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banner Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
SNP rejects private prisons
HMP Kilmarnock
HMP Kilmarnock is Scotland's only private prison
Prison privatisation does not work and it is not right, the Scottish National Party's justice spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham has told a conference in Dundee.

The SNP passed a resolution calling for a halt to prison privatisation and a pay and conditions review for prison staff.

But a call by leftwinger Alex Neil for the party to consider committing itself to taking Kilmarnock prison back into public ownership if it wins the 2003 election was rejected.

Ms Cunningham opened the debate claiming that Justice Minister Jim Wallace had presided over "insecurity, uncertainty and unrest" in the prison service.

Roseanna Cunningham:
Roseanna Cunningham: "Not being effectively managed"
She told activists that Scottish prison officers who staged a strike in April had done so after feeling themselves "under siege as never before".

She said morale among prison officers was at "rock bottom" and Mr Wallace was taking "not a blind bit of notice".

"The prison system in Scotland is effectively not being managed," she said.

"Jim Wallace has presided over a period of uncertainty, insecurity and unrest and it is time he started to take some responsibility for the situation."

She claimed the Labour party was intent on pursuing a policy of more prison privatisation.

Appropriate arena

"Prison privatisation doesn't work and it isn't right," said Ms Cunningham.

She said a report had shown the true costs of Scotland's only private prison, in Kilmarnock, was 290m over 25 years, rather than the 130m reported by Labour.

She added that the prison service was a "duty of state and not an appropriate arena for private profit".

A graphic description of "degrading" scenes of prison slopping-out procedures was spelt out Dorothy-Grace Elder, MSP for Glasgow region.

Dorothy Grace Elder
Dorothy Grace Elder: "Outrage"
She said that slopping out at Glasgow's Barlinnie prison was an "outrage" condemned by every responsible body in Europe.

"Eight hundred prisoners in Barlinnie have only 75 toilets," she told delegates.

"The slopping out scene at dawn is beyond any degradation I have seen, even in Russia.

"Steam from the faeces rises up through the halls into the cells where men must eat."

She told of men walking in line to empty chamber pots.

Public ownership

Ms Elder claimed prison officer morale at Barlinnie was the lowest she had seen in 25 years of visiting the jail.

The resolution calling for a range of measures, including a halt to prison privatisation and a pay and conditions review for prison staff was passed by delegates.

But a call by Alex Neil MSP for Kilmarnock prison to be taken back into public ownership by the SNP if it wins the 2003 election was rejected.

Mr Neil said: "I realise taking Kilmarnock back into public ownership might be expensive but we as a party have to look at that."

But Ms Cunningham said that would involve huge financial and legal implications.

See also:

19 Sep 01 | SNP
Euro 'no' vote urged by MSP
12 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scotland's leaders united in sorrow
26 Aug 01 | Scotland
SNP takes policy message on tour
23 Sep 00 | SNP
Emphatic SNP win for Swinney
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