David Stewart MSP

Archive for November 2010

David Stewart urges Scottish Government to press ahead with new Inverness prison

26 November 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has urged the Scottish Government to press ahead with plans for a desperately needed new prison in Inverness.
He was speaking after receiving written replies from Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to his questions about the cost and timetable of the scheme.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is seeking a site in the Highland capital to house HMP Highland – a jail that can take all categories of inmates, including women and young offenders.
It will replace 116-year-old Porterfield Prison which is dangerously overcrowded and situated in a city-centre residential area so therefore has no room to expand.
Mr MacAskill has revealed that the SPS is still looking for a suitable site in Inverness for the new prison, which is expected to cost about £60million to build.
He has also indicated that the project is unlikely to get under way until at least 2012-13.
Mr Stewart, who visited the current Inverness prison recently with Education Minister Des McNulty, said: “While there are obviously constraints on Scottish Government spending at the
moment I do think there is a pressing need for the construction of HMP Highland to get under way as soon as possible.
“Overcrowding has been an issue at Inverness prison for a number of years and it should be resolved as soon as possible.”

Mr Stewart’s questions and replies from Mr MacAskill are as follows:

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the planned annual expenditure on HMP Highland will be over the projected time span of the
construction period.

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether the planned expenditure on HMP Highland will be financed from the capital budget of the Scottish Prison Service.

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the planned completion dates are for each phase of the construction of HMP Highland

Mr Kenny MacAskill :

I have asked John Ewing, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, to respond. His response is as follows:
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is committed to building HMP Highland as a replacement for HMP Inverness. The SPS is currently seeking a site for this development.
Timing and phasing of expenditure is subject to SPS acquiring a suitable site and securing planning permission. The construction period is expected to be around 18­24 months. The
project, which is expected to be funded from the SPS capital budget, is expected to cost around £60m – actual cost will depend on the market conditions prevailing at the time that
bids are submitted. The distribution of expenditure between financial years will depend on the timing of planning permission, availability of the site, award of contract and the contractual works programme. No substantive expenditure is planned

Written by davidstewart

November 26, 2010 at 11:31 am

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Backing for Greener Buses plans

24 November 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has backed plans for the introduction of greener buses in Scotland.
His comments came after he asked Transport Secretary Stewart Stevenson in a Parliamentary Question whether the Scottish Government plans to introduce a bus scrappage scheme to enable bus operators to trade in older, polluting buses for new, low carbon emission vehicles.
Mr Stevenson replied that while there were no plans to introduce such a scheme the Scottish Green Bus Fund, which was launched in July, encourages bus operators to buy Low Carbon Vehicles (LCV) by providing grants up to 100% of the price difference between an LCV and its diesel equivalent.
The Scottish Government says it is pleased with the number of small and large bus operators who have bid for grants and that the scheme has been oversubscribed. It is currently assessing all the bids and will announce the successful applicants later this month. The scheme could deliver more than 50 new LCV’s to the Scottish Bus Fleet.
Mr Stewart said: “I believe we need to have a green revolution in Scotland to reduce our carbon emissions and make our environment cleaner and safer.
“Having greener buses is one way towards achieving this goal and hopefully we will soon see a new generation of such vehicles on Scotland’s roads.”

Written by davidstewart

November 24, 2010 at 8:51 pm

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Call to back Labour’s plan to tackle youth unemployment

24 November 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has called on the Scottish Government to back Labour’s plans to take action on unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment.
He was responding to a new analysis of official figures from the STUC showing that long term youth unemployment has risen by 150% in the Highlands and 143% in Argyll and Bute.
Scottish Labour has pledged to create a Scottish Future Jobs Fund with the aim of providing 10,000 jobs or training places for young people.
Labour is also committed to the reinstatement of Project Scotland and a guaranteed apprenticeship for qualified 16-18 year olds
Local Labour MSP David Stewart said: “Unemployment is a personal tragedy for those who experience it and we desperately need to promote growth in the economy and get Scotland back to work.
“We can’t allow the Tories or the SNP to turn the clock back to the 1980s.
“We need urgent action to prevent another generation from being thrown on the scrapheap and I am calling on the Scottish Government to back our proposals for a Scottish Future Jobs Fund to create work and opportunity for young people.
“I believe that the most important investment that any government can make is in the future of its young people, which is why Labour is also committed to the reinstatement of Project Scotland and a guaranteed apprenticeship for qualified 16-18 year olds.”

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November 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm

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MSP accuses UK Government of “Alice in Wonderland economics” over RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth

4 November 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has accused the UK Government of “Alice in Wonderland” economics over its decision to end its contract for a new fleet of Nimrod aircraft, forcing RAF Kinloss to close.
He has also called upon the Tory/LibDem Coalition to introduce a “social covenant” with the people of Moray to help them recover from the blow of losing Kinloss and the possible closure of Lossiemouth.
Leading a debate in Holyrood on the importance of RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth, Mr Stewart said that one of the world’s most respected defence commentators, “Jane’s Defence Weekly” had stated that the cancellation of the Nimrod MRA.4 programme would not save significant amounts of money from the
£3.65billion procurement costs of the aircraft because almost all of this money had already been spent on development and production.
This left only about £200million to cover final delivery of the 9 aircraft during the next five years.
Mr Stewart said: “This is Alice in Wonderland economics – stopping a scheme where one aircraft has already been built and the other 8 were 90% complete.”
He added that when the contract cancellation charges were added on to the money already spent on building the aircraft there would be virtually no saving.
It would therefore be more cost effective to continue with the programme and keep Kinloss open.
Mr Stewart said that as recently as September the Secretary of State for Defence stated in a leaked letter to David Cameron that: “Deletion of the Nimrod MRA.4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the Deterrent, compromise maritime CT (counter
terrorism), remove long range search and rescue, and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement plan.”
Mr Stewart also voiced his fears for RAF Kinloss’s neighbour, RAF Lossiemouth, which is home to the largest fast-jet base in the UK containing three operational squadrons of Tornado GR4s, Sea King Search and Rescue aircraft as well as an extensive range of operational, logistic and administrative support functions.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review states that there will be a reduced Tornado fleet in the UK until the next generation of jet fighters made up of the Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter is introduced.
Leaked documents from the MOD said that the Tornado fleet, along with aircraft maintenance will be centralised at RAF Marham in Norfolk by October 31, 2011.
A Highlands and Islands Enterprise study has found that RAF Kinloss and Lossiemouth support 5,710 Full Time Equivalent jobs and that the economy and population of Moray are probably more dependent on the RAF than any other region of the UK.
Mr Stewart cited the example of the support the UK Government had given to Dunoon eighteen years ago when the American Navy base there closed with the loss of 4,500 American personnel to the Argyll and Bute economy.
At that point an economic committee was set up with EU/Government funding to look at alternative economic development for the area.
He said: “There is much that can be learned from both Dunoon and the example of the USA where the Government takes responsibility to rebuilt and reboot local areas when defence bases close.
“This functions as a form of ‘social covenant’ with the local community and I am calling for such a ‘social covenant’ with the people of Moray.
“There need to be a myriad of economic levers to attract inward investment, stimulate local business
initiatives and offer ex RAF and civilian staff retraining and support.”
Mr Stewart asked Finance Secretary John Swinney whether additional funding could be sourced from the European Union for Moray, what the timescale was to create a Special Enterprise Zone status for Moray and whether Scottish Government posts/agencies, such as the Forestry Commission, could be
relocated to the area.
Mr Stewart concluded: “Will he (Mr Swinney) ensure that the UK and Scottish Governments (along with the MOD) work closely to ensure the future of Moray and will he join me in calling for the MOD to recognise a ‘social covenant’ with the people of Moray? ”

Written by davidstewart

November 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

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Speech to Scottish Labour conference in Oban on establishing a Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses

29 October 2010

Today, I make no apologies for returning to a topic I spoke about at conference last year – an issue that I believe is too easily ignored but which directly affects one in every five people living in Scotland – and indirectly affects every one of us.
One in five people.
One million Scots.
That’s the number – the shocking number – of people who are either victims of, or witnesses to, a crime. One million people who have been exposed to criminal behaviour, ranging from the extreme trauma of crimes like murder and rape to the upset and anxiety caused by petty theft and anti-social behaviour.
And make no mistake, the indirect impact on witnesses can be just as devastating as the direct impact on victims.
One million people.
It’s a chilling statistic, but not as chilling as the stories of human suffering that lie behind it.
Like every MSP, MP and Councillor here today I have spoken to many constituents who have suffered as a consequence of crime, and the tales they tell can be heartbreaking.
Like the woman I spoke to recently whose family went through an unthinkable tragedy when her mother died in an act of brutal murder at the hands of her father.
How can you begin to imagine how that felt?
And how can your heart not go out to that family, all of whom, along with their friends were victims of that terrible crime?
Yet that family’s experience of the Scottish Criminal Justice System left them hurt, confused and angry. They described the way they were dealt with as “thoughtless” and they could not understand the delays and difficulties placed in their way as they tried to cope with the aftermath of the crime.
Perhaps worst of all, they had to return to the scene of the crime in their family home and literally – quite literally – clean up the mess left behind.
That is not acceptable.
That is not the way a civilised society should deal with people who have been through that kind of trauma, but too often that degree of thoughtlessness is how victims describe the justice system, as a remote and uncaring bureaucracy.
That family did get support – from voluntary organisations and even from the media. But it should have been there for them within the Justice system, right from the day one.
That’s why I launched a Member’s Bill last year calling for the creation of a Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses – a Victims Commissioner, as the post is more commonly known.
Victim Support Scotland and other organisations like Children’s 1st are dedicated professionals at the front -lines of victim support in the aftermath of a crime and they support the call for a Victim’s Commissioner.
It isn’t a new idea – England and Wales have one in Louise Casey.
Northern Ireland has one, and so do Spain and Australia.
And I am confident – one hundred per cent confident – that Scotland too will have a Victim’s Commissioner. It’s an idea whose time has come… an idea that is overdue.
The Commissioner will be responsible for championing the rights of victims, raising awareness of their plight and for working with politicians, police, civil servants and voluntary organisations to build a fairer and just system that puts victims’ needs first.
A system that gives them a voice and protects them from the forces that would add the insult of uncaring bureaucracy to the injury they have already suffered.
So far, this SNP Government has turned a deaf ear to the calls for a Victims Commissioner.
But it seems that at last, they may be have begun to listen.
I was pleased to see that last weekend, the Justice Secretary suggested that the SNP have begun to recognise the plight of victims of crime and might actually do something about it.
But not till after the next election.
Well, I’ve just got one thing to say to that – it’s too late, Kenny.
Too late for the family I described and many others who have been shabbily treated by our justice system
Too late because your administration should not have sidelined this issue for the last four years.
And too late, Kenny, because after next May, you won’t be in a position to do anything about it.
Scotland deserves better….
Victims deserve better….
The new Labour Government, led by Iain Gray will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.
Conference, I ask for you support.
Thank you.

Written by davidstewart

November 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm

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Plea for Commissioner for victims of crime in Scotland

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has made a impassioned speech in support of his Bill to establish a Commissioner for victims of crime in Scotland.
Speaking on the opening day of the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Oban today (Friday October 29) Mr Stewart reiterated the shocking statistic that one in five Scots are victims of or witnesses to, a crime.
“One million people who have been exposed to criminal behaviour, ranging from the extreme trauma of crimes like murder and rape to the upset and anxiety caused by petty theft and anti-social behaviour,” said the MSP.
“And make no mistake, the indirect impact on witnesses can be just as devastating as the direct impact on victims.”
Mr Stewart explained that that he had spoken to many people who have suffered as a consequence of crime, and the tales they told were often heartbreaking.
He said he had spoken to a woman recently whose family went through an unthinkable tragedy when her mother died in an act of brutal murder at the hands of her father.
The MSP said: “The family’s experience of the Scottish Criminal Justice System left them hurt, confused and angry. They described the way they were dealt with as “thoughtless” and they could not understand the delays and difficulties placed in their way as they tried to cope with the aftermath of the crime.
“Perhaps worst of all, they had to return to the scene of the crime in their family home and literally – quite literally – clean up the mess left behind.
“That is not acceptable. That is not the way a civilised society should deal with people who have been through that kind of trauma, but too often that degree of thoughtlessness is how victims describe the justice system, as a remote and uncaring bureaucracy.”
Mr Stewart said that was why he had launched a Member’s Bill last year calling for the creation of a Victims Commissioner.
Victim Support Scotland and other organisations like Children’s 1st at the front -line of victim support in the aftermath of a crime supported his call.
England , Wales and Northern Ireland had a Victims Commissioner, and so do Spain and Australia, so one for Scotland was long overdue.
The Commissioner would be responsible for championing the rights of victims, raising awareness of their plight and for working with politicians, police, civil servants and voluntary organisations to build a fairer and just system that puts victims’ needs first.
Mr Stewart said that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had suggested that the SNP might investigate the idea, but not until after the next election.
This was too late because the SNP administration should not have sidelined this issue for the last four years.
“Too late, Kenny, because after next May, you won’t be in a position to do anything about it,” concluded Mr Stewart.

Written by davidstewart

November 2, 2010 at 8:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized