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EDITIONS
Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Swinney critical of private prison
The parliament is in recess from Friday 28 June until Monday 2 September.

The Scottish National Party has claimed that official figures on Kilmarnock Prison prove that private jails are not viable.

SNP leader John Swinney said that levels of vandalism, arson and possession of unauthorised substances made Kilmarnock the worst jail north of the border.

Mr Swinney said that figures collated from a series of Scottish Executive Parliamentary Answers showed the prison was underperforming.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace described the claim as "simply bizarre" and that Kilmarnock set a fine example for other penal institutions.


Highland youth crime targeted

Deputy justice minister Dr Richard Simpson has launched two services aimed at tackling youth crime and substance misuse in the Highlands.

A number of different agencies are being brought together under the umbrella of two organisations - the Highland Youth Action Service, and Gael Og.

They will provide a "joined up" approach to the problems and offer a range of different programs -- from primary school education projects, to training schemes for young offenders.


Children's commissioner call wins support

Calls for the creation of a children's commissioner have received the backing of Scotland's education minister.

The Scottish Parliament's education, culture and sport committee recommended the introduction of an independent champion for children's rights in a report last month.

Cathy Jamieson has now given the Scottish Executive's full backing to that campaign.

She said: "I see the commissioner as a champion for all children and young people - but those most at risk of exclusion and deprivation must be the priority."


Socialists make NHS pay pledge

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has pledged to pay every NHS worker in Scotland a minimum wage of 7.32 an hour if it wins the Scottish Parliament elections next year.

SSP party convener Tommy Sheridan said his party would also impose a maximum working week of 35 hours in the health service and scrap all prescription charges.

Mr Sheridan said the measures would cost at most 311m to implement, and would improve retention and recruitment in the NHS by raising staff morale.

He said the figure of 7.32 was calculated by the Low Pay Unit as the minimum hourly rate to meet the Council of Europe decency threshold.


Bid to improve Scotland's health

First Minister Jack McConnell has announced plans for a multi-million pound campaign to improve Scotland's diet over the next ten years.

The first minister said he intended to spend "tens of millions" on the healthy eating initiative which would build on successful schemes like school breakfast clubs.

He said the initiative would see various health agencies brought under one roof, including the physical activity task force and drug and smoking campaigns.

He said: "I am embarrassed that Scotland is described as the sick man or woman of Europe - we don't live in a country that has to be like that."

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.


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