Weekly Round-Up

Clare Adamson MSP welcomes legislation which will help modernise the criminal justice system

A new law setting out improvements to the criminal justice system has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Speaking after the Stage 3 debate, Ms Adamson said:

“I am delighted that the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill has been approved by the Scottish Parliament today.

I believe the Bill strikes the right balance between strengthening the powers available to police and prosecutors while protecting the rights of the accused and it takes forward a wide range of proposals all designed to modernise and improve our current criminal justice system in Scotland”.

A new code of practice to underpin how Police Scotland uses stop and search will be introduced and the maximum sentence for handling knives and other offensive weapons will be raised from four to five years.

Following recommendations made by Lord Bonomy, the Scottish Government accepted that it was not appropriate to continue with corroboration reform as part of this legislation.

Other key measures contained in the Bill are:

  • The modernisation of arrest, custody and questioning procedures including enhanced protections for child and vulnerable adult suspects
  • Creation of a clear framework for the fundamental police powers to arrest, hold in custody and question people suspected of having committed a crime
  • Improving the right to legal advice for individuals taken into police custody
  • Making greater use of technology in criminal procedure
  • Establishing a Police Negotiating Board for Scotland for the negotiation of police officer pay and conditions

The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill takes forward a range of proposals to modernise and improve efficiency within the criminal justice system. The new legislation includes a number of important reforms and responds to the work of four independent reviews of criminal law and practice.

UN Climate Change Summit: £12 million pounds for Climate Justice

At the UN global climate change summit in Paris on 7th December 2015, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced that an extra £12 million will be invested over the next four years to help reduce the impact of climate change in the world’s poorest communities.

SCIAF’s Director Alistair Dutton responded:

“We welcome the increase to the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund. It’s a clear recognition that wealthy industrialised countries like Scotland have a clear responsibility to help poor countries cope with the huge climate challenges they face. It sets a positive example to other wealthy nations meeting in Paris.”

The Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund is directed at lessening the impacts of climate change on some on the worlds’ poorest and most vulnerable people.  This new funding will allow the Climate Justice Fund to double in size and will additionally support projects in countries such as Malawi and Zambia.  Over the last five years, the Climate Justice fund has already invested £6 million for 11 projects in four sub-Saharan African countries.

Following the announcement, the Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Professor Allan Miller commented:

“We welcome the First Minister’s speech today. There needs to be an urgent global response dealing with the consequences of climate change, ensuring the explicit recognition of human rights in the new Climate Agreement. We are already seeing the effects of climate change impact on people’s human rights, especially in countries where their population has done the least to contribute to climate change. Vulnerable people in developing countries with historically low carbon footprints suffer a disproportionate burden of climate change – increased incidence of droughts, flooding, violent weather patterns, desertification, crop failures and diseases spreading into new areas.

“The Scottish Government has already committed to promote the concept of climate justice in its work. This helps to ensure that the developed countries – like Scotland and the UK – understand their responsibility to mitigate their own carbon emissions, recognise the right to development, and support a low carbon path of development for developing countries.”

Cameron’s Carbon Capture Hypocrisy

The UK Government announced on 25th November 2015 that it would cancel funding for carbon capture and storage in Peterhead.   The UK government cancelled this grant just six months before it was due to be awarded as part of the Conservative party’s election manifesto.  This £1 billion grant could have created 600 jobs while also helping Scotland to become a global leader in clean energy technology.

Following this announcement, at the UN Climate Conference in Paris on 1st December 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron emphasized that “we should be taking action today” instead of making excuses for the future.  Having cancelled carbon capture funding only the week before, his statement clearly contradicted his approach towards renewables in the UK.

In response to this statement, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“For David Cameron to try and lecture others on the environment just days after his government’s decision to cut the CCS funding in Peterhead is nothing less than rank hypocrisy – something which we’re getting all too used to from this Tory government…The Tory decision to cut the vital £1bn carbon capture and storage project won’t just cost 600 jobs in the North East of Scotland – but is a huge missed opportunity to help Scotland become a global leader on green energy technology and is just the latest example of the failure of the UK Government to support Scotland’s energy industry.”


Response to Storm Desmond Flooding

On 8th December 2015, Flooding Minister, Aileen McLeod paid tribute to emergency responders who have worked vigorously to help communities affected by severe flooding following Storm Desmond.

McLeod agreed to activate the Bellwin Scheme on December 7th in order to provide support for local authorities to assist with immediate and unforeseen costs of dealing with the latest flood damage.  Scottish Borders Council has indicated that they intend to apply for emergency funding under the Bellwin Scheme in order to help deal with the costs of flood damage.

While visiting Hawick, McLeod saw the impact of the flooding on the local community and was able to hear about the Scottish Borders Council’s flood management procedures.  Over the past 6 years, the £42 million identified for flooding in the local authority capital settlement has allowed local authorities to build seven new flood protection schemes.  Hawick is next in line for a protection scheme, and the Council is currently developing a scheme in which they will seek feedback and input from the public via consultation exercises.

In regards to her visit, Dr McLeod said:

“It is also important we recognise the impact of our significant investment in protecting people’s homes and livelihoods from such extreme conditions. All of Scotland’s existing flood defences worked over the weekend. This justifies the Scottish Government’s commitment to continue investing in flood defences.”


First Minister’s Christmas Card

The First Minister’s 2015 Official Christmas card will feature a special festive illustration of Katie Morag by Mairi Hedderwick.  The card includes the star of the books welcoming children from around the world to the First Minister’s residence, Bute House.  The original illustration will be auctioned off next year.  Proceeds will be shared between Enable Scotland, Children 1st, Books Abroad, and the Scottish Refugee Council.

The First Minister added:

“Since we launched the charity Christmas card initiative in 2007, sales of artwork and prints have raised more than £168,850 for good causes across Scotland. I’d like to extend my thanks to all the artists, including Mairi, whose time and generosity have made raising so much money possible.”

For the first time, special packs featuring Christmas cards from previous years will go on sale in National Galleries of Scotland shops in Edinburgh.  Profits will be split between 2014’s charities; the Catherine McEwan Foundation, The Mackintosh Appeal, Legion Scotland, Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, and Yorkhill Children’s Charity.


Opportunity Missed in EU Vote at Westminster

On 8th December 2015, The House of Commons rejected an amendment to the European Referendum Bill.  This amendment would have enabled 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum which is to be held before December 2017.

In November, the House of Lords voted by 293 to 211 to amend the Bill and allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum.  The amendment from the House of Lords was voted down in the House of Commons, which means there will be no further opportunities to extend the vote on the UK’s future membership of the EU.

SNP European Affairs spokesperson, Stephen Gethins MP, commented on this missed opportunity by saying:

“The SNP has always argued that the EU referendum should meet the gold standard set by Scotland’s independence referendum, where 16 and 17 year olds were allowed to vote and participate in such an important democratic decision for the first time – and which was shown to be a fantastic success. It would have been completely appropriate for that model to have been repeated for the EU vote.

“The SNP will continue to make the positive case for Scotland remaining part of the EU with voters of all ages and we will work hard to ensure that Scotland is not taken out of the EU against its will.”