Franchise Bill Misses Chance To Aid Rehabilitation

Green MSP Patrick Harvie is describing today's decision by the Referendum Bill committee of the Scottish Parliament to rule out any votes for prisoners as a missed opportunity to aid rehabilitation.

Mr Harvie tabled amendments to the Franchise Bill, which determines who gets to vote in next year's independence referendum. These offered options for ending the blanket ban on prisoners voting, such as extending the vote to prisoners serving sentences of less than six months and to inmates who had less than six months of their sentence left to serve at the time of the vote.

But MSPs from the SNP, Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats voted against the amendments.

In today's Scotsman the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, says the ban on voting has no punishment value. He says voting could help prisoners be rehabilitated into society.

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:

"Nine years ago the European Court ruled that banning prisoners from voting in elections was unlawful. It's unfortunate that we are heading towards probably the most important vote in Scotland's history without applying the same principle to the referendum. It's a bizarre situation rightly being questioned by Dr McLellan andother informed groups and individuals.

"The deputy first minister insists human rights legislation doesn't apply to referendums but this doesn't excuse the tone the government is setting. We had a chance to aid rehabilitation in our justice system. It's a real opportunity lost."