SNP must reverse bizarre decision to scrap prison committees


For immediate release 1 February 2012

A Scottish Green Party motion on the Justice Secretary's decision to scrap prison visiting committees will be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.* The motion has attracted support from all opposition parties.

The loss of prison visiting committees would leave Scotland as the only part of the UK without regular, independent monitoring of prisons. Visiting Committees currently carry out around 1500 unannounced visits to prisons each year, monitoring prison conditions and dealing with prisoner complaints among other duties.

In particular, Greens have highlighted the inconsistency with the Prison and Fire Reform Bill proposal to set up independent monitoring for police cells.**

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"The Government’s decision to end the important work of prison visiting committees is quite bizarre, and it’s clear that there’s disquiet even on the SNP backbenches. Kenny MacAskill seems to want to provide a poorer service at a higher cost, all for the aim of hitting arbitrary targets on the number of public bodies in Scotland.

"At the same time, he’s making independent visiting arrangements a statutory requirement for police custody – exactly the opposite of his position on prisons. The contradiction makes no sense, and I’m pleased that the other opposition parties have backed my motion to call for the Minister to keep the visiting committees. We should be helping them to deliver a better service, not scrapping them and bringing their work to an end."


* The motion being tabled by the Scottish Conservatives for their allotted debate on Thursday is, by agreement, a direct copy of Patrick Harvie's motion, which can been seen at

** See Chapter 16 of the draft Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill: