Margaret Mitchell MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

The Scottish Conservatives support initiatives to make Scotland’s roads safer. The pain, heartache and devastation that the victims—and their families—of drunk drivers suffer are, frankly, unimaginable. The new 50mg limit therefore represents an important measure in trying to ensure that no family has to endure that experience.

Last week, it was reported that no fewer than 10,000 officers will be responsible for a drink-driving crackdown over the festive season. We know, depressingly, that, at the same time as those officers are tasked with pulling over vast numbers of people for random spot checks, crimes such as domestic abuse will escalate. Therefore, in seeking to legitimately prioritise manpower to crack down on drink driving over Christmas and new year, it is essential that that deployment be proportionate. That means ensuring that sufficient police officers are available to police housebreakings, thefts, serious and sexual assaults and incidents of domestic abuse.

Since its inception, Police Scotland has attracted justified criticism as a culture of target setting has been exposed. Only a few months ago, concerns about the implementation of Police Scotland’s stop-and-search policy were well aired in this chamber, and the targeting of speeding in general and in certain specific areas has attracted adverse headlines.

Although the chief constable states that rank-and-file officers do not have numerical targets imposed on them, in May and July of this year the Scottish Police Authority and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland published reports that highlight—[Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Margaret Mitchell

I suggest that Sandra White should listen carefully—she has obviously lost the thread of the argument.

Those reports highlight perceived pressures on police officers not just to meet but to exceed targets as part of the appraisal process.



Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Margaret Mitchell

I will do in a minute, if Elaine Murray does not mind—I just want to complete this point.

The SPA report identified evidence that

“officers perceive a pressure to conduct searches”.

Meanwhile, the HMICS report found evidence that

“detailed processes do exist across Scotland to monitor individual officer productivity and their personal contribution towards KPIs and targets.”

Consequently, it is important to stress that lowering the drink-drive limit should not and must not become about providing an opportunity for Police Scotland to fill quotas or meet targets.



Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Margaret Mitchell

I will come to that point specifically, if Elaine Murray will allow me to develop my argument.

Furthermore, the cabinet secretary has emphasised—as does the motion—that the new drink-drive limit brings Scotland into line with most of Europe. Despite that, during the consultation phase and the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions, the Scottish Government failed to make it clear that although penalties for drink driving in Europe vary widely, they tend to be less severe than those in the UK. In France, for example, the penalty for a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of between 50mg and 80mg is usually a fine, although drivers who are well over the limit face stiffer penalties, including a more substantial fine and a licence suspension of up to three years.

In the UK, the penalties for driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit, which is currently 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, are set by Westminster. They include six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a driving ban for at least one year. Those penalties are stiff, so I welcome the Labour amendment, which calls for an education and media campaign to accompany the reduction in the limit to cover the morning-after effects of alcohol. That should help to ensure that an otherwise law-abiding individual does not unwittingly find themselves just marginally over the new legal limit, as a result of which they are criminalised, which could have a far-reaching adverse impact on their livelihood.

The Scottish National Party has made it quite clear that it thinks that the power to change the drink-driving penalties should be devolved to Holyrood, yet, as of last week, no attempt had been made to work with or even to consult Westminster justice ministers on that important issue. As a result, bizarrely, drivers who live in England but who travel in Scotland and who are over the 50mg limit but under the 80mg limit potentially face severe penalties for a crime that has no statutory basis south of the border.

The amendment in my name seeks to achieve two things. First, given past events, it calls on Police Scotland to enforce the new drink-drive limit proportionately rather than as part of a target-setting exercise. Secondly, it encourages debate about the application of penalties for drink driving in Scotland. To date, it is evident that the SNP Government has not fully thought through the full implications of a measure that, if properly and proportionately implemented, has the potential to prevent the misery that can result from drink driving and to save lives.

I move amendment S4M-11567.2, to insert after “roads safer”:

“; considers that the application and penalties imposed should be proportionate,”.



Meeting of the Parliament 06 November 2014 : Thursday, November 06, 2014
Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

Is the cabinet secretary aware of what appears to be an increasingly high incidence of cannabis farms being discovered in Lanarkshire in central Scotland and elsewhere? Given that that is almost certainly indicative of rising demand, what action is the Government taking to address that specific point?



Meeting of the Parliament 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

I congratulate Labour on allocating its parliamentary time to a debate on this important issue.

Expressions of religious hatred, regardless of how they are articulated, are completely unacceptable in any civilised society, and I find it deeply depressing that in Scotland today sectarian divisions continue in some local communities, frequently manifesting themselves in so-called sectarian banter or in abuse, intimidation and harassment that can, at the extreme end of the spectrum, develop into violence.

As recently as April this year, sectarian tensions once again emerged at the Glasgow cup final between the Celtic and Rangers under-17 youth teams. The match should have provided an opportunity, first and foremost, for the young players to display their skills. Although that should have been the story that dominated the headlines next day, the occasion was virtually hijacked by both teams’ supporters, who for the duration of the match taunted and derided each other with derogatory comments and songs.

It is therefore little wonder that campaigners such as Nil by Mouth have argued that the Scottish Government and the football authorities are not doing enough to combat sectarianism. However, it is vital that, in seeking to tackle the problem, we do not narrowly restrict the focus to football alone but seek to adopt a holistic and consensus-driven approach.

Moreover, it is neither desirable nor possible to arrest our way out of this problem, which seems to be the intent behind the deeply flawed Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. This fundamentally bad and poorly drafted legislation constituted a knee-jerk response to the something-must-be-done clamour, and it paved the way for the introduction of new criminal offences by statutory instrument without full and detailed parliamentary scrutiny and despite a distinct lack of consensus among key stakeholders.



Meeting of the Parliament 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Margaret Mitchell

I will come to that precise point.

In 2011, that act was railroaded through by the SNP majority Government in the face of opposition from Scottish Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who all voted against it. Those Opposition parties were not alone in their criticisms of the 2012 act. In 2013, Sheriff Richard Davidson said that it was

“horribly drafted”

and that

“Somehow the word mince comes to mind.”

His voice is only one of those in the legal profession who have spoken out against it.

Where clarity was sought, the act introduced vague, catch-all offences that some argue are very much at odds with civil liberties. In other words, the SNP response to the deeply complex issue was to introduce legislation that has served only to create confusion. Consequently—to answer Mr Mason’s point—that legislation should be repealed now in view of the fact that existing laws that do not vilify certain sections of society could easily be used to greater effect. For that reason, the Scottish Conservatives will vote for the motion and against the amendment.

The legislation, which was the SNP’s top-down response, is self-evidently not the answer to the problem. If Scotland’s sectarianism is to be eliminated, the root causes must be tackled.

The Morrow report confirms the inherent complexities of sectarianism where it exists in Scotland. It also stresses that the impact of sectarianism varies from community to community and that it is not a one-size-fits-all issue. In particular, it highlights the importance of community-led activity as the way to overcome sectarianism.

I very much welcome that approach, having been fortunate enough to see at first hand when I visited the Machan Trust’s project in Larkhall how such activity can make a transformative difference in the lives of young people. That project, which seeks to tackle sectarianism, ran successfully in bringing children and young adults of all religions and none together to participate in collaborative activities. Furthermore, YouthLink Scotland has seen proven success by addressing the issue through youth work with its action on sectarianism web portal.

Those initiatives endeavour to work with a local community where sectarian issues exist in order to educate rather than punish. As such, they are surely an example of the best way to overcome the sectarian divide.



Meeting of the Parliament 05 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Margaret Mitchell

Does the minister not accept and realise that the act is an unwelcome distraction that is taking up resources when existing law would do the job much better and we could focus on community-based approaches?



Justice Committee 04 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

My question is really just an extension of the previous one. When Chief Superintendent Murray was here he said that although data is hard to come by, it is likely that a third more drink drivers will be caught in the initial phase. That is obviously a burden on resources for other policing as well. I suppose that my question is much the same as John Finnie’s: has some thought been given to how all that will be managed?



Justice Committee 04 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Margaret Mitchell

The point is that that happened over time. Chief Superintendent Murray was saying that in the initial phase the numbers are likely to be high until the message really percolates down and people realise what has changed. It is about resourcing for that initial period, when there are likely to be more drink drivers.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

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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YesCarried

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
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Margaret Mitchell
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11567.2: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11551: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 13/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11480: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 07/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11468: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11467: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 06/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11397: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11376: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 31/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11313: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11178: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 10/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11114.1: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Margaret Mitchell
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-22936: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 24/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03595: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22466: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 22/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22226: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 01/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22227: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 01/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22228: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 01/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21815: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 17/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21812: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 17/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03329: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21608: Margaret Mitchell, Central Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2014 Show Full Question >>

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