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