Tag Archives: liam mcarthur

Scottish Lib Dems highlight “destructive” short prison sentences for pregnant women

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today revealed that dozens of pregnant women have served destructive short-term prison sentences in the last five years. He says that this einforces the need for the Scottish Government to press ahead with a presumption against jail sentences of less than 12 months.

He uncovered figures under freedom of information which reveal that since 2013 there have been 104 pregnant women in prison, of whom 31 gave birth while serving their sentence. Of these 104 women, 37 were given sentences of less than 12 months.

In 2012, the Scottish Government commissioned a report from former Prosecutor Dame Elish Angiolini highlighted the negative impact of custodial sentences on the children of offenders, something that affects many more women than men:

More women offenders have dependant children than men and only a small proportion (17 per cent) of children with mothers in prison live with their fathers while their mother is incarcerated. Approximately 30 per cent of children with imprisoned parents will develop physical and mental health problems, and there is a higher risk of these children themselves also ending up in prison.

Liam said:

The fact that 37 expectant mothers have been given destructive short-term sentences in recent years should have alarm bells ringing.

All the evidence shows that short-term sentences don’t work and are less effective than robust community-based disposals in reducing reoffending. Rates of reoffending amongst those who have served short stints in prison are sky high. That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently urged the Scottish Government to introduce a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months, something Ministers now accept would be a positive step.

If in the process it means more pregnant women pay for any crime they have committed through robust means short of prison then that has to be in everyone’s interests.

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Lib Dems

Over the years, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been responsible for a number of changes in policing and civil liberties policies in Scotland. After we led the opposition, the Scottish Government had to abandon plans for a super ID database that would have made Labour’s look like a champion of civil liberties. Alison McInnes, when she was Justice Spokesperson in the last Parliament, successfully fought both routine arming of the Police and indiscriminate stop and search.

That record continues as the Lib Dems have now ensured that Police Scotland has deleted records of half a billion numberplates captured under numberplate recognition.

From Scotland on Sunday:

The climbdown comes after a Lib Dem Freedom of Information request last year revealed that 852,507,524 number plate records captured by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras across the country were held in a Police Scotland database, with data available from as far back as 2009. Data retention laws require that any such information is only kept for crimes, while all other data must be deleted. The Lib Dems had expressed concern that the retention of so much information relating to innocent individuals was infringing on people’s civil liberties. The number of records deleted was revealed by the police in response to another Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lib Dems. Information provided by the police showed 547,459,904 number plate records had been disposed of.

Scottish Lib Dem Justice Spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

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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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Two Lib Dems make shortlist for Scottish Politician of the Year Awards

Two out of the five Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs have made it on to the shortlist for the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards as the Herald reports.

Liam McArthur is nominated for his “immersion into Orkney life.” He is up against Labour’s Jenny Marra and Jackie Baillie. The latter defied the party whip to vote for the renewal of Trident because Faslane employs so many people in her Dumbarton constituency.

In news that will surprise nobody, Alex Cole-Hamilton finds himself up in the “one to watch” category. Since his election in May, you could probably wallpaper the entire Parliament building three times over with the number of press-releases he’s put out. As the Party’s health spokesman, he is keen to keep the SNP’s attention focused on the deteriorating state of the NHS in Scotland.

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Liberal Democrat position on Police merger vindicated by Scottish think tank

The Lib Dems have form for calling things right – the Iraq War, the Credit Crunch, Mystic Clegg’s account of what would happen post Brexit vote. We also said from the beginning that merging Scotland’s eight police forces into one was a disaster waiting to happen. So it has been proven in many ways from routine arming of Police in the Highlands to the failures related to the M9 crash where two people died after being left for 3 days, to the closing down of saunas in Edinburgh, ruining years of a system that worked.

Now think tank Reform Scotland has published a report that vindicates the Lib Dem position and supports the measures for reintroduction of local accountability that we called for in our Scottish Parliament election manifesto. Its research director said:

However we remain concerned that, under the current centralised structure, there is no obvious way to actually make localism happen.

For that reason, we have proposed that both the funding and governance structure must change. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and on that principle we believe that local authorities should again be responsible for funding 50% of policing, with the Scottish Government continuing to fund the other 50%.

Furthermore, we believe that each local authority should be able to nominate a member of the Scottish Police Authority to ensure that local priorities are adequately represented.

The creation of Police Scotland was a mistake, and in the absence of any further wholesale reform we all have a responsibility to make the smaller changes which can help re-create local policing.

Liam McArthur, Scottish Lib Dem Justice spokesperson said:

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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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Why classroom assistants matter and why the SNP’s pressure on local government harms kids’ education and attainment

US Navy 061026-N-5271J-014 Jennifer Tonder (right), a teacher's aide for a 3rd-4th grade multi-age class, discusses the various books available from the Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) grant given to Sasebo Elementary School with
Scottish Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Liam McArthur has been doing some research into classroom assistant numbers in Scotland and has found some very worrying results. Like many other council services, education has been put under massive pressure after nine years of Council Tax freeze which predominantly benefits those in larger properties – e.g. the richest. The SNP are not so progressive when you put their record under scrutiny.

While some local authorities have increased the numbers of classroom assistants, others have seen huge drops. Aberdeen has lost 92 out of 299 in 2007 when the SNP came to power. In my own council area, West Lothian, 10% of classroom assistants have been gone despite a massive reduction in special needs provision.

I asked a teacher why classroom assistants matter and what impacts such reductions in their numbers have on children’s education. This is what they said.

In the modern classroom, classroom assistants, learning assistant, pupil support assistants, are key to facilitating learning. From working individually with children who, in the past, would have perhaps been taught in a school for children with special needs to supporting small groups within the classroom or being there to allow the teacher to work with small groups/individuals. Active learning is a key part of Curriculum for Excellence. This often involves spreading out of the classroom and using other spaces such as library, sensory room, outdoor classroom etc. This is all the more possible with  classroom assistants rather than having to move 33 kids en masse all of the time.

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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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Willie Rennie makes fair student finance a Scottish budget priority

There is no doubt that Willie Rennie is being brave in his choice of priorities for this year’s Scottish budget. In truth, the SNP have an overall majority at Holyrood so they don’t need to give any sort of ground.They have done the last few years, though. Last year, they gave extra money for childcare and free school meals in response to Willie Rennie’s persistent pestering. The year before it was college places.

This year, he’s taking a bigger risk. There’s an issue which in the context of the Holyrood parliament represents one of our finest hours and in the context of Westminster our worst. It’s tuition fees. Way back in 1999, Liberal Democrats fought an election saying tuition fees would be dead if they were in government and they kept that promise. We know what happened in 2010. We shouldn’t have done what we did, but, as I wrote at the time, Vince had actually managed to create a system that was fairer than the one it replaced:

However, if there were a way to get it wrong well, he’s probably done that.

Imagine for a moment if the Tories had been in power alone. I very much doubt that their Business Secretary would have tracked down Lord Browne and bent his ear about the importance of the recommendations being fair and progressive. And they are to a point. To play Devil’s Advocate a bit here, if we can’t have no tuition fees (and I’m not conceding that we can’t), then isn’t this a better option than anything else? Nobody has to pay out anything to actually go to university so access isn’t denied to those from less affluent backgrounds in the way it would be today.

And Labour? Would they, still in Government, be talking about a Graduate Tax? Of course they wouldn’t. They’d bung on the fees – although I’m not so convinced that they would have necessarily covered all the angles.  I mean, it’s coming to something when it takes a Tory to bring up the issue I blogged about earlier about interest accruing if someone takes time out to look after children. He confirmed in the House today that interest would not accrue under these circumstances.

Annoyed though I might be with him, I have to at least give some credit to Vince for taking an hour’s worth of utter tripe from the Labour benches with patience and humour. I’d rate him above just about any Labour minister you might care to mention and definitely any Tory. I loved his line about the road to Westminster having the skid marks of unenacted pledges all over it.

Y

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Scotland’s Assisted Suicide Bill under further Committee scrutiny

Scotland’s Assisted Suicide Bill has been considered today by the Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This is the Committee which is taking the lead on the Bill, although the Justice Committee has also taken evidence on the legal aspects of the proposed reform.  The Bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald in November 2013 and has been taken forward since her death last April by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The Committee took evidence this morning from legal and medical professionals. I was surprised to see the Scotsman report say that the Law Society of Scotland is suggesting that the law as drafted might be against the European Convention on Human Rights. They say it’s in conflict with Article 2, the Right to Life. That hasn’t seemed to have been a problem for the Netherlands and Belgium, where similar legislation was introduced over a decade ago. The point, surely, is that the law gives people the choice about what they want to do faced with a terminal illness. What could be more liberal?

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Liam McArthur highlights Swinson’s and Featherstone’s work and supports ambition action on violence against women

Last week the Scottish Parliament debated violence against women during the 16 days of action between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and International Human Rights day. Liam McArthur led for the Liberal Democrats. He noted that in the ninety minutes of the debate, 9 women would face violence at the hands of their partners.

It was a sensible, consensual debate which you can read here.  Liam’s speech in full is published below:

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Scotland mourns Margo MacDonald MSP

Contains Scottish Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.There won’t be a dry eye anywhere in Scottish politics this afternoon. Margo MacDonald, the spirited, warm-hearted, funny, plain-speaking, independent minded MSP for Lothians died this lunchtime.

Margo shot to prominence after winning the Govan by-election in 1973. Although she lost her seat in the General Election 2 months later, she made an impact on Scottish politics. She never returned to Westminster, but has been one of the real stars of the Scottish Parliament over the last 15 years. She …

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