Stur­geon re­jects own MSPs’ call for all pris­on­ers to get the vote

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Michael Black­ley Scottish Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

NICOLA Stur­geon has re­jected de­mands to give ev­ery pris­oner the vote – but will con­sider al­low­ing some in­mates to take part in elec­tions.

Holy­rood’s SNP-led equal­i­ties and hu­man rights com­mit­tee this week called for all pris­on­ers to vote.

At First Min­is­ter’s Ques­tions yes­ter­day, Miss Stur­geon said she did not sup­port the move.

But she re­fused to rule out en­fran­chis­ing some in­mates.

Vic­tims’ cam­paign­ers have spo­ken out against the move.

Fol­low­ing a ques­tion from Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, Miss Stur­geon said: ‘I have noted the com­mit­tee re­port.

‘I have been clear that now the power is de­volved, the Scottish par­lia­ment will need to con­sider how to en­sure com­pli­ance with the rul­ing of the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights.

‘I am not of the view that should lead to the en­fran­chis­ing of all pris­on­ers. I am scep­ti­cal, to say the least, that com­ply­ing with the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights re­quires all pris­on­ers to have the right to vote.

‘As the com­mit­tee has made clear, fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion with a wide range of stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing vic­tims of crime and the gen­eral pub­lic, is needed.

‘The Scottish Gov­ern­ment will re­spond in due course.’

The Scottish Gov­ern­ment has pre­vi­ously re­jected calls to give pris­on­ers the vote. But the com­mit­tee said it should now ‘show lead­er­ship on hu­man rights issues’.

Mr Fraser pointed out that SNP, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs on the com­mit­tee backed giv­ing the vote to all pris­on­ers. He also high­lighted com­ments from John Muir, 78, whose son Damian was stabbed to death in 2007.

Mr Muir told the Mail: ‘It is an ob­scen­ity that this is even be­ing con­sid­ered and an in­sult to all vic­tims of crime.

‘My son’s civil lib­er­ties died with him on the street. Why should some­one who has com­mit­ted mur­der or rape be af­forded the priv­i­lege of be­ing able to vote?’

Mr Fraser asked: ‘Does the First Min­is­ter agree all MSPs should lis­ten to the vic­tims of crime, such as Mr Muir, and stand up for their rights first?’

Miss Stur­geon said: ‘I am sure all MSPs will be very mind­ful of the views of vic­tims of crime.

‘The com­ments I made a mo­ment ago are very clear. I am not mak­ing any crit­i­cism of the com­mit­tee. It has con­sid­ered the is­sue and made recommendations, as it is en­ti­tled to do.

‘It is my view we should not give the vote to all pris­on­ers. I am cer­tainly not per­suaded of the case for en­fran­chis­ing pris­on­ers in prison for the most se­ri­ous and heinous crimes and for lengthy pe­ri­ods.

‘The par­lia­ment re­quires a proper, ma­ture de­bate. I thank the com­mit­tee for its re­port, which will in­form that de­bate.

‘As I said, the Gov­ern­ment will for­mally re­spond in due course, but I hope, as the de­bate pro­gresses, we will all lis­ten to the vic­tims of crime – we all have a duty to do that.’

After­wards, Miss Stur­geon’s spokesman would not be drawn on which pris­on­ers she might sup­port get­ting the vote.

He said only that the de­bate about the is­sue ‘could’ hap­pen in the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary term, which ends in 2021.

Mr Fraser said: ‘The First Min­is­ter clearly dis­agrees with SNP mem­bers on the com­mit­tee that all pris­on­ers must be al­lowed to vote. The ques­tion she must now an­swer is which con­victed crim­i­nals she would like to give the vote to.

‘There is ab­so­lutely no pub­lic sup­port for rapists and mur­der­ers be­ing able to vote. The Scottish Con­ser­va­tives will con­tinue to op­pose pris­oner vot­ing.’

Com­ment – Page 20 Stephen Dais­ley – Page 26

‘An in­sult to all vic­tims of crime’

‘Scep­ti­cal’: Nicola Stur­geon

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