Elaine Murray MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
4. Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Dumfries and Galloway Council regarding its plans for Dumfries learning town. (S4O-03944)



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Elaine Murray

The minister will be aware that the Dumfries learning town involves a new model of three-to-18 education delivered on a whole-town basis, and that it also involves the creation of a learning hub in north-west Dumfries, bringing together early years, vocational education and adult education. Does the minister agree that that approach is consistent with the recommendations of the Wood report, and will the Scottish Government therefore support the creation of the learning hub?



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

Like other members and the organisations that have campaigned for a rethink on the proposed female prison at Inverclyde, I welcome the cabinet secretary’s statement. As Roddy Campbell said, when the Cabinet Secretary for Justice attended the Justice Committee on 16 December, he said that he intended to understand all the aspects of the issues before he took the final decision, and I am pleased that he has done so.

Previously, the Scottish Government stated that it accepted 33 of the Angiolini commission’s 37 recommendations. However, the principal recommendation—that HMP Cornton Vale should be replaced by a smaller, specialist prison for female offenders who are serving a statutory long-term sentence and those who present a significant risk to the public—was not really followed either in spirit or to the letter.

The statistics on female offenders speak for themselves. In 2012-13, 14 per cent of crimes were committed by women, but the vast majority of the offences were minor. Overall, women are less likely than men to receive a custodial sentence. Less than 6 per cent of the prison population are women, but three quarters of those who are serving a custodial sentence are serving 6 months or less.

One quarter of women in the prison population are on remand—that figure has doubled in 10 years. Those prisoners are women and girls who have not yet been found guilty of any offence and, shockingly, only 30 per cent of women who are held in prison on remand actually go on to serve a custodial sentence. More than one in six women who are held in prison on remand should not be there at all, as the crimes of which they are accused do not merit a custodial sentence. Those women are removed from their homes, their families and their children and placed in prison, accused of a crime that is not punishable by imprisonment. That cannot be right.

As Stewart Stevenson indicated, four fifths of the female prison population have mental health problems, and 60 per cent were under the influence of drugs and 40 per cent under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offence. Eighty-four per cent were unemployed at the time of their offence and 71 per cent have no formal qualifications—compare that to the figure of 15 per cent for the general population. More than half of them have experienced domestic abuse and one third are victims of sexual abuse.

Almost four out of five women offenders show evidence of impulsive and risk-taking behaviour. Recent studies, including those of male prisoners, indicate that such behaviour may result from brain injuries, particularly those that are acquired in childhood.

It is not just the women themselves who are affected. Two thirds of the women in prison have children and across Scotland 27,000 children annually are affected by their parents’ imprisonment. However, although two thirds of women prisoners have children, only four in 10 receive visits. Prison visiting is a particular problem when women are imprisoned far from home and where public transport links are poor. That was one of my concerns about the configuration that was proposed previously, which had a large prison in Inverclyde and hubs in Edinburgh and Grampian. Prison visiting would not be easy for families from Dumfries and Galloway.

HMP Dumfries used to take local women offenders when it was a young offenders institution, but there were insufficient numbers for it to be able to offer the women an effective programme of education and work. Once when I visited there was only one woman there; clearly, that was a very unsatisfactory situation for her. There needs to be an examination of how we treat different parts of the country.

The Angiolini commission stated that it was convinced that there needs to be a new approach to the management of women in Scotland’s prison system. We know that very short prison sentences are often ineffective in addressing the causes of offending. Alternatives to imprisonment, remand and prosecution need to be developed that challenge offending behaviour and provide support to deal with the underlying issues that result in offending—mental health problems, addiction and so on.

The Angiolini commission, as members have said, recommended investment in community justice centres to provide intensive interventions that would be available at every stage of the criminal justice system. Attendance could be a condition for diversion from prosecution, a condition of bail or a condition of release from prison. Offenders would be supervised and managed and would be able to draw on support from a variety of agencies and services on mental health, debt management, employment, housing, childcare and benefits. Community justice centres can co-ordinate alternatives to prosecution such as early intervention with young offenders, fiscal work orders and composite diversion orders.

As other members have said, support needs to be made available for female offenders across Scotland, including those in rural communities. That means sustainable funding for other support models, too, so I was pleased to hear the cabinet secretary’s announcement today of £1.5 million in the next financial year.

Women often end up on remand because they have broken their bail conditions; that should be tackled by better supervision of bail, but monitoring and supervision of bail have actually decreased. In contrast, some time ago Sweden introduced intensive supervision sentences of up to six months, which are served at home on an electronic tag. They are a form of house arrest, although women are allowed out for employment, training, healthcare and rehabilitation—they get those services, as well. We need to look at some of the international examples of good practice regarding alternatives to imprisonment.

Cancelling the prison contract is a welcome first step, but we have a long way to go in developing the sort of interventions that keep women out of prison and that work across urban and rural Scotland. Diversion from crime and prevention are of course the most preferable, but interventions are needed at all stages of the criminal justice system.

16:00  

Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

We heard a number of pieces of evidence. Professor McNeill said in written evidence that the

“question of how best to manage early release should be referred to the Scottish Sentencing Council”.

Professor Tata agreed with that, saying that he could not support the bill as it is and that the sentencing council should be looking at such issues. Peter Johnston of the Risk Management Authority also recommended

“that further thought be given to the bill, rather than proceeding with it as it stands.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 20 January 2015; c 9.]

Lisa Mackenzie of the Howard League Scotland said:

“The Scottish sentencing council is recruiting staff and it seems a shame to be ... pre-empting its existence”.—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 13 January 2015; c 14.]

I wonder what is happening with the Scottish sentencing council. Would it not be better placed to examine these issues?



Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Elaine Murray

It is true, though, that the proposals will end automatic early release for only about 1 per cent of the prison population. Could you explain the thinking behind that? An alternative approach was postulated through the Custodial Sentences and Weapons (Scotland) Act 2007. The McLeish commission found a number of problems with that, particularly because the Scottish Prison Service could not cope with the increased number of people who would be kept inside. Your Government amended that act through the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, which enabled ministers to bring in a phased implementation of a sentencing regime in which there would be a defined period in prison and a period under supervision in the community. I wonder why, instead of progressing with that approach, which your own Government agreed with, this other, rather contradictory, approach has come in, which will affect only 1 per cent of the population.

10:15  

Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Elaine Murray

Surely the issue for victims and for the community is that a sentence should mean what it says. The approach in the 2007 and 2010 acts was about people serving the sentences that they were given rather than coming out early, which is the public’s objection to automatic early release—they think that somebody is going away for six years and they go away for only three. The other approach would tackle that perception issue without potentially releasing people at the end of their sentence with no support at all, which is one of the concerns about the bill. As Christian Allard said, people could end up with no support at the end of their sentence. They may have served what they were supposed to serve, but there would be nothing to support their transition back into the community.



Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Elaine Murray

Will you bring in the provisions of the 2010 act in relation to the orders that you could make? There was going to be a more staged approach.



Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Elaine Murray

Is this the first stage? Do you intend to end automatic early release? The bill does not end automatic release—not in the vast majority of cases. Do you intend to move further?



Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

I congratulate Iain Gray on bringing this important subject to the chamber. As he said, Scottish science has a good reputation. That has been the case for many decades. Our scientists have excellent citation rates for their published work and scientists from across the world are attracted to collaborate with or work at our universities, but we must not be complacent, because if we are to have a successful economy in the future, we must have a workforce that is competent in the STEM subjects, as Sir Ian Wood’s recent report highlighted.

Children and young people can be enthused about or turned off science at an early age. Teachers and family members can make or break a child’s interest in science, so it is vital that primary school pupils are introduced to the sciences by teachers who are enthusiastic and confident.

In its briefing to the science and the Parliament conference last year, the Royal Society of Chemistry noted that, despite Scotland’s reputation for science, our overall rating for science education lags behind that of many of our international competitors, including England, and it suggested that there is a need to provide inspiring science teaching from an early age. It recommended that every primary school should have—or, in the case of small schools, have access to—a science subject leader who is a science specialist, who can provide leadership on science teaching and support for colleagues.

A science specialist does not have to be someone who is a science graduate, but it should be someone who has at least one higher or equivalent in a science subject. It is surprising that the current minimum entry qualifications for primary teaching require applicants to have English at Scottish credit and qualifications framework level 6—the older members will remember such qualifications as highers—maths at SCQF level 5—standard grade or, as the even older members will remember it, O grade—but there is no requirement for any science qualification at all, despite the fact that science is in the curriculum.

The RSC also recommended that sufficient continuous professional development needs to be provided to ensure that teachers’ knowledge and skills are kept up to date, because science changes quickly.

If a teacher had a poor experience of learning science and perhaps gave up science at a fairly early age in their own school education, or if they failed a science qualification, they are not going to feel particularly confident about teaching science—and science teaching, from the earliest age, needs to be led by teachers with confidence and enthusiasm.

Iain Gray spoke about the report on the resourcing of science in Scottish schools that was published by the learned societies group on Scottish science education, which makes worrying reading. In debates on science, I often highlight my concerns about the lack of opportunities for children and even older students to undertake experiments themselves. It is, therefore, concerning to me that 44 per cent of primary schools were dissatisfied with the funding that is available for practical work and that 82 per cent of secondary schools were not confident of having enough equipment and consumables to deliver science practical work effectively. It is also concerning that 44 per cent of secondary schools were dissatisfied with the level of technical support that is available. It would be unfair to suggest that responsibility for the situation rests only with the Scottish Government, as it also rests with local authorities and individual schools. However, I believe that those issues need to be tackled if Scotland is to remain successful in science.

We need to grow our own scientists and science technicians in addition to attracting excellent students and academics from other nations, so our schools must be up to the task, as must our further and higher education institutions. I know that there is no money tree on the immediate horizon and that those aims need to be achieved against a background of financial restriction, but I believe that the investment is worth making for our future economy. If we want to continue to be successful in science and have a high-wage, high-experience and high-qualification economy, we need to be able to produce those scientists and science technicians.

Because of the issues that confront all of us, we need to be able to engage with other partners and increase the level of private investment in research and development. I cannot remember the number of years for which we have been saying that there is an insufficient level of private investment in research and development, yet that is still the case. We also need to encourage the offering of high-quality apprenticeships in science. Going forward, that will require us to promote a consensus about the value of science and knowledge to the economy and the fact that investing in science education right from the beginning, from primary school onward, is investing in Scotland’s future.

17:22  

Justice Committee 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab)

Unfortunately, Professor McNeill is not able to be with us today, but I will read out part of his submission:

“I would support the view of other witnesses that the current Bill should be abandoned and that the complex question of how best to manage early release should be referred to the Scottish Sentencing Council, when it becomes established. Until then, our current arrangements seem likely to me to better protect the public (and support reintegration) than what is proposed in the Bill.”

Do you agree? Should the Justice Committee suggest to the Government that the bill be abandoned, or can the bill be amended to improve it?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
>> Show more
AbstainDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
YesDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Elaine Murray
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12025: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11395: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11299: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11100: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11099: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11018: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10539: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09769: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09696: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09250: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Elaine Murray
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24174: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24102: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24099: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24101: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03944: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24067: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24068: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24060: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24036: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24035: Elaine Murray, Dumfriesshire, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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