20 September 2001

S1M-2205 Juvenile Justice

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 September 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

Juvenile Justice

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The first item of business is a debate on Conservative motion S1M-2205, in the name of Bill Aitken, on juvenile justice, and two amendments to that motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I have been fascinated by the speeches made by members on the SNP benches—I found much to agree with. Karen Whitefield also has my full support for much of what she said in her speech.

However, I am extremely puzzled. I have come to the conclusion that the Tory party has become dangerously left-wing. The two Tory motions for debate this morning appear to call for increases in spending. Bill Aitken may correct me if I am wrong, but I am sure that I heard him say that he wants more resources for the children's panel system and, in the next motion for debate, the Tories are looking for more resources for health.

It is all right, though—I soon recovered and the Tory party reverted to type. Bill Aitken wants to send the right signals to his new master in London, Mr Duncan Smith. Bill Aitken is a moderate man and would never physically abuse one of his children, or any other child in his house, but he would, on behalf of the Tories, permit others to do precisely that.

Phil Gallie: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: Come on, then.

Phil Gallie: I am grateful to the member for giving way. He referred to the fact that implementation of the Tory party's motion could add costs. Those costs are linked to an increase in the number of places in which to remove and confine the small minority of offenders who create a lot of mayhem in society. Does Stewart Stevenson acknowledge that the cost of those young offenders' crimes is quite considerable and that, overall, there would be a saving to society if young offenders were confined?

Stewart Stevenson: I am obliged to Mr Gallie for confirming that the Tories want an increase in resources. It is already well known that incarceration is the least cost-effective solution to the problems caused to society by our youngsters. That view is shared across the chamber.

That is all a bit of a sideshow. We come to the meat of the 50 or so words of Bill Aitken's motion and the bit at the end, where he talks about disposals. We heard from him and from other Tories about restitution and incarceration. Phil Gallie just confirmed that more secure accommodation is at the core of his demands. That is a move in a totally different direction from the child-centred system that was put in place originally.

It is curious to note that the Tory motion also includes a plea for yet another review. Audit Scotland is conducting such a review and will publish its findings in late 2002. In the Executive's response to the youth crime review, it mentioned that six reviews were on-going. That is why Irene McGugan, who drew up the SNP amendment, focused on taking action now. Reviews are fine, but when I was in business, I once helped to set up a bank in 12 weeks. We should take action much more quickly.

I was slightly surprised that no one referred to the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Bill, which is being considered by the Justice 2 Committee. I am sure that we will come back to the bill, because it may well affect how young people are dealt with, as it will affect them in the same way as it will affect adults. We will need to watch the effects of the bill carefully.

We have all been felons at one time. Those who disagree with that assertion should indicate so now.

Brian Fitzpatrick indicated disagreement.

Stewart Stevenson: Well done, Brian. The First Minister was well advised.

We have been the lucky ones. We had loving, caring parents and a domestic infrastructure of support. We must focus on the unlucky ones, for whom the system must provide the support that they lack.


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