Tag Archives: alison mcinnes

Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Liberal Democrats

A couple of years ago, the SNP was planning to make this super ID database which made what Labour’s planned ID cards from 2008 look positively timid. They intended allowing 120 public bodies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Quality Meat Scotland, access to the NHS Central Register.

Alison McInnes, our then Justice spokesperson was on it straight away, as was Willie Rennie and made such a big fuss that the idea has now firmly been consigned to the dustbin.

Following parliamentary questions from Liam McArthur, our new Justice Spokesperson, the Scottish Government admitted that it had “decided it would not …

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Scottish Lib Dems demand action on retention of police photos of innocent people

If it weren’t for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the SNP Government would have nobody asking them awkward questions on civil liberties and forcing them to change policy.

And so it continues in 2017. In today’s Scotland on Sunday, Liam McArthur, our Justice Spokesperson continues the work by the much-missed Alison McInnes in demanding action on the Police retaining photos of people they arrest but who are never charged. From The Scotsman:

In the report published in January last year, HMICS warned that there was no statutory framework or legislation in Scotland regulating how the police use or retain photographic images.

While fingerprint and DNA samples are destroyed if criminal proceedings are dropped, mugshots are kept on the police’s “custody software” under a practice which predates the formation of Police Scotland.

Most images are kept for at least six years, but those accused of more serious offences have their mugshot retained for up to 12 years.

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Another vindication for Alison McInnes on civil liberties as regulation of facial recognition technology recommended

There has been a pattern in this Holyrood Parliament of Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes finding out the SNP on some major civil liberties fail (armed police, excessive use of stop and search, including of children), the SNP just not getting it and then Alison being absolutely vindicated.

Today, that happened again. Last year, Alison highlighted the dangers of unregulated use of facial recognition technology by the Police after discovering that over 335,000 people’s images were retained on a police database.

A report today makes a number of recommendations to regulate this practice. The SNP Justice Secretary had previously dismissed Alison’s concerns.

The report concluded that there is “a need for improved legislation and better independent oversight around the police use of biometrics in Scotland, an independent Scottish Commissioner to oversee biometric databases should be established, as was introduced in England and Wales in 2012 when the Liberal Democrats were in the coalition government and a statutory code of practice governing the use of biometric data should be developed.

Alison said:

This review vindicates the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaign highlighting the inadequate safeguards governing the use of our biometric data and in particular facial recognition technology.

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The Lib Dem week in Scotland

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TWelcome to our weekly roundup of what the Scottish Liberal Democrats, led by Willie Rennie, have been getting up to. This week, our MSPs have had a lot to say about flooding, policing, A & E waiting times “Thatcherite” testing, housing and fostering. Oh, and Alex Cole-Hamilton and Edinburgh West are back, bigger than ever.

The week started with Willie Rennie’s Bright, green, liberal vision:

I will set out why four key liberal values should be at the heart of the next parliamentary session. They are that every individual should be free to achieve their potential, that we should stand with the weak against the strong, that power is safer when it is shared and that we are trustees of the world and must pass on a sustainable legacy.

Flooding: when will the SNP Government help?

Alison McInnes criticised the Scottish government’s lack of response to the flooding in the North East:

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65,000 job losses doesn’t constitute an employment crisis, according to SNP MSP

One of the weirdest things about Scotland at the moment is that there is no great sense of an asteroid, let alone a bullet, being dodged. The SNP’s predictions about oil prices, based on them being around $113 a barrel, have been shown to be well wide of the mark. They said we’d have this massive oil boom. That’s before some of their more excitable supporters started going on about secret oil fields whose existence was being kept from us by a malevolent Westminster establishment.

Nobody really appreciates how lucky we are. Scots could be facing independence, which the SNP had said would happen on 24th March this year, that’s in less than 10 weeks’ time,  with the price of oil barely above a third of their estimates. It wouldn’t be much freedom for people who desperately needed public services. There would have to be either massive cuts or massive tax rises to cope with that massive hole in the public finances.

The plummeting oil price had, according to Oil and Gas UK, cost 65,000 jobs as far back as last September. It’s had a devastating effect on the economy of North East Scotland. Aberdeenshire West MSP Dennis Robertson doesn’t seem to think so, though. He said that there was no jobs crisis in the North East.

From the Official Report:

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LibLink: Alison McInnes: The SNP’s record on human rights is atrocious

Writing on the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ website for Human Rights Day, Alison McInnes looked critically at the SNP’s records on human rights. For all their noise at Westminster, at Holyrood, they are most definitely found wanting.

But the Scottish Government also has a responsibility to act in accordance with international and domestic human rights legislation and the SNP’s record in government is dismal.

This week alone, the SNP rejected moves to increase the age of criminal responsibility to ensure that children are treated like children, not crooks. This was against the advice of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and other campaigners.

Scotland is the only part of the UK, and unique in Europe, in forcing eight-year-olds into the criminal justice system.

Elsewhere, the SNP eventually agreed to Liberal Democrat plans to end the industrial use of discredited, illegal so-called consensual police searches, but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming.

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Alison McInnes questions comments of rape trial judge

Last week, I read a blog post by legal expert Andrew Tickell which horrified me. That post, and the judgment of the Appeal Court to which it refers had me feeling sick and shaking, so be aware that it contains some horrible details of rape of adults and children  and the sexual abuse of a child before you click on it. The judgment was for an appeal by the prosecution in a case of rape and sexual abuse which ultimately had the rapist’s prison sentence raised from five to eight years.

The judgment drew attention to remarks made by the trial judge which belittled the rape and suggesting that the victims had acquiesced to or condoned the rapes and that they were minor.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes has taken this up with one of Scotland’s most senior judges as Scottish Legal News reports:

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40% of Liberal Democrat MSPs win awards

Last night the annual Scottish Politician of the Year Awards took place in the opulent surroundings of the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh.

Predictably, and deservedly, Nicola Sturgeon won the top award, Politician of the Year. However, it was great to see Willie Rennie and Alison McInnes both won. That means 2 out of the 5 Liberal Democrat MSPs finally got the recognition they deserved after a gruelling 5 years holding the SNP to account and winning significant policy changers.

Alison McInnes has done more than anyone else to force the SNP to change their minds. On stop and search, on armed police, on highlighting the many problems with the centralisation of Scotland’s police, she has been a true liberal champion. She won the Committee politician of the year.

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Two appalling examples of lack of diversity in our public services

Before anyone mentions it, yes, I do know that the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary gender balance is horrendous everywhere except Wales and Europe,the latter being because we only have one MEP. Stuff must be done to resolve this, but that’s not the point of this post.

This week, two examples of lack of diversity in our public services have come to light. The first has been revealed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Only 1% of Scotland’s Police Officers identify as coming from a BAME background – and none make it to the highest grades in the force.

Figures obtained using freedom of information laws found that – despite 7.6 percent of Scotland’s population being BAME – there are no BAME officers in the top two ranks and only two across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

In total, there are only 175 BAME officers out of a total 17,515 police officers.

Figures for police staff showed that there are no BAME in the top five grades, and only 69 out of 5963 staff overall.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:

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Lib Dems Strasburger and McInnes seek answers on whether parliamentarians’ communications have been intercepted

In the House of Lords this week, Paul Strasburger was quick to question the government on whether Parliamentarians’ data was being scooped up by GCHQ in contravention of the 49 year old Wilson Doctrine which prohibits this.

The exchange is as follows:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government which methods of communication used by members of either House of Parliament are not presently subject to the Wilson doctrine.

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord may be aware, there is an ongoing litigation in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal on the Wilson doctrine. In fact, there is a hearing tomorrow. One of the issues that the tribunal is looking to consider is the scope of the doctrine. Given this ongoing litigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at present.

Lord Strasburger (LD): My Lords, David Anderson’s recent report confirmed what we already knew from Edward Snowden—namely, that, every day, GCHQ is hoovering up the private data of millions of innocent citizens without the informed consent of Parliament. Can the Minister explain how the Government manage to comply with the Wilson doctrine by excluding the private data of parliamentarians when they are scooping up everyone else’s indiscriminately?

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MSPs reject Assisted Suicide Bill – read two compelling speeches from Lib Dems McArthur and McInnes

I was sad that Holyrood rejected the Assisted Suicide Bill yesterday, but I was heartened by the fact that support for such a measure is growing and I think the debate will continue.

It was also good to see that it was conducted in such a respectful and sensitive fashion.

I thought you might like to see the two speeches our MSPs made, one on each side of the argument from Alison McInnes and Liam McArthur. Both were brilliant, thoughtful and liberal. If I had been persuadable, Alison’s speech might have done it.

Alison McInnes:

I come to this debate as a liberal and

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Scottish Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes saves our civil liberties…again

There may only be five Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs,sadly, but by heavens they have delivered incredible things.

As Justice Spokesperson for the last four years, Alison McInnes has stopped the SNP Government in its tracks several times. She couldn’t stop them centralising the Police, but she could make a fuss when statistics showed that officers were stopping and searching children. She made a fuss when the SNP started using armed patrols on routine duties in peaceful Highland communities. She defended our rights when the SNP tried to remove the requirement for corroboration in our legal system. She explained why this was so important at our Conference in Autumn 2013:

This is a profound change – sweeping aside centuries of well-established Scottish legal practice.

Conference, Scots Law is not safe in the hands of the Scottish National Party.

In Scotland the Crown prosecutes in the public interest. We must guard against any shift towards prosecuting in the victim’s interest. That would be at odds with our fundamental liberal belief in the need for a robust, transparent and independent justice system.

We need to defend the principle of the presumption of innocence and safeguard against false accusation, wrongful conviction and miscarriages of justice.

The SNP’s proposals will mean that someone could be convicted on the basis of the testimony of just one person, even if five of the fifteen jurors believe that they are innocent.

Witnesses can be honest yet mistaken. Their evidence persuasive but wrong.

And, unfortunately, witnesses do sometimes lie to the police and in court- out of earnest to ensure that the accused is convicted, because of the strength of their convictions or through spite.

I am concerned that scrapping corroboration could mean that false accusations could become more common. The Law Society of Scotland warns that trials could be reduced to “a contest between two competing statements on oath”.

Eventually, after protest from many bodies across Scotland, the government agreed to a review – which would report after the legislation had been passed. Alison rightly thought this was ridiculous and didn’t rest until the plans were postponed until the publication of the review.

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Who needs human rights?

Last week, in the run-up to Human Rights Day tomorrow,  the Scottish Parliament debated the Scottish National Action Plan on human rights. This aims to ensure that every citizen can realise these internationally recognised rights.

Alison McInnes led for the Liberal Democrats and she went through the SNP Government like a dose of salts for its dreadful stance on stop and search. She highlighted how any one of us might need these rights to protect us one day should we find ourselves sick or vulnerable. If you read the Daily Mail, it’ll tell you that human rights are nasty things that let terrorists off the hook. Well, actually, they  protect all of us from abuse by the state in all sorts of ways.

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Lamb urges online therapy for teenagers with Depression and McInnes urges Scottish Government to improve mental health services for young people

Norman Lamb has been talking to the Times (£)  about different ways of helping children and teenagers with Depression. This could include accessing therapy via an internet app. This would augment, to replace traditional face to face therapy:

MPs on the health select committee said this month that mental health services for children and teenagers were inadequate from prevention to crisis care, as they reported increasing concerns over cyberbullying and self-harm websites.

Mr Lamb wants to use online tools to solve some of these problems, including computerised cognitive behavioural therapy, online counselling and peer support networks for the mentally ill.

“If you’re a teenager and your world revolves around digital access, we must make sure you get access to therapy online. So these programmes are being developed. We’ve got a taskforce looking at how we can modernise children and young people’s mental health and that’s one of the key elements to it,” he told The Times.

“What I want to achieve is a much more seamless service that allows you access online, face to face or over the telephone, whichever is appropriate.”

Some programmes had already been shown to work, he said. “These platforms are evidence-based so the risk is very low that they’re not appropriate. Some people may need more than that so you have to have access to a gradation of different type of service.”

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Alison McInnes makes debut at First Minister’s Questions

Highly regarded Scottish Liberal Democrats Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes stood in for Willie Rennie, who’s recovering well from routine surgery, at today’s First Minister’s Questions. You can watch her here from 23 minutes in.

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New campaign aims to give women equal representation in Scotland’s parliaments and councils

A cross-party campaign aimed at ensuring gender equality in the Scottish Parliament has been set up. The idea comes from Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale and Green MSP Alison Johnstone and has the support from MSPs across the political spectrum including Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes.

Scotland on Sunday has the details:

With Lord Smith of Kelvin’s newly established commission examining the transfer of more powers to the Scottish ­Parliament, the group of six MSPs believes control over equality legislation should be moved from Westminster to Edinburgh.

This would allow MSPs to introduce legal quotas to achieve a 50/50 ratio of females to males at Holyrood, in local government and in the ­Scottish Government’s public bodies.

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LibLink: Alison McInnes: Better late than never for views on armed police to be heard

policeThanks in no small part to the efforts of Scotttish Liberal Democrat spokesperson Alison McInnes, the Scottish Police Authority has finally launched a retrospective consultation  on the decision of Police Scotland to allow Scottish Police to carry arms on routine duties. This has caused huge consternation in highland communities.

Alison McInnes writes about this consultation over at the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ website:

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Lib Dems have led the case against armed police in the Highlands – not that you’d know from the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland

This time next week, I will be in one of what I think is the most magical places on earth, the Black Isle. The friendly people, gorgeously rich scenery from the fertile farmlands to the wonderful pink-sanded Rosemarkie beach, the rubbish mobile phone signal and the utter peace of the place combine to make it my perfect bolt-hole.  I feel myself relaxing as soon as I get my first view of Munlochy Bay from the A9. It’s pure heaven.

I try very hard when we’re there to do all my shopping from local shops rather than the big supermarkets in Inverness, …

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Why we need Liberal Democrats: Consensual Stop and search of under 12s in Scotland halted

Police stop and searchThe Scottish Liberal Democrats aren’t in Government at the moment. Despite that, the small Parliamentary group has had quite an impact in the past 3 years. Willie Rennie has had Salmond squirming at First Minister’s Questions over his associations with Rupert Murdoch and has been pivotal in securing extra funds for colleges, childcare and free school meals.

Back in January, it came to light that 500 children under 10 had been stopped and searched by Police in 2010. That’s bad enough. Last year that figure was just 88 …

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Danny Alexander and Alison McInnes challenge SNP on armed police in Scotland

Police motorbike - Some rights reserved by Metropolitan PoliceI’ve written several times recently about how policing has changed in Scotland since Scotland’s eight police forces were merged into one.  Concerns have been expressed on a number of issues:

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Stop and search nonchalance from Justice Secretary shows why Scotland needs the Liberal Democrats

Police BrutalityIn January, I wrote about the worryingly high police stop and search figures in Scotland, which is proportionately much higher than in England includes over 500 children under 10 years old.

Now it transpires that these figures may not be accurate. And may be made up. According to the Edinburgh Evening News:

Official figures show a huge number of incidents where stop-and-search powers have been used since the creation of a single police force. Critics claim officers are under pressure because the number of stop-searches has been made a “key

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Crockart and McInnes criticise Scottish Police station closure plan

policeIn 2011, the SNP decided to merge Scotland’s 8 police forces into a single organisation. Truth be told, that’s not quite what they’d put in their manifesto, but with an overall majority they were in a position to do what they wanted.

Liberal Democrats were vociferous in warning about the dangers of how the merger would affect rural policing. We were told we were scare-mongering and it would all be fine.

Barely six months on from the merger, it’s been announced that 65 rural police stations might close or have their opening …

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There’s a convicted wife beater in my Parliament and he won’t resign…

It’s now 10 days since Bill Walker, MSP for Dunfermline, was convicted of 23 offences of violence against 3 wives and a stepdaughter over a 28 year period. So far, his only public comment has been to state to the Courier:

I never had any plans to vacate my seat and that’s it. I will just leave it at that.

That’s not good enough for many MSPs. Willie Rennie has put down a motion (like an Early Day Motion at Westminster) calling on him to resign. That has so far been signed by over 80 of his parliamentary colleagues. Willie has …

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Alex Salmond is quite late to the Party on all-male Muirfield

It’s another glorious weekend of sport, if you’re into that sort of thing. In Paris, the Tour de France comes to its climax on the Champs Elysees, unusually at twilight rather than mid afternoon. You wait 99 races for a British rider to win the Tour de France and it very much looks as if two are going to come along in succession. And then there’s the Open, from the beautiful East Lothian Muirfield course.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has very famously refused to go to Muirfield because it’s all male. Credit where it’s due. He can’t go back …

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Congratulations to Sir Andrew, Alison, Flick, Kirsty and Sir Menzies

The Queen’s Birthday Honours have been announced and so far we are aware of four Liberal Democrats who feature. There may well be more and we will update you as the day goes on.

The first Voice congratulations go to Sir Andrew Stunell who receives a knighthood for public and political service. Andrew has served this party in many capacities. I first knew him back in the 90s when he worked for ALDC and I’m glad to see his service at all levels of Government being recognised.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams becomes a CBE. She has led the …

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