anti-social behaviour.

Equally, though, society must take responsibility for all communities, including areas that have been left behind and almost left to rot. They need to be helped in tackling the root problems that blight them and fuel both crime and this anti-social behaviour - drink, drugs and deprivation.

That is the responsibility of our society as much as personal behaviour is the responsibility of individuals.

What, though, about Government and Ministerial responsibility? The Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Executive and Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson would doubtless agree with much of the above, but with power comes responsibility. They are elected and given a right to govern, but they must equally shoulder responsibility for things that happen when they are in charge.

A big boy didn't do it and run away. Sadly, it always seems to be not their responsibility or it is someone else's fault. That is simply unacceptable. There needs to be Government and Ministerial responsibility shown as much as individual and social responsibility displayed.

The latest in a catalogue of errors is the Shirley McKie scandal. Before that the litany of mistakes and errors is lengthy.

Nikostratos said...

Reliance, slopping out, air weapons were just some of serious matters in which both the Minister and the Executive either shirked responsibility or denied liability. Yet substantial public funds have been paid out, significant costs incurred by the state and death and serious injury wrecked upon individuals. Just what has to happen before this Executive and this Minister will take responsibility?

The Executive is denying a judicial enquiry into the Shirley McKie case. The First Minister says it "was an honest mistake". I have no evidence to suggest otherwise, but even if it was simply human error at the start in misidentifying a fingerprint, the widely held perception is that it certainly did not remain that.

A man was convicted of a murder and served a period in prison for a crime he did not commit. A woman who had longed to join the police and gave exemplary service was charged with perjury and saw her career in tatters.

Three quarters of a million pounds of public money was paid out as a result but no inquiry is to happen, according to the Minister.

Yet the clamour and need for a public inquiry is overwhelming. A former Tory law officer and a former Labour law officer have called for one as have the Police Superintendents Association.

The number of unanswered questions continues to grow yet nothing is to be done. Why did the mistake happen? Why was Shirley McKie charged with perjury when a very senior police officer suggested there were matters verging on criminality in the identification of her? Most importantly of all, who did kill Marion Ross?

There is a lot to be proud of in the Scottish judicial process and in the main it has and continues to serve us well. But the test of a system is not just that justice is done, and seen to be done, but that when it gets it wrong it is big enough and willing enough to admit it and remedy it. That has not happened here and we are left with the distinct impression that an honest mistake may have been made, but, rather than being rectified, was covered up.

That is a scandal and it is up to the Executive and this Minister to act. If they don't it undermines the integrity of the whole system of justice in our country.

Prior to this, the fiasco over slopping out has seen GBP 78million earmarked for convicted criminals as a result of Executive ineptitude. That outrages honest law abiding folk, but the ministerial response was 'Not my fault Guv'.

Prison transportation was privatised by the Minister. Despite warnings from police and public she pressed ahead but far from improving there have been numerous abscondings. Nothing to do with me, she said. Toddlers are killed and people and animals injured by air weapons. It's Westminster's responsibility, she claimed.

The time has come for this Executive and the Minister in particular to take responsibility.

Just as people are fed up with excuses from criminals they are sick and tired of excuses from the Executive and the Minister. As well as personal responsibility from individuals, it's time for some ministerial responsibility from this Executive.

Malc said...

Thing is, while I'm not personally convinced that it is the Minister's (or in this case, Cabinet Secretary's) responsibility (he's not the one locking the cell door) when someone escapes, Kenny MacAskill himself believes it is. As Mr. Mxyzptlk (above) points out.

The problem with having a standard is that at any point in time someone will have doubled it. In this, he has nailed his colours to the mast but he'll likely change his mind... just as he did with the trams.

Rob Royston said...

Mr Mxyzptlk, you talk about an innocent person being dead in the street, but the missing prisoner went missing on leave, he is not an escapee.

He served time for a killing, I don't know any more than that, but he had been released into the comunity and had been sent back to jail for motoring offences.

It is obviously important to find out where he is and put him back in custody, but he has obviously already been assessed as safe to wander the streets.

This whole story is being run by opposition politicians and their media lackeys to bring the SNP into a bad light before the Euro elections. The Scotsman has been blocking anti-Labour commentators and wiping out all their posts for the last week. WE need Independence to break free from this type of politics.

Indy said...

Mr. Mxyzptlk – Labour’s hypocrisy on this is staggering, even by your party’s lamentable standards.

You talk about 'some innocent person' ending up dead as after a prisoner has absconded though it has not already happened. It has and it happened on your party's watch.

In 2006 49 prisoners absconded from Castle Huntly including 3 convicted killers. One of them went on to rape another man and then to murder someone. Cathy Jamieson did not resign nor was she asked to resign. She would not even speak to the local press about it!

Now read this article from the Daily Mail – not the kind of paper I would normally read but there you go -

14,000 prisoners have gone on the run from open prisons in the UK in the past 10 years, including 130 killers.

That works out as 100 per MONTH.

Under Kenny MacAskill’s leadership the number of prisoners absconding in Scotland has been reduced from an average of over 70 per year to 16.

Only an idiot would think that grounds for resignation.

Anonymous said...

The Prison Officers Association (POA) Scotland backed Mr MacAskill.

The union's vice chairman, Phil Fairlie, criticised the "manufactured outrage from opposition parties", saying they had taken "no steps whatsoever" to tackle absconding from the open estate when they were in power, despite higher numbers of this.

Mr Fairlie went on: "The POA fully supports the steps taken by the Justice Secretary in addressing the transfer of prisoners to the open estate.

"The fact that at present it is only holding roughly half its capacity, despite record numbers of prisoners, would suggest that the conditions for admission to the open estate are far more stringent than was ever in place under previous administrations.

"In our dealings with the Justice Secretary, he has always shown a great understanding of the issues facing us within the prison service, and has been extremely supportive of the staff within it.

"Prison staff take their role on behalf of society very seriously and carry it out with great commitment and professionalism. At present we have a Justice Secretary who both recognises and supports them in that, and until such times as that changes, he will continue to have the support of this union."

Mr Fairlie said that while the union shared worries over prisoners such as Brian Martin absconding, its members were equally concerned that the Scottish Prison Service and its staff were "fast becoming a political football for some of our politicians".

He added: "This union is deeply concerned that some of the comments made this week simply undermine both the morale and confidence of the staff in our open estate, who are carrying out a very important role on behalf of the public in preparing prisoners for release back into our communities."

Open prisons are a "vital and necessary element of the prison service that not only seeks to prepare prisoners for release back into our communities but are there to test them as to their suitability for that release", he said.

Gray is out on a limb with this and he's looking more isolated by the hour.

Indy said...

I have just posted these questions on Kezia Dugdale's blog - I will be interested to see if she publishes it and even more interested in her answers if she does.

Kezia in 2006 49 prisoners absconded from Castle Huntly. Three of them were convicted killers.

One of them - Roderick McDonald - then carried out a violent rape on another man and murdered a different man by strangling and stabbing him.

Cathy Jamieson did not resign. She did not come under any pressure to resign. The SNP did not call on her to resign.

Can you explain to me why your party thinks that Kenny MacAskill should resign when Cathy Jamieson did not - particularly in light of the fact that the escape of Roderick MacDonald led directly to the rape of one man and the death of another?

Furthermore do you have any comment on the fact that almost 14,000 prisoners in the UK have absconded from open prisons in the past ten years, including 130 convicted killers?

Do you consider that successive Home Secretaries should have resigned because of this?

Finally, the numbers of prisoners absconding in Scotland has been reduced under Kenny MacAskill's leadership from an average of over 70 per year to 16.

Can you explain why you consider this to be grounds for resignation when to most people that appears to be an improvement? In what circumstances does an improvement in performance become grounds for resignation?

subrosa said...

Careful now CD or Niko will be accusing you of taking sides.

subrosa said...

Come on now Niko, I know this is your area of knowledge, but do you honestly expect Alex Salmond to break one of the strongest rules in our country? That is disclose confidential police enquiries and details to the public before the police are ready?

Auch away and sit back in the sun - yer sunstroke's coming along nicely.

subrosa said...

Well Niko, of course Cathy had a lot more absconders than Kenny has had. Five times as many. She didn't step down did she? Naw.

subrosa said...

Malc I think MacAskill's is being responsible in the way he's handling it.

I just hope he doesn't over-react to this nonsense from labour.

subrosa said...

Lewis interesting about the Scotsman but not surprising. Haven't read the forums for a few days.

subrosa said...

Evening Indy, that's for your post. I think labour is so desperate to think they've 'got a kill' they're becoming a laughing stock.

I have to admit to reading the Mail most days. It's the most up to date site usually.

subrosa said...

Yoohoo Wardog, I think most of the country would back Kenny MacAskill. I've yet to speak to my friends who live in Inchture and see what they think, but a few weeks ago they were saying things had definitely tightened up this year at Castle Huntly.

Nikostratos said...


Could always ask if the Police did not want the Information released.And if so then the First Minster was acting Correctly..


You want Kenny to have praise for

"absconding in Scotland has been reduced under Kenny MacAskill's leadership from an average of over 70 per year to 16. "

But for him to have no responsibility for the 16 that Absconded.....Seems a wee bit strange to me

Nikostratos said...


Bit off topic but do you consider(as i do) Cameron is using the expenses issue against Bill cash in order to rid himself of a troublesome eurosceptic

subrosa said...

Niko I do indeed. I think it's been an excellent cover for him not to even mention Europe.

brownlie said...


Probably a bit difficult for you to understand but, as the SPS guy said, he has tightened up procedures leading to less abscondees. However, no system involving judgement of human nature can be perfect and people will slip through the system. If every time someone absconded the Justice Secretary had to resign no-one would be left to do the job.

Without playing down the seriousness of the issue there are a lot of more urgent matters that the opposition leaders should be concentrating on rather than venting their spleen on one individuals.

What happened to their plans for the economy that they were so keen at the time of the referendum debate? Not a chirp so far from the Gray man.

Nikostratos said...

another apology from Brownlie and a further example of Blogging as taught at the "Lord Haw Haw" school of blogs

subrosa said...

You've lost me now Niko. I don't understand what you mean.

brownlie said...


What an excellent and illuminating response. Have you taken the two hour, with an hour and a half tea-break, Scotsman journalist's course?

subrosa said...

Oh Brownlie, you are cruel to Niko. Surely he's got enough sense not to go on a Scotsman journalists' course.

Rob Royston said...

Talking of the Scotsman again, it seems that they have stopped removing posts in the last two days. There seems to be less red ink.

I may be mistaken, but it appears that they have instead removed access to many posters who were, too much, "in their face".

subrosa said...

The Scotsman comments section is becoming rather a waste of time isn't it Lewis, if they stifle open debate. It's all very well banning certain spammer types but banning those who are too vocal? Says it all really.

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