John Seeks Review of use of Criminal Immunity in Wake of Allan Marshall Case

In the wake of scathing criticism by Sheriff Liddle, who presided in the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the death of Allan Marshall in Saughton Prison, as Scottish Greens justice spokesperson John  as asked the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe, to clarify the use of criminal immunity in Scotland.

Prison officers in that FAI were granted criminal immunity by the Crown.

In his letter, John Finnie is seeking information about the use of criminal immunity, how its effectiveness is gauged and what plans, if any, the Crown has to review the process.

“The public rightly want to understand the circumstances whereby a death results and individuals are given immunity from any possible criminal act.

“Sheriff Liddle was damming in his comments, clearly suggesting that, notwithstanding criminal immunity being granted, the Inquiry did not hear the truth about the death.

“We can all learn lessons, and that includes the Crown, and I hope to receive a comprehensive reply from the Lord Advocate hearing that he is reviewing the use of criminal immunity. If he is not, the Scottish Greens will formally call for such a review.”

Public ownership is at the heart of our Scottish Green New Deal

The closure of Ravenscraig, the coal mines, the collapse of silicone glen, the fight for the shipyards, we’ve seen in Scotland what happens when we don’t build a new future for people.
Taking a long-term view to ensure people’s future is what the Scottish Green New Deal (GND), which we launched this week, is all about.
As I reflect on a career as a police officer and an elected representative since 2007, it seems a long-term view is needed more than ever.
When the Scottish Greens pushed for governments to recognise the climate emergency, we were initially told that ‘turning off the tap’ of oil and gas would leave a workforce on the scrapheap. What nonsense. No one is talking about ‘turning off the tap’. What the Greens are proposing is a just transition that looks after all of our future.
The reliance on oil and gas in the North East was exposed after the oil price crash of 2014. Some managed to get jobs in other industries, others were not so lucky. That should have been a warning, a glimpse into a future which relies on non-renewable resources.
Those working in oil and gas are not the problem. The climate emergency is the problem. That’s why we owe it those people to secure new low-carbon jobs for them now, not wait until the limited resources that are damaging our planet runs out. That really would be leaving them on the scrapheap.
But a just transition can’t just be about diverting huge resources from one industry into another. The UN has given us just a decade to turn our economy around to keep global warming down to a safe level. If we are going to move at the speed and scale required, we need to align the Scottish Government’s resources and the public sector behind the effort.
That’s why the heart of the Scottish Green New Deal is about public ownership and unionised labour.
Successive Tory and Labour governments at Westminster have eroded and sold off our public sector, and the SNP has lacked the political will to reclaim it, but if we are to build a fair and sustainable Scotland quickly, we need the state to act.
The Scottish Government did declare a climate emergency, but its funding, channelled through all the competing public agencies, has yet to align behind the idea.
We can’t keep pursuing a failed economics which throws money and tax breaks at big business and expects it to look after people.
Publicly owned banks, energy companies and other institutions could play a big and direct role in building a green economy.
And yes, eventually that means independence for Scotland. To deliver a comprehensive Scottish GND we would need access to reserved powers over monetary and energy powers. It’s why we campaign for independence.
But the truth is the climate emergency won’t wait for independence. It is an emergency and requires an emergency response. That’s why our initial document this week focuses on what the Scottish Government could do now.
Using the powers we have, we could set Scotland on a very different path to the UK. Other European countries that kept their key industries in public hands are now using these to take on the climate challenge while retaining and expanding industrial jobs.
Ironically, some of those publicly-owned companies now provide services in Scotland. With similar commitment to public ownership, the Scottish Government could play a direct role in tackling the climate emergency and securing sustainable jobs for the future.
It has been good to see commitment from the Scottish Government for a publicly-owned national bank and energy company. These need to be brought forward and added to.
Imagine, for example, an integrated bus and rail network that would serve communities rather than private shareholders? This would allow us to Invest in the strategic growth and decarbonisation of Scotland’s railway network.
Imagine if the entire public sector estate used its huge procurement power to support low carbon industry and renewable energy, with a focus on projects and companies that are investing in Scottish jobs and the Scottish supply line.
Imagine if every part of Scotland had a localised green industrial strategy which could align public agencies and businesses behind a single goal, securing a sustainable future.
After all, this is about building a future for our people and their children. Yes, it is radical, but the situation we are in demands a radical response.
And the Scottish Greens are not alone. Across Europe progressive politicians and organisations are calling for Green New Deals. With all the natural resources and a skilled workforce that Scotland has, we have an opportunity to lead the way. I hope we have the courage to grasp it.
*First published in The National on 30th August 2019

Will Scotland follow Denmark and Halt the Expansion of Sea based Fish Farms?

John has tabled a Parliamentary Question asking the Scottish Government if it “will examine the example of the Danish Government which has announced it will not approve any new fish farms at sea and curb growth of existing fish farms at sea in Denmark due to environmental concerns.”

Commenting John said:

“The Scottish Green Party recognises the valuable contribution fish farming can make to supplying food and the employment it can create in our fragile rural communities.

“I am a Member of the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee which on 27th November, 2018 published a report on “Salmon Farming in Scotland,” which concluded the status quo was not an option.

“Regrettably, other Committee Members didn’t support my call for the report to call for a moratorium on the expansion of the fish farm industry, pending resolution of the clearly narrated problems.

“I welcome the ongoing work taking place to improve the significant public concerns there are about the industry but we’re not there yet.

“Whilst I see a role for salmon fish farming in delivering a quality, locally reared food to our markets, my support is conditional on the highest standards of husbandry and environmental protection being applied.

“I am keen that the Scottish Government liaises with Danish counterparts to understand the rationale for this significant policy change by the Danish Government which is calling a halt to expansion of the sector and to establish what we can learn from that.

“I still firmly believe we should have a moratorium on expansion until we’ve absolute assurance on the areas giving rise to the Committee’s concerns that, “..the industry (also) creates a number of economic, environmental and social challenges for other businesses which rely on the natural environment.””

Notes: The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee report can be found here;


John to retire at next election

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has today (27th Aug) announced that he will retire at the next Scottish Parliament election.

The Scottish Greens have begun selecting candidates for the election in 2021 and Mr Finnie, who was first elected to represent the Highlands and Islands in 2011 and subsequently re-elected in 2016, has indicated that he will not seek a further term.

Speaking of his decision, Mr Finnie said:

“It is an honour to serve the Highlands and Islands in the Scottish Parliament and I intend continuing to work hard until my last day in office.

“I’ve been involved in representative politics since being elected a Highland Councillor in 2007 and enjoyed helping people, but I feel the time is right to step aside and let others bring their energy and ideas to what is a demanding job.

“Throughout my time in Parliament, I’ve put my home region of the Highlands and Islands and my constituents at the forefront of my work. Driven by my interest in social and environmental justice, I have been pleased to secure a number of concessions and legislative changes to improve the lives of people in the region.

“At this time, I’m focused on working with others to secure the passage of my Member’s Bill giving children equal protection from assault and hope to see it become law in the near future.

“The Climate Emergency our planet is facing means that, more than ever, Green policies are required. I know there are others who can ensure they are promoted, and delivered, for my home, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Meanwhile, I look forward to having more time to spend with my family.”

Let’s make this the last Inglorious 12th!

Let’s make this the last Inglorious 12th!

For over 150 years, moorland has been managed for red grouse-shooting – a Victorian blood sport.

Scotland’s upland landscapes were transformed by the construction of access infrastructure; burning of heather moorland and the extermination of species such as white-tailed eagle and red kite through poisoning, trapping and shooting.

Almost a fifth of Scotland has been made into a grouse moor and the resultant heather moorlands are highly modified habitats managed to encourage high populations of one species, red grouse that can be killed for fun.

Peat moorlands are internationally important resource storing 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon and there’s growing concern about the increasing extent and intensity of burning, especially the effect on deep peat.

Almost any other land use is more productive and creates more jobs. Industry figures show that grouse shooting adds fewer than 3,000 jobs, on an average salary of £11,500 a year – less than the minimum wage, a small economic contribution small compared to forestry and tourism

Other well documented concerns relate to outdoor medication on a massive scale; the culling of 26,000 mountain hares annually; the thousands of miles of tracks in often sensitive upland environments; the electric fencing to exclude wild red deer from the grouse moor and to contain sheep on the moor. The sheep are used as ‘tick-mops’ making many grouse shooting estates eligible for farming subsidies – many should be eligible for substantial subsidies up to over £300,000 a year.

Success of a grouse moor (and its economic value) is measured by the number of grouse shot each season (the bag size) and owners can make a fortune from selling the land.

Scottish Greens call on the Scottish Government to take this opportunity to Revive the moors to benefit local communities, our environment and our wildlife.


Cross Party MSPs Launch Landmark Petition to Tackle Drug Death Crisis

Cross Party MSPs Launch Landmark Petition to Tackle Drug Death Crisis

On Thursday 18th July a cross party group of MSPs are launching a landmark petition to push the Scottish and UK Governments to reconsider their approach to drug use and how it is policed in Scotland.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP (Scottish Liberal Democrats), Neil Findlay MSP (Scottish Labour), John Finnie MSP (Scottish Green Party), and Alex Neil MSP (SNP) have collectively launched the petition to push the Scottish Government towards action given the fact Scotland has the EU’s highest rate of drug deaths

The text of the petition reads

Scotland is experiencing what can only be described as a drug death crisis.

We have one of the highest levels of drug deaths in the world – with the situation getting worse each year. 

We cannot continue as we are.

We, the undersigned, demand immediate action to address the levels of addiction, overdose and deaths associated with drugs use in Scotland.

We call on the Scottish and UK Governments to address this major public health crisis by taking an evidence led approach to policy that examines all options, including decriminalisation. 

This unprecedented step calls for the governments of Scotland and the UK to take an evidence based approach to what is now a public health crisis, including the radical step of considering decriminalisation of certain drugs.

Portugal decriminalised personal possession of drugs in 2001 and implemented a major harm reduction and public health programme. Drug deaths subsequently fell from more than 1,000 a year to around 50 per year.

The Cross Party Group of MSPs said:

“We cannot arrest our way to a drug-free society. We have to deal with this crisis as a public health problem, rather than pretend it will go away with tougher sentences and a harsher regime for those caught in possession. This is fanciful and delusional thinking.

“The governments in Edinburgh and London have to rethink their approach and start to realise that record numbers of people are dying on our streets. This is avoidable and we have a responsibility to recognise that the current model is not working.

“As a cross party group of MSPs we are calling on both governments to change course, before it is too late.”

You can sign the petition here:

Continuing As We Are Is Not Acceptable- Rise in Scotland’s Drug Death Rates

Today it’s been announced there have been a record number of drug deaths in Scotland in the past year, 1,187. This number has doubled in five years. Including 67 deaths in the Highlands and Islands, up from 37 last year.

It is shocking to see Scotland with the one of the worst drug death rates in the world.

From tackling heroin and the AIDS threat in the 1990s to minimum unit pricing on alcohol, Scotland has a track record in harm reduction, which prioritises the health and safety of our people over moral judgement.

It’s needed now more than ever.

We have seen London take an interest in Scotland’s approach to knife crime. Hopefully now the UK Government will take notice of progressive thinking on drugs policy, but I have my doubts.

Drug harm is a national emergency. Sadly, the UK Government, who continue to hold all the legislative strings, appear to have little interest in Scotland’s public health crisis. Currently they are obsessed with Brexit and who will be the next prime minister.

What could Scotland do as an independent country though?

When it comes to drugs, criminalisation has caused more harm than it can claim to have prevented. The ‘war on drugs’ approach has self-evidently failed.

Addiction is better tackled by trained medical professionals, not with the strong arm of the law, and dangerous substances need to be taken out of the hands of gangsters.

Drug deaths in Scotland are now around three times that of the UK as a whole. Sadly, the stigma surrounding drug use as a criminal activity means there is not enough public outcry at these deaths.

I am proud that the Greens don’t care about looking tough. We must look at the evidence and save people’s lives, preventing harm and tackling addiction.