Claire comments on presumption against short sentences

Today the Scottish Government announced £4 million of funding for community sentences. As Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson I welcomed today’s announcement and called on the Government to bring forward plans to increase the presumption against short sentences.

My call comes ahead of the transmission of a BBC Scotland investigation to air tonight called Women Prisoners: Throw Away the Key?

You can read what I said below:

Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“Evidence shows that those who receive prison sentences of six months or less are reconvicted twice as often as those given community payback orders. This shows that the presumption against short prison sentences is working.

“As a result the Scottish Government should bring forward plans to increase the presumption against from the current three months and deliver a justice system that pursues sentences that deliver real rehabilitation.

“That is why Scottish Labour called for and welcomed the move to scrap the proposed female ‘super-prison’ and instead move towards smaller facilities with a better focus on prevention.

“At the same time we have always been clear that this can only be one part of how we modernise prison and sentencing in Scotland. This includes more alternatives to custody and support for organisations that help deliver this.

“The Government’s announcement of extra support for community sentences goes some way to addressing this and must now be followed up by taking further action on short sentences.”

Claire asks Topical on LGBTI hate crimes

Today I asked a topical question in the Scottish Parliament on tackling LGBTI hate crimes in Scotland. During the exchange with the First Minister I called for a full breakdown of LGBTI hate crime statistics.

The Scottish Parliament has a proud history in the work and legislation it has delivered to make Scotland a more inclusive and tolerant society, especially on LGBTI issues.

However we must always be vigilant that intolerance and hatred in Scotland is never given the space to grow. The 20% rise in LGBTI hate crimes shows that we must redouble our efforts to tackle violence and aggressions towards people based on their sexuality.

To fully tackle LGBTI hate crimes we must fully understand where and how these crimes are taking place. That is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to publish a full breakdown of LGBTI offences in Scotland so we can better understand the nature of these crimes.

Claire comments on Hate Crime Statistics

Today the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service released statistics relating to hate crime charges in Scotland. As Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson I commented on behalf of the party.

You can read my response below:

Commenting on the publication of Hate Crime in Scotland 2015-16 report from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said: 

“It is deeply concerning to see a rise in hate crime in Scotland. As a tolerant and inclusive society, Scotland has no place for such prejudices and the country must unite behind tackling these shameful acts.

“With the doubling of Islamic hate crimes and the year on year increases in crimes relating to both sexual orientation and disability it is clear the Scottish Government must take greater action to reverse the increase in these crimes.

“This should include supporting the Time for Inclusive Education campaign, providing a strategy which will underpin this ambition, deliver an update to the Toolkit for Teachers, and set out clear standards detailing how to support LGBTI young people and meet their needs.”

Claire supports Infant Mental Health Awareness week

Today I was pleased to support Infant Mental Health Awareness Week and to speak to NSPCC Scotland at their stall in Parliament today.

It is important that we all work together to improve services to ensure that every child gets the best start in life, including supporting good infant mental health.

Claire calls for Levenmouth Rail meeting

Following the appointment of Humza Yousaf MSP as the Scottish Government’s new Transport Minister I have written requesting a meeting to discuss the reintroduction of the Levenmouth rail link.

In my letter I highlighted that Levenmouth is the largest conurbation in Scotland that is not currently serviced by a rail link and outlined the benefits it would bring to commuters and employers such Diageo and Fife Energy Park.

During the recent Scottish Parliament election, I stood on a pledge of the re-introduction of the rail link and successfully lobbied to have it included in my party’s manifesto.

Despite the election result I am still committed to pushing for its reintroduction due to the clear benefits it would bring to the area. Continue reading

Claire asks FMQ on support for rape victims

This week a study emerged from Glasgow Caledonian University looking into the treatment of victims of rape in the aftermath of attacks.

According to the report, too many victims have to wait over 24 hours to be examined, with the examinations predominantly carried out by male specialists. Police officers have described the treatment of some victims as “despicable” and “horrendous.”

I raised the issue during First Minister’s Questions today. You can watch my question and the First Minister’s response in the video below.

Claire calls for Fife MSPs to vote for a ‘Frack Free Fife’

Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament can vote for a ban on fracking in Scotland after Scottish Labour submitted an amendment to a Government motion that calls for the ban to be introduced.

I have been campaigning for some time for a Frack Free Fife and this week offers the perfect opportunity for all Fife politicians to unite behind that goal.

Currently the Scottish Government has stopped short of implanting a full ban on fracking, introducing a moratorium (a short term pause) on the process instead. This is despite repeated calls from Scottish Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Green’s for an outright ban.

The Scottish Government can take decisive action against UCG and fracking in Fife and we know that from community groups, to national environmental organisations, to Fife Council there is support for an outright ban. Continue reading

Claire welcomes Fife bathing water classifications

Recently the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) announced the classifications of bathing waters for throughout Scotland, including Fife.

According to SEPA, 4 of Fife’s 14 designated bathing waters have been classed as ‘excellent’ with a further 7 rated as ‘good’. Only one area, Kinghorn Harbour Beach, was rated as ‘poor’.

The classifications are a result of the new European classification system which has resulted in much tighter water quality standards. Under the new regulations, four years of monitoring data is used to provide a more consistent picture of water quality.

The 4 ‘excellent’ areas in Fife are amongst the 17 across the country that received the top rating. A further 38 throughout Scotland were rated as ‘good’, 12 ‘sufficient’ and 17 as ‘poor’. Continue reading

National Epilepsy Week

This week is National Epilepsy Week and today in Parliament I signed up to Epilepsy Scotland’s campaign #epilepsygetsmyvote.

Epilepsy is a serious neurological condition that affects one person in 97 and over 55,000 in Scotland suffer from the condition.

Research findings suggest that whilst just over half of people with epilepsy have seizure control, seven in ten could become seizure free if they received optimum care.

That is why support for people with epilepsy gets my vote.

BBC Charter Renewal

Yesterday the UK Government published their white paper on the future of the BBC.

I welcome their recognition of the importance of the BBC to both the general public and the creative industries. I am also pleased that the BBC’s scale and scope has not been reduced and that the licence fee has been secured for the duration of the upcoming charter.

There is a recognition in the white paper of the need for more decentralised decision making which will lead to greater Scottish content but this must be balanced with delivering a sustainable BBC, where skills and jobs are secured and high quality programmes produced.

Scottish Labour will continue to work towards securing the best deal for viewers in Scotland and throughout the UK.

You can read more about charter renewal here.