03 November 2005

S2M-3436 Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 3 November 2005

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

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Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-3436, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, that the Parliament agrees that the Management of Offenders etc (Scotland) Bill be passed.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): One of the first things that happens to a prisoner upon reception is a test of numeracy and literacy. Would that such tests were applied to Conservative party members before they took their seats in Parliament. It is entirely against Scottish National Party policy, of course, for me to assist the Tories in any way, but occasionally one has to break the rules.

Let me just flesh out and illustrate the numbers that I gave previously by reference to Peterhead prison, where all prisoners serve a minimum of four years. There are 296 prisoners there and if we abolish early release, which I accept in principle, we have a capital expenditure of £30 to £35 million and a revenue expenditure against our budget of £60 million, which gives something like £100 million. Now, of course, if the Tories argue that that is good expenditure, I will listen to them. However, they have not actually given any numbers.

The argument is about what else that £100 million could be spent on. For example, it could be more police, more social workers or more education for people who are in prison to prevent them from reoffending. To be blunt, the Tories are the economic illiterates of Parliament. They do not even recognise numbers when they see them.

I congratulate the minister on reaching her 31st birthday today, as calculated by the hexadecimal system; by that system, I shall reach 40 in five years.

The Tories also show that they are illiterate through their continuing mantra that a benefit is to be derived from locking up people for a long time. I direct members to the United States' experience. All the states have their own legal, penal and criminological systems. Some have the death penalty; some do not. Not one shred of academic evidence shows a correlation between sentencing policy and outcomes. Indeed, with one exception, the states where the death penalty prevails have the highest murder rates per head of population. We must take the Tories' mantras on the matter with a very large pinch of salt.

I join others in wishing Miss Goldie all the best in a personal sense with the poisoned chalice that she is about to accept and with a lame duck second-in-command who did not have the courage of his convictions to put his proposition to his party. I continue to have as much political ill will for her party as I have good will for her.


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