ShareThis

.

.

30 June 2005

S2M-2985 Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 30 June 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2985, in the name of Andy Kerr, that the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill be passed.

16:31

... ... ...

16:58

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): This is not the end and it is not the beginning of the end, but it might just be the end of the beginning in eliminating the evil trade of the tobacco barons.

People who are called Stewart obviously have a particular view on the subject of tobacco. My colleague Stewart Maxwell is, in comparison with me, a moderate on the issue. I commend him for bringing the issue into play through his previous member's bill and I congratulate the Executive on responding to it and bringing forward wider measures. All are to be praised to the skies for that.

As an extremist on the subject, I have of course studied it in some detail. The cigarette came to these islands during the Crimean war, when our soldiers saw the French and the Turks smoking this new device. War has proved to be a remarkably effective platform for the evil people in the tobacco companies to broaden the franchise for this pernicious addiction. During the second world war, the proud boast of the tobacco companies was that they provided two packs of cigarettes for every soldier, as a treat for our brave fighting men. That laid the foundations of the addiction that afflicts our society.

A wide range of health conditions are derived from the use of tobacco in a variety of delivery mechanisms and many famous people have died as a result of their addiction. Jackie Kennedy lost a child two days after that child was born, entirely because she had smoked during her pregnancy. She died of lung cancer, but she is far from alone. I have with me 13 pages of names of well known people: Gracie Allen, Louis Armstrong, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Leonard Bernstein, Neville Brand, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Brinegar, Yul Brynner, Rory Calhoun, John Candy, Jack Cassidy, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole—have members noticed that many of those people might have been smoking in public for entertainment purposes? I have a dozen more pages of names.

Of course, we are not here to protect the great and the good; we are here to protect the ordinary people of Scotland. By passing the bill we will take a great step forward and we will set an example for others, as our friends across the Irish sea did. Yesterday, Shaun Woodward, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland Office with responsibility for health, made an announcement that relates to our debate. People in Northern Ireland have responded in huge numbers—some 70,000—to a consultation on smoking. Of that huge number of respondents, 91 per cent said that Northern Ireland should follow the example that Ireland has set and which Scotland is following. They have said that because they could see what was happening across the border.

I will paraphrase Tom Nairn. Scotland's people will not be free of the health scourge that we have been debating until the last tobacco share certificate has been wrapped around the last ounce of tobacco and smoked by the last tobacco addict—given his current form, perhaps that will be Brian Monteith.

17:02

S2M-3031 Economic Development (Cross-cutting Expenditure Review)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 30 June 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Economic Development
(Cross-cutting Expenditure Review)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-3031, in the name of Des McNulty, on behalf of the Finance Committee, on its second report of 2005, entitled "Cross-cutting Expenditure Review of Economic Development".

09:16

... ... ...

09:54

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I feel that we are beginning to get into quite an interesting debate, in which we should have the liberty to put forward some new ideas rather than unduly pursuing partisan positions—so I will not, although my colleagues will.

The word "growth" has come up one or two times during the debate. According to my count—which the Official Report will confirm tomorrow—Des McNulty used it 15 times. It occurs 22 times in the report, which means that, in percentage terms, Des McNulty used it three or four times as much as the report did. The report uses other interesting words. The word "expenditure" occurs 61 times, but the word "benefit" is used only 11 times and the word "return" only twice. The phrase "rate of return on investment" does not occur at all and neither does the word "competition" or its derivatives such as "competitive". The word "asset" does not appear, but "infrastructure" occurs nine times and "comparative" or "compare" four times. "Succeed" and "fail" do not appear at all.

What does that tell us? It tells us something about the emphasis of the report and about the real difficulty that the committee had in engaging with the issue. We do not know how we are doing or what bangs we are getting for our bucks, so inevitably the committee focused on the bucks. I do not unduly criticise the committee for doing that, but that approach limits the effectiveness of the analysis in the report and tells us something about the challenges that will face the committee—and all of us, as parliamentarians—in the future.

We have already heard some spurious comparisons between the public and private sectors. I say that they are spurious because, of course, the public sector is a major contributor to economic activity and is not simply a drain on the public purse. The public sector is capable of delivering services more cost effectively than the private sector and in many instances it does so. I ask members to consider the cost of health care as a share of GDP in the United States and in this country. The cost in the US is twice the cost here. Not only that, but child mortality is higher in the US and its figures on many other health measures are also worse than those for the UK. The comparison between the public and private sectors is spurious. It is not the case that one is good and one is bad. We must look at things analytically.

The problem is largely down to us. The public sector has a major millstone around its neck. We expect the public sector to be more risk averse than the private sector. When we have a risk-averse sector trying to encourage a risk-taking sector, however, there is a mismatch in expectation. The report does not entirely develop that point. I meet small businessmen—after all, almost all our entrepreneurs are in small businesses—whose major problem in growing their businesses is access to risk capital. That is undoubtedly a subject to which we should return.

One of the difficulties with the statement that the rural third gets two thirds of the economic support is that a lot of that support is not economic support. There is a miscategorisation. In many cases, it is social support and I defend it on that basis. We must be careful—fishing and farming account for 2 per cent of economic activity, but they create the environment within which large amounts of manufacturing can take place. The interactions between different parts of our economy—public and private—are much more subtle than this debate allows us to recognise.

Perhaps we are in a cul-de-sac, but perhaps we are in a laager of our own making. We are boxing ourselves in. We must not artificially pose social responsibilities against economic ones. The reality is that we need economic development so that we can pay for our social objectives.

09:58

23 June 2005

S2M-3012 Legal Aid Reform

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 June 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Legal Aid Reform

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-3012, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, on legal aid reform.

14:57

... ... ...

16:43

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Well, this is like being back in school. I thought that the exams were over, but here we have a question paper with 40 questions on it. Unlike in most school exams, though, it appears that we are required to answer all 40 questions. I will return to the consultation document in a minute or two.

I thank the minister very sincerely indeed for giving MSPs the opportunity to discuss the lives of a group of people—namely, lawyers—who are considerably less popular than even we are. In the States, anti-vivisectionists who campaign to stop the use of rats in laboratories have said that they have no objection to lawyers being used instead, as there are more lawyers than rats and the lawyers are less popular.

That said, let me be absolutely candid in saying that my personal experience of lawyers is that they are impeccable. In my business life, when I worked in the bank, I found that the lawyers with whom I had to draw up contracts were, frankly, the best people to deal with, because they came back rapidly and they responded to my needs. In my civil life, my personal, family lawyer is disappointed to have been moved down from his previous position at the top of the Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers list to the halfway point. I have known him for 50 years and I think that he is a great guy. Even though he is a Tory—and therefore I fundamentally disagree with him politically—he has served the needs of my father, my mother, myself and my siblings. Lawyers fulfil a key role in our society and, by and large, they do so well. They have a public relations problem, but it is not my job to fix that one way or the other.

One interesting little thing might be derived from Kenny MacAskill's contribution, if I may reinterpret some of what he said. It was said yesterday that it costs the United Kingdom £37 million to have the royal family. Of course, prosecutions are made in the name of the Crown—we have the Crown Prosecution Service and, in Scotland, the Crown Office—because the monarch used to be the source of justice. King Solomon was asked to decide who was the mother of a child, and he said, "I will divide this child." Of course, one mother—the real mother—stepped forward and said, "Don't! Give it to the other woman." Justice was served by going to the king. Kenny MacAskill's call for an individual who could resolve small criminal issues as well as civil issues would return us, perhaps, to a tradition that is thousands of years old. I suspect that he did not have that in mind, but nonetheless I ask him to consider, when making his speeches, how others, including myself, might interpret them.

There are sources of legal advice other than lawyers. As an MSP, I find that I almost never have a surgery without saying to somebody, "My experience suggests that this is likely to be how the law works, but if you want to act on it, don't take my word for it. I'm not a lawyer. You'll have to see a lawyer." I suspect that that is true for other members, too. Many people come to see MSPs with legal problems, because they have already paid for us. We are on the public purse and there is no price to pay at the door.

The CABx are excellent organisations, but there are not all that many of them in the north of Scotland. I have one in my parliamentary constituency, but where I live is more than an hour's travel away from it, and many of my constituents are not nearly so well off in that regard. The minister has indicated a willingness to open her mind and the minds of her colleagues in the Executive to new ways of looking at things, and I very much welcome her willingness to use, as it were, barefoot lawyers.

Let us consider the consultation document. Our amendment turns on the document and on what we would wish to do in the longer term. The document contains 40 questions. Who is going to answer the questions? It will be the people who select themselves to do so and choose to respond to consultations—the usual suspects. If we open up the document, we discover that it is not immediately accessible to the general public and laymen, because it does not have a codified explanation of the terms that are used. Almost all of them are explained at some point in the text, but question 13 refers to

"an enhanced rate for solicitors undertaking civil A&A work".

That is fine, but where is "A&A" defined? It is defined on page 4, right back at the beginning of the document, embedded in a footnote. Like many consultation documents, the document is designed for those who already know the system and who are probably already interacting with the Government on public policy formulation.

The commission would be a different animal. It would have to be proactive and to go out and look at what there is elsewhere in the world. It would have to talk to ordinary people who have had life-changing experiences of the legal system, civil or criminal.

Miss Goldie: Will Mr Stevenson give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am really running out of time. I would have accepted an intervention had it been made earlier.

Talking to ordinary people is one of the things that a commission can do. It will take longer—and we must not avoid making changes while it is doing its work—but if we do not have it, we will be back here in five years' time making further changes to the legal aid system. We are quite content to support the Executive's motion—with which there is no problem; we simply think that it can be added to.

There are things that we could do that might lower the cost of law in Scotland. For example, codifying the legal system would make it more accessible. That would be a long-term project, because the law is scattered all over the place. I am not saying that that proposal is SNP policy, and certain lawyers are not necessarily in favour of it. The point is that we must think radically because we have a serious problem. If we do not engage and consider such possibilities at this stage, we will not make the progress that we need to make.

Justice is not delivered in a court; it is delivered when victim and defender are reconciled to each other's actions and their effects. We can use lawyers to deliver justice, but we can often deliver it without them.

I support my colleague's amendment.

16:50

S2M-3015 Financial Management 2004-05

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 June 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

Financial Management 2004-05

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The first item of business today is a debate on motion S2M-3015, in the name of Tom McCabe, on financial management 2004-05, including provisional outturn figures.

09:15

... ... ...

11:02

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start by making a simple point. There is a clear difference between being efficient in spending money and spending money efficiently. The Executive is to be commended for being more efficient in spending money—maybe—but whether it is spending money efficiently is another question altogether.

Last year, there was an underspend of £515 million and the figures for this year that we have just been given indicate that there will be a possible £183 million underspend. However, that tells us zip about the core issues that are involved in spending Government money.

I am absolutely delighted that we have been joined by a good sprinkling of people in the public gallery for what would normally be a geeks' debate full of technical discussions and so on. However, I will not disappoint: later in my speech I will bring new information and understanding to ministers and others.

One or two things in the document that was embargoed until 9.15 this morning spring off the pages; I refer, for example, to demand-led charges under the health heading. I am not talking about big money, but am interested in what the words suggest. As a result of lower-than-anticipated expenditure on demand-led dental services, money has been saved. Perhaps that gives us a little keyhole view into why money is being underspent in certain areas. Underspending may mean efficiency, but no one is likely to claim that the underspend on dental services is anything other than a failure to manage services effectively. However, I pay tribute to the dentist who extracted the tooth that I have here yesterday. It is still possible to obtain access to dental services and I am extremely grateful to him for his effective and efficient work.

Des McNulty: Is the tooth a wisdom tooth?

Stewart Stevenson: Fortunately, all my wisdom teeth are not only intact but in perfect working order. I wish that I could say the same of others in the chamber.

I challenged the minister, during his statement, on the difference between cash savings and time savings. I understand that they are different—it is perfectly proper for the minister to say that. However, if they are to be savings, time savings have to be either returned to someone as savings or spent to create a new benefit. They are not just a paper thing—they should have some tangible meaning. For the minister to use my intervention as an excuse simply to attack the SNP—which is always fun for him, as it is always fun for us to attack him—is to reveal his poverty of thinking and understanding about what time savings really are. It has been said that God has the best tunes, but I think rather that God has the best arguments. I remind the minister that, despite rumours, he has yet to convince us that he is God.

The iron chancellor tells us that the UK economy has recently enjoyed the most spectacular continuous growth for more than 200 years. As a result, we have seen a growth in Scottish spending; however, we are the beggars at the door, asking for our share of that supposedly tremendous economic record down south. We are not being given the opportunity to make our own bread and earn our own way in the world.

Christine May tells me that I can go to SPICe and find the value of the infrastructure in which we have been investing. That is very encouraging; however, so far, I find that that is not the case. I have here the draft budget and all the updates. In tables 0.06 and 0.07, there are private finance initiative figures that touch tangentially on the issue of capital. Nevertheless, the reality is that we are given only an income and expenditure statement, as we have been given in previous years. We do not have a proper statement of assets and liabilities, and we do not know the capital efficiency or inefficiency of our investments because the information that would enable us to form a view is not available. I hope that the Finance Committee will work with ministers on that, because that would help ministers to make judgments about future capital spending and to understand the maintenance costs that are associated with capital spending. At the moment, the linkage between those things is imperfect.

Of course, public-private partnerships and PFIs introduce a whole new problem. We have rehearsed on many occasions the interest rate inefficiencies of the contracts that are written, which result largely from the fact that PFI contracts are allocated to single-purpose companies. That means that the risk is captured within the boundary of that company rather than being—as in the SNP's proposals—shared across a portfolio of projects, which would dramatically reduce the overall risk that would be assessed by banks in considering lending to public projects. It is not about bringing things back on to the balance sheet; it is about getting better value from our banks. At the moment, we are probably 64 basis points above the base rate on PPP lending. I know, having asked the people who would have to be involved, that we could probably bring that down to 8 or 10 basis points.

Jeremy Purvis is clearly not an economist. I make no claim to be one either, but I occasionally talk to and listen to economists. A reduction in taxation—be it corporation tax or whatever—does not tell us intrinsically whether the tax take will rise or fall. I draw his attention to the Laffer curve that shows that, in some circumstances and within certain limits, we would increase the tax take by increasing economic activity.

Phil Gallie: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry. I do not have time.

I also direct Jeremy Purvis to the elasticity of demand formulas that govern the way in which the market works. There is not a linear connection between tax rake and tax take.

I close with one or two other observations. We have heard of projects—especially large capital projects—being delayed. The minister must acknowledge and be accountable to Parliament for the fact that, when a project is delayed, its cost rises. That is not simply because of the effects of inflation; it is also because the optimum length for a project is 0.4 of the cube root of the number of man months in the project. If attempts are made to speed up the project, the cost will rise. Equally, if the length of the project increases, with the same amount of effort being made, the cost will rise. The reason is simple: if people have to put the work down and pick it up again, they will have to re-learn and re-do work. That is my understanding of the way in which projects work. The problem is that the Executive has yet to explain the inefficiencies of delaying projects.

11:10

16 June 2005

S2M-2775 Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 16 June 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2775, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, that the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill.

09:15

... ... ...

09:28

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start by welcoming the aims of the bill. The real question is whether it will make a difference in practice. There is a shared belief, in Parliament and in society, that we must reduce reoffending. Whether we do that is the absolutely key test of sentencing policy and practice. The minister alluded to the fact that in 2000, 30,000 people in Scotland were convicted of crimes, nearly 20,000 of whom were already offenders. As I said during my intervention on sex offenders, that is only the tip of the iceberg because we will not detect all those who reoffend and we will certainly not reconvict all those who reoffend.

It is important that we keep in mind the fact that sex offenders are uniquely difficult to reform. We might be able to put them through programmes to reduce their tendency to offend, to help them detect any return to offending behaviour and to seek the appropriate help, but we are unlikely to change sex offenders from people who have aberrant attitudes to sexual matters into people who have normal attitudes. Generally, however, there is more hope for prisoners.

Are we making progress? Our prisons had, on average, 300 more prisoners inside them in 2004 than in 2003. At £35,500 per year per prisoner, that had better work. At some point in 2004, more than 7,000 Scots criminals were banged up. We must indeed be a lawless nation, although we are clearly not a nation without laws. The bill is yet another attempt to add to our laws, but will it subtract from our prison costs and will it reduce crime? Only Portugal, which has 127 prisoners per 100,000 population, and England and Wales, which have 124 prisoners per 100,000 people, lock up more people than Scotland, which locks up 115 people per 100,000. The last resort, imprisonment, has for rather too long seemed to be our first response.

Imprisonment does, of course, protect society—for a while. If six out of 10 prisoners say, as Oliver Twist did,

"Please, sir, I want some more",

we have to question whether prison actually works. The minister has a target of reducing reoffending by 2 per cent. That is welcome, but I must say that it is modest.

Cathy Jamieson: I assume that the member has been following the evidence during the Justice 2 Committee's deliberations and is aware of how difficult it is to set a target and to make it meaningful in practice. International experience confirms that. Will the member agree, as I hope he will, that although 2 per cent is the target that has been set, it would be for the proposed national advisory board to consider whether that is the appropriate target for the future, and whether further targets should be set at a later date?

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome the fact that there is a target, and I thank the minister for her intervention. I suspect, however, that the target's modesty will continue to exercise us for a while. The bill can deliver its bit, and that is a good enough reason to support it.

I turn to community justice authorities and home detention. My colleague, Tricia Marwick, who is on the case as far as this subject is concerned, will talk in particular about the Colyn Evans case, in which she has a special interest.

Miss Goldie: Does the Scottish National Party have any concerns about the practical effect of the bill, in that it will let certain convicted criminals out of prison even earlier than is the case now?

Stewart Stevenson: The home detention curfew will let people out up to 135 days earlier. If that aids their reintegration into society, reduces estrangement from their families—which is a key element in their remaining part of society—it will be good news. That must be balanced, as I am sure the Conservatives will be aware, against the level of protection that comes from the knowledge that people are banged up away from society. The argument must be about the balance of increased risk and increased advantage. So far, we are quite convinced that the earlier we reintegrate people into society, the greater the benefit will be.

We welcome the minister's change of heart on community justice authorities. She was persuaded by the vociferously expressed opinion of local authorities in particular that she should not proceed with a national community justice authority, but instead go for local justice authorities. The establishment of a national authority would have been seen as yet another centralising move, which would run counter to the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, through which we delivered more power to local authorities to take control and to deliver against local needs. The minister's response to those opinions is welcome.

However, do we need a chief executive and extra staff—however few—to undertake responsibility for all those community justice authorities, given that fire boards and joint police authorities can be managed simply by integrating responsibility for those bodies into the responsibilities of senior local government office bearers? I would have to give a not proven verdict on the current suggestions, but that matter can be addressed as our consideration of the bill continues and is no reason to oppose the bill. We will hear what the ministers have to say on the matter.

Other countries—Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland spring to mind—have structures that bring prison and community offender services together, and we welcome moves to build on that experience. Such structures can improve lines of communication, enhance information sharing and build more coherent and organised structures to help offenders and the community as a whole.

The CJAs must do what it says on the tin. The different cultures, structures and skills mixes of local authorities, police, the national health service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Courts Administration and registered social landlords and the vital role of the voluntary sector can be melded to increase effectiveness or—if we get it wrong—merged in a Pol Pot-style year zero situation that will set back the cause of community justice for a decade. I am inclined to believe that we will achieve the former, but we must be alert to the danger of the latter.

Ministers will know that I have been a vigorous critic of the Scottish Prison Service and I share much of the frustration that ministers have experienced with it. The bill may represent an opportunity to do something about its performance.

I turn to home detention curfews. Maggie Thatcher—the Tories should listen up—said that prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse. HDCs might help. Of course, Jonathan Aitken, a former Tory, has some experience of them, so he might give the Conservatives advice about their worth. The evidence from England on whether they work is mixed.

The bill is a work in progress, rather like too many bills that we have seen of late. We can see that at least one minister is finding the ministerial seat quite hot today. My whip will not let me take my jaicket off whatever the temperature.

Alternatives to prison can work, but that is far from automatic. Reform in society is just as important as reform in the criminal justice system, so we have to address societal needs. Finland, with its low offending and incarceration rates, has much to teach us about handling crime and on how and when criminals and countries take responsibility for their affairs and improve their performance.

09:37

8 June 2005

S2M-2647 Norway's Centenary Celebrations

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 8 June 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

… … …

Norway's Centenary Celebrations

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2647, in the name of Rob Gibson, on Norway's centenary celebrations. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the Government and people of Norway on their celebrations of the centenary since the union of Norway and Sweden was dissolved by peaceful means; welcomes the international centennial programme in 2005 whose three main themes are Norway—a partner in peace and development, Norway—a nation rich in resources and Norway—a modern cultural and knowledge nation; applauds the aim to enhance Norway's visibility, update Norway's image, celebrate 100 years of close ties with key partner countries and promote Norway as a deeply-committed participant in the international community, both in 2005 and in the years to come; considers that Scots should be encouraged to share in the centenary independence celebrations including the successful Edvard Grieg exhibition, Art and Identity, which closes on 16 April 2005 in the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, and believes that the Scottish Executive should promote participation by Scots in understanding the success of Norway's story.

17:09

… … …

17:33

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Rob Gibson mentioned Peterhead's proximity to Stavanger, noting that it is only 470km away. However, Peterhead is a great deal closer to Norway than that. Peterhead is twinned with Ålesund, Peterhead Academy has regular exchange visits with Norwegian schools and my office is four minutes' walk from the Norwegian Government's office in Peterhead.

Inevitably, personal recollections dominate my view of Norway. My wife and I took the first ever flight of our lives from Aberdeen to Stavanger on 4 August 1969 and experienced the excellent Norwegian public transport when we took the hydrofoil from Stavanger up the coast to Haugesund, where we spend our honeymoon. The Norwegians have lessons for us in how to deal with remote rural communities that are connected by the sea.

We had asparagus soup and cream every day, there being a glut of asparagus in Norway that year, and had reindeer steaks on several occasions—yum, yum. I remember that every house that we passed displayed the national flag, which showed that people took a justifiable pride in being Norwegian.

We share a great deal with the Norwegians. We share the North sea, whose bounty over the past few years has already been referred to. The bounty of fish is a continuing one. I venture to say that the Norwegians are a great deal cleverer in negotiating for their special interests with regard to fish than we are, and we might well have something to learn from them.

A hundred years ago, Norway's population was less than half that of Scotland. Today, our populations are eeksie-peeksie and ours is heading in the wrong direction. Norway has a lot to teach us.

Jeg snakker ikke norsk. As far as I recall, that might mean that I do not speak Norwegian. However, I think Norwegian, which is much more important. For example, I believe in independence and I am not aware of any campaign to re-merge Norway with Sweden. Further, I believe in contributing to the world, and the very first United Nations Secretary-General was a Norwegian.

Norway is an example to us all and one that we should be emulating. Norway is always in my heart and will remain ever so.

17:34

2 June 2005

S2M-2771 Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 2 June 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2771, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, that the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill be passed.

16:57

... ... ...

17:02

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): We have trod a relatively long and very twisty road to get to this stage. Passing the bill will increase protection for children. A number of issues remain unresolved, but that is not to say that those issues were capable of being resolved in the bill or in legislation at all.

If I take issue with anything that the minister said, I do so about one thing only and as a matter of emphasis. The minister said that the bill will help professionals to protect children. That is excellent and, of course, I support it. However, we must consider in what other ways we can protect children and what other people have to be involved in that.

One thing that is outside the legislative framework but to which we have to turn our minds as politicians is helping children to protect children from sexual exploitation. When the high-tech crime unit came to show us some of the things that happen in the world of the internet, even those of us who spent an entire career in computers found that there were gaping holes in our knowledge, understanding and experience; I saw things of which I had not previously been aware in any way, shape or form. The development of new technologies, particularly in various areas of communication, is extremely rapid. Given that we are probably not the users of the technologies that create the greatest risks for children, the only way in which we can improve substantially the protection of children is to help children protect children, because they understand the technologies. I hope that the Executive will not feel that the job is done when, at 5.30 or thereabouts, we pass the bill. There is more to do.

Another area of challenge to which we have to turn our minds is that which always occurs in relation to offending of a sexual nature: we have to raise our game on detection, prosecution, incarceration, treatment and rehabilitation. We know that we see but a tiny portion of the offending that goes on in sexual matters and that, of that tiny portion, we successfully prosecute only a tiny portion. It is suggested that less than 5 per cent of rapes end up in a conviction. I had to say "suggested", because I do not think that we can put our hands on our hearts and say that we have an absolutely reliable figure; we can rely only on the fact that we do not fully know.

The same will be true in relation to many of the offences that we have created under the bill that concern the inappropriate sexual behaviours that we seek to address. Therefore, the high-tech crime unit within the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, which is a useful start, needs to have more resources and more ability to help the wider police force and the community to detect and respond to sexual offending that involves technology. We have to consider further ways in which we can resource and respond to matters in that regard.

As a child, because I was fortunate to have it brought to my attention by my parents, I was aware of the risks of paedophilia. I suspect, however, that that was extremely unusual. Further, I also had a pretty good idea who the paedophiles who had not gone into the criminal justice system were in the town in which I was brought up. That knowledge and information was protection for me. We must not be afraid to ensure that children are informed about challenging social and sexual matters. We must not shy from that.

I have received a wee note from Youthlink, which says that it remains a little bit concerned about an issue relating to the risk of sexual harm orders. It points out that, although Disclosure Scotland might be aware of RSHOs, that does not mean that people will be placed on the disqualified list, which means that issues remain regarding whether the person will be adequately known about. It might be possible for the minister to address that matter.

I am happy to support the bill.

17:07

S2M-2893 Antisocial Behaviour

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 2 June 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Antisocial Behaviour

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2893, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, on antisocial behaviour.

09:35

... ... ...

11:24

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I would like to start with something quite obvious and something with which I hope we will all agree, which is to congratulate children throughout Scotland on their contribution to society, their engagement in the issues in our society and their articulation of issues. On all those fronts, today's children do much better than children did in my day—we were a repressed and inarticulate minority when I was a child.

Hugh Henry: Stewart Stevenson is making up for lost time.

Stewart Stevenson: That is a kind remark from the minister, who is obviously impressed by my ability to articulate and engage. However, he will have his chance to follow up that remark later.

At the core of the matter is an extremely important point: our kids do us proud, but a few blot the copybook for the overwhelming majority. I know that all members who are present agree with that, so we should keep it at the core of our debate, which has brought to the Parliament a variety of experience from many different communities throughout Scotland. We must hold that variety and the need for a variety of responses close to us as we seek to understand the way forward.

There are no simple answers and there is no single answer. The Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, which the Scottish National Party had reservations about but supported, makes a contribution to equipping communities and organisations to deal with the problems that many of our communities experience. I welcome the fact that, when we were dealing with the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill, Margaret Curran accepted amendments in my name that mean that, in due course, the Parliament will formally hear of the progress that is being made.

I have a word of caution for the minister. We must not conflate crime with antisocial behaviour in a way that confuses and blurs the message. In her opening remarks, there was a danger of the minister doing that when she discussed drug dealers, who are criminals of the first order, in the same context as antisocial behaviour. Of course, all crime is antisocial—we have defined it to be so by its very nature—but we must be cautious.

After the minister made remarks commending the work of community wardens in my constituency on a previous occasion, I extracted those remarks from the Official Report and delivered them to the community wardens in my constituency. They welcomed the minister's support, which was much deserved, but they are already saying that resources are a problem. We have made a start on a journey, but there is much more to do. As the minister said, strategies must aid prevention and we must promote early intervention. That is an important point.

The debate has been one of the scariest for a long time. I am very worried about the fact that my colleague Kenny MacAskill agreed with the Prime Minister, adopted his language and supported his social attitudes. However, does that not touch on the fact that we share common concerns? Therefore, let us share common solutions.

Annabel Goldie once again articulated the benefits of zero tolerance. I will sound a note of caution on that. In New York, the crimes on which the police focused—which were largely crimes of violence and street crime—certainly disappeared from the areas where zero tolerance was exercised. However, beyond those areas, the levels of crime rose. Not only that, but in the areas in which zero tolerance was, quite reasonably, being imposed, there was a transfer from overt, violent street crime to more subtle forms of crime, partly commercial and retail crime.

Margaret Mitchell: Is Stewart Stevenson against a zero-tolerance policy?

Stewart Stevenson: I am not against zero tolerance; I am saying only that we should be cautious about the value that it can deliver.

Richard Baker made a slightly unusual speech. I was not aware that there were any personal residences on the Beach Boulevard in Aberdeen, but there was an issue there nonetheless. However, where are the boys, girls, men and women who previously gathered with their cars at the Beach Boulevard? If we were to ask the people in Torry and Nigg, we might get an answer. It is like squeezing the soap in the bath: we have simply sent them 3 miles down the road.

It was scary to discover that Stewart Maxwell once scared people with his motorcycle helmet. I confess to the Parliament that, when I was a nascent Teddy boy, my fluorescent socks used to alarm my parents and others.

Margaret Jamieson made the valid point that ASBOs should be a last resort. There is some danger that, in some parts of the debate, we might be suggesting that they are actually an early intervention and I hope that, in his closing speech, the minister will clarify that that is not the intention. Margaret Jamieson also highlighted the complexity of human behaviour and, indeed, misbehaviour.

I bring back to the Parliament a phrase from another time: tough love. We have to love the antisocial offenders. We must love them to death to move them into the main body of our society and away from a path that leads to criminality and incarceration. We must also help communities to help themselves and empower people who feel disempowered. If the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 and the funding from the Executive achieve that, they will have been worth while.

11:31

Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP