Alison McInnes MSP

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Search for other Speeches made by 3. Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

The current drink-drive limit was set in 1965. Since then, I am glad to say, perceptions have changed. Public and scientific understanding of the risks has increased dramatically. However, for many folk there is still some confusion as to what the existing limit allows. Is it a pint or a glass of wine? What constitutes a unit, and how many can someone have and still drive legally?

In future the message could not be clearer: if you have had even one drink, you should not drive. The evidence is irrefutable. Drinking even a small amount deteriorates drivers’ reaction times, concentration and motoring skills. It can instil false confidence, impair co-ordination and weaken the judgment of factors such as distance and speed.

As we have heard, the number of drink-drive accidents and casualties has halved in recent years. However, the latest Transport Scotland data shows that there were 440 drink-drive accidents in 2012, causing 580 people to be injured and 10 fatalities.

A 2010 study by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence found that drivers intoxicated to the existing limit, 80mg, were 11 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than drivers who had no alcohol in their blood. Reduced to 50mg, that falls to three times as likely. In short, drinking at all increases the chance of a collision.

Why not adopt a zero-tolerance approach, then? Ideally, no one with alcohol in their system would get behind the wheel. However, we understand that that would cause practical and technical difficulties.

A study by University College London estimates that reducing the limit to 50mg would still prevent 65 deaths and 250 serious injuries a year if adopted across the UK. The evidence from Ireland is that it will encourage a culture change that will deliver year-on-year improvements. That in itself is a great step forward. I hope that the rest of the United Kingdom follows Scotland’s lead.

I cannot support the Conservative amendment. I am afraid that Margaret Mitchell did not set out a coherent case for it. The mandatory penalty, which is to lose one’s licence for 12 months, is still proportionate for the new level that we are introducing. Of course, judicial discretion allows for exceptional circumstances.

The Justice Committee took evidence on the issue a couple of weeks ago. Chief Superintendent lain Murray was clear in his evidence to us. He said that lowering or varying the penalty based on the amount of alcohol consumed would reduce the deterrent effect and that we should not take account of

“whether somebody was three times or six times more likely to kill themselves or somebody else.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 28 October 2014; c 40.]

He was very firm in his view that we should have a single penalty.

Getting the message across to every single driver that there is no safe amount that they can drink before taking control of a vehicle will arguably require the most extensive driver education campaign ever. I have some concerns about whether that can be achieved in just two and a half weeks.

I am sympathetic to Labour’s amendment, and I wonder whether the impact of alcohol on drivers the next day needs to be more prominent in the publicity material. How many people know that it can take roughly 13 hours to be alcohol free after drinking four pints of strong lager or ale? As Dr Rice alluded to in his evidence to the committee, it is still a common misconception that coffee, sleep, a shower, exercise or a full Scottish breakfast will speed up the removal of alcohol from one’s system. It does not.

I support the “Don’t drink and drive” approach, but it must be accompanied by sufficient education so that we can reach the zero-tolerance approach.

We are able to modify the drink-drive limit using the significant powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2012. Steered by the Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore, it is testament to our commitment to strengthen the powers of this Parliament. Scottish Liberal Democrats will always support evidence-based efforts to make our roads safer and to save lives; we will therefore back the motion.

16:08  

Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

I will be brief, convener.

Last week, Mr Penman told us that, in budgetary terms, the forthcoming year will be much more challenging than those we have faced before. We know that the business case on which savings were based was pretty sketchy, but would you support calls for a review of the timetable for the delivery of the savings that were supposed to come through reform?



Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes

Before I ask my question, I want to comment on what you said about staff morale. You seemed almost to imply that low morale was inevitable because of the change. I would caution against that. It may be a bit telling that it has taken you two years to survey your staff—that in itself is a concern.

We heard last week from Derek Penman that the challenges in balancing the 2015-16 budget will be harder than previous challenges and that if we do not get the balance right there will be an impact on “operational effectiveness” and “police performance”, and perhaps “falling service ... levels”. Chief Superintendent Rennie said that his staff faced an “intolerable burden”. How do you react to those two statements?



Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes

How can you say that you are confident that you can meet the challenge when, one and a half years into the savings, staff associations are telling us that they face an “intolerable burden”?



Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes

So you would not support a call for a slowing down of the timetable for reform. You said earlier that you were moving into the transformational stage, which requires thought and careful decision making. Is there a risk that short-term decisions that are driven by purely financial and budget constraints will not lead to the sustainable force that we need to see in 2026?



Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes

We are clearly trying to establish whether the budget is sufficient to meet the needs of the Police Service of Scotland for the forthcoming year. Will you give us an assurance that if you think at any point that the budget is not sufficient to deliver a safe service, you will alert the Parliament to that?



Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes

But in coming to those decisions, you must take the community along with you, as I am sure you have learned to your cost. It takes time to do that, so I press you on whether you think that the timetable for savings is achievable.



Justice Committee 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes

We—



Meeting of the Parliament 11 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

The Scottish Liberal Democrats will also support the motion, which sets out a robust defence of human rights.

Some politicians and media would have us believe that, taken together, the European convention on human rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 somehow amount to a criminals’ charter or a terrorists’ treaty. That is, of course, nonsense.

In preparing for the debate, I took the time yesterday to read some of the recent cases relating to the United Kingdom that have been considered and upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. In one case, the court identified that safeguards were insufficient in enabling an applicant with Down’s syndrome to contest their compulsory emergency detention, given that they lacked legal capacity. That violated articles 4 and 5 of the convention. In another case, the court judged that a local authority had failed to provide a disabled elderly person with a care plan that met her “assessed and eligible needs”, in breach of article 8 of the convention, on respect for private life. Given the explosion in the use of non-statutory stop and search, I was interested to read about a police stop and search that again constituted a violation of article 8 of the convention.

The court has considered situations that have involved people who have been taken into care; it has protected the anonymity of journalists’ sources; and it has curbed the storing of the digital DNA profiles of those who were arrested, but were never charged or convicted. Such cases show the institution’s relevance to all of us, but in particular to the most vulnerable in our society here and across Europe.

The court has required Russia to improve its treatment of prisoners, forced Bulgaria to strengthen its care of disabled people and compelled Turkey to end the impunity of those who engage in domestic violence.

The creation of a common legal space to the benefit of 820 million citizens across 47 states is an astonishing achievement, but, as one senior British court official reportedly mused,

“Our name contains the words ‘European’ and ‘human rights’. Not exactly a winning combination.”

A tiny minority of cases, which have been portrayed as meddling in our domestic affairs, have led to the whole system being unfairly maligned. It is disappointing that the Conservatives’ amendment, which seeks to remove any expression of support for the Human Rights Act 1998, echoes such attitudes.

The Human Rights Act 1998 did not provide new rights; it incorporated into UK domestic law the rights that were provided by the convention. Driven by fear of UKIP, the Conservatives’ plans to selectively ignore the convention, limit its powers or withdraw from it entirely are ill considered. I am particularly disturbed by their proposal that somehow only the most serious cases should be able to draw on human rights law. What message would that send to others? What message would it send to the countries that account for tens of thousands of cases at the European Court of Human Rights?

To put the matter in perspective, just 1,650 applications came from the United Kingdom in 2013. I understand that the majority of them concerned prisoner voting rights. Just eight cases led to judgments finding violations. In that context, it seems absurd even to contemplate withdrawal and undermining our moral authority.

I am proud that, with Liberal Democrats in government, there is no possibility of the UK renouncing our hard-won human rights framework. Alongside the scrapping of identification cards and the ending of child detention, that is part of our strong and consistent record on civil liberties.

In Scotland, the Liberal Democrat MSP Robert Brown was the minister who guided through Parliament the bill that established the Scottish Human Rights Commission. As a result, Scotland’s first national action plan now seeks to promote a

“consistent understanding and respect for human rights”

by making them more tangible. For example, it identified the need to improve the quality of care for vulnerable and older people; the need to empower them to remain autonomous as far as is possible; the need to treat them with dignity and respect; and the need to realise their rights.

The action plan reminds us that human rights define how each one of us is treated and determine our opportunities. It tackles the dangerous perception that human rights are abstract or immaterial and encourages us to embed them in everything that we do.

By supporting the Government’s motion, I by no means applaud its record on human rights. At times it has damaged our credentials: by failing to raise the age of criminal responsibility; through its efforts to scrap corroboration; and because of the isolation for long periods of female offenders who have mental health problems.

On this remembrance day, it is worth remembering the events that led to the creation of the convention. It is worth recalling the abuses in the early 20th century that caused the United Kingdom to lead efforts to enshrine and instil respect for life, security and freedom of thought, expression and religion across the continent.

Our human rights framework and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are not foreign impositions—they are British rights, drafted by British lawyers, that are designed to reflect our values of justice, democracy and the rule of law.

15:46  

Meeting of the Parliament 06 November 2014 : Thursday, November 06, 2014
3. Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S4F-02354)

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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NoCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Alison McInnes
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11448: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 05/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11261: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829.1: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10700: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 31/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10472: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 24/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10347.2: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 16/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10122: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09562: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 31/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09557: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 31/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09415: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Alison McInnes
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23357: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23361: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23359: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23360: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23358: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23362: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23154: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 13/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23111: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23057: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23056: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

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