Sheku Bayoh Inquiry Must Have Power to Call Witnesses

The inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh must have the power to summon witnesses, John has said, responding to the announcement as Scottish Green justice spokesperson.

Responding to a Ministerial Statement laying out the proposals for a “full and public” inquiry, Finnie said key individuals such as former Chief Constable Sir Stephen House should be brought in to give evidence.

Responding, John said: “I welcome this inquiry, and it is vital this inquiry is able to get the full picture from all involved, so that the family impacted by this tragedy can get some answers.

“That means it must be able to compel witnesses to attend, including prominent players such as the former Chief Constable Sir Stephen House.

Equal Protection Bill Granted Royal Assent

John Member’s Bill on giving children in Scotland equal protection from assaults has been granted Royal Assent on November 7th becoming an Act; this follows last month’s passage by the Scottish Parliament. The Act which was supported by an overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament means that children in Scotland will soon be given the same legal protection from assault that adults currently enjoy. The Act’s main provision will come into effect on November 6th 2020.

MSPs voted 84-29 in favour, with only Conservative MSPs refusing to support it.

Commenting John said:

“I am absolutely delighted to hear that Royal Assent has been granted to my Member’s Bill. This sends a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting, and that our children deserve at least the same legal protections that adults enjoy. Physical punishment has no place in 21st century Scotland. The international evidence tells us that it can have serious impacts on children, and that it is not effective. Similar legislation is progressing right now in Wales and I hope that we will see similar steps taken in England and Northern Ireland very soon.

“I am extremely proud to have brought forward the legislation that will enhance children’s rights in Scotland and I look forward to the full provisions of the Act coming into force.”

John Calls for End of Private Prisons

The Scottish Government must urgently review its private prison expenditure after the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, Colin McConnell, confirmed that inflation uplifts built into these contracts result in cuts to the overall prison budget, according to John the Scottish Greens Justice Spokesperson . Colin McConnell made the statement at Hoylrood’s Justice Committee this morning.

In written evidence provided to the committee, the Auditor General stated that the uplifts, “will require additional recurring savings of around £12 million a year by 2022-23.”

John said:

“Private profit should have no place in Scotland’s criminal justice system. It’s absolutely absurd that cuts must to be made in the public sector, in order to enrich Serco’s shareholders. The Justice Secretary must urgently review this wholly unsatisfactory arrangement. It’s time we stopped dishing out huge amounts of public money to predatory companies who run our public service into the ground.”

Equal Protection Passes

Parliament takes historic and courageous step

MSPs have taken the historic decision to back John’s Equal Protection Bill yesterday evening, meaning that children in Scotland will soon be given the same legal protection from assault that adults currently enjoy.

After the debate John said:

“I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Parliament has taken this historic and courageous step. The leadership shown by MSPs will send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting, and that our children deserve at least the same legal protections that adults enjoy.

“Physical punishment has no place in 21st century Scotland. The international evidence tells us that it can have serious impacts on children, and that it is not effective. As I have progressed this campaign over the last three years, it has become clear just how many people believed that striking a child was already outlawed.

“I am extremely proud to have brought forward the legislation that will enhance children’s rights in Scotland and believe that today we have taken a huge step toward making Scotland the best country in the world for children to grow up in.”

 

John’s Member’s ll is a chance for MSPs to show leadership

The Scottish Parliament will have the chance to show courageous leadership this evening when it votes on a bill to give children the same legal protection from assault that adults currently enjoy, according to John.

John is the member in charge of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, which will face its final vote in parliament tonight (3 Oct).

By passing this Bill, Scotland will come into line with international best practice, joining 57 other countries who already prohibit the physical punishment of children.

John said:

“This evening the Scottish Parliament has the opportunity to show courageous leadership by putting in place vital legal protections for Scotland’s children. It is staggering that our smallest and most vulnerable citizens are the only people who do not currently have this protection, and now is the time to rectify that. Physical punishment has no place in 21st century Scotland. The international evidence tells us that it can have serious adverse impacts on children, and that it is not an effective. It is time for parliament to put an end to it tonight.”

John Condemns Disreputable Serco Ferry Contract

The Islands Minister has been accused of ripping up a fair work agreement signed by the Scottish Government less than a year ago after he named Serco as the preferred bidder for a lifeline ferry contract.

John, the Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson challenged Mr Wheelhouse in parliament this afternoon (24 Sep), after the Scottish Government named the outsourcing giant as its choice to run the Northern Isles Ferry Services for the next eight years.

John described the Scottish Government’s association with the “disreputable” company – who also run HMP Kilmarnock and the Caledonian Sleeper – and has a shocking industrial relations history as “disgraceful”.

Commenting John said:

“The Scottish Government’s disgraceful decision to place the lifeline Northern Isles Ferry Services contract back into the hands of the disreputable Serco puts private profit before island communities. The Islands Minister has turned his back on the workers who deliver these vital services, in favour of a private company that wants to asset strip our public services. Serco’s industrial relations record is abysmal, and by offering them yet another public contract, the Scottish Government has effectively ripped up its commitment to fair work.”

Northern Isles Ferries

As you’ll know I do frequent columns for local papers across the Highlands and Islands. During the summer I submitted this article for one such column, but its publication was declined.

The ferries linking Orkney to the rest of Scotland are unquestionably lifeline services. They connect the island to the rest of the country and are relied upon by huge numbers of people. It is therefore in everyone’s interest that the services be run publicly, in the interests of the people they serve.

Everyone’s interest except perhaps the bosses of Serco, the company which currently has the contract to operate the ferries. The vessels are owned by the Scottish Government, but the operation is outsourced to Serco, who are all too pleased to retain the profits from the service.

This is a company which has a track record of making profit from a range of government contracts while providing services which rank anywhere from shabby to inhumane. In Glasgow the company’s policies have resulted in hundreds of asylum seekers being threatened with homelessness and destitution as they carry out lock change evictions throughout the city.

The company has also had a long running dispute with members of the RMT union over conditions for staff on the Caledonian Sleeper service, which has been plagued with issues since Serco took control of the franchise.

And on top of all that a Serco subsidiary was recently fined £22.9m following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for understating the profitability of its business in returns to the Ministry of Justice a number of years ago.

This is a company with a track record of callousness, incompetence and deceit. It is clearly a firm that the Scottish Government should have nothing to do with. Public services should be run in the interests of the public, not private profit especially when dealing with a company as morally bankrupt as Serco.

The RMT, whose members are on the frontline of operating the ferries on a daily basis, have long since campaigned for the service to be taken into public ownership and I’m proud to stand with them.

Later this month the Scottish Government will announce whether the contract will be transferred to the publicly owned Calmac or remain with Serco. If the contract isn’t returned to public hands then it will be very difficult to trust the Scottish Government if they make promises on prioritising vital public services. The party’s commitment to this course of action is already questionable, when last year then Transport Minister Humza Yousaf MSP missed the chance to award the contract to Calmac.

This level of prevarication from the Government is unacceptable on such a vital issue. They are either committed to ensuring these services are run in the public interest or they aren’t, and the uncertainty is not in the interests of the people of our Northern Isles.

The issue goes beyond the islands and cuts straight to the heart of how we as a nation intend to address the climate emergency. There is a very limited window in which we can develop a coherent, effective response to ongoing ecological collapse and a radical re-imagining of the role of public transport at all levels must be central.

Transit, of goods as well as people, is a key source of emissions but private interests have generally shown little enthusiasm for investing the time and money needed to change that situation if it might make even the slightest dent in their profit margins.

We need, and deserve, a transport system, which is reliable and affordable. People in Orkney should be assured not only that the lifeline services they rely on will be run for them, but also that any profits will be reinvested back into making sure the ferries are sustainable and able to improve where necessary.

That simply can’t happen until the service is taken back into public ownership. Serco aren’t motivated by ensuring the ferries continue to run, they’re motivated solely by profit. While that’s the case Orcadians will always come second to the company’s ‘bottom line’. Throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK Serco have shown a willingness to abandon morality in the pursuit of money. Taking the contract into public ownership isn’t just the prudent thing to do, it’s also the right thing to do. These ferries are for you. They should also belong to you.