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Wednesday, September 1, 1999 Published at 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK

UK: Scotland

Parliament considers emergency Bill

The first full session gets under way on Wednesday

Ministers have published details of the first piece of legislation to be introduced by the Scottish Parliament.

They have introduced a Bill aimed at closing the loophole which allowed killer Noel Ruddle to walk free from the state psychiatric hospital at Carstairs.

The Mental Health (Public Safety and Appeals) Scotland Bill seeks to amend current mental health legislation.

[ image: Noel Ruddle: Prompted new legislation]
Noel Ruddle: Prompted new legislation
Ruddle, who was detained at Carstairs for killing a neighbour in 1991, successfully argued at Lanark Sheriff Court that treatment procedures at the hospital were of no benefit to him and his detention was no longer justified.

The release prompted a political storm with the Scottish Executive accused of failing to act to ensure Ruddle was detained and revelations that further applications for liberation by killers at Carstairs were imminent.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace, who appeared before the parliament's Justice Committee on Tuesday, said the Scottish Executive had no option but to allow Ruddle to go free.

However, he said the Bill which will be debated by MSPs on Thursday, would require sheriffs to put public safety at the forefront when dealing with a patient's application for release.

It outlines plans for a right of appeal for both parties and powers of detention for the First Minster pending the outcome of an appeal.

Personality disorders

And it calls for patients with personality disorders to be included within the definition of mental disorder.

The Bill was published as MSPs, who adjourned shortly after the new parliament was officially opened on 1 July, prepared to convene for the first time since the summer recess.

During a debating session on Wednesday afternoon, ministers insisted they made every effort to save the Continental tyre factory at Newbridge, near Edinburgh, which is to close with the loss of around 800 jobs.

Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, Henry McLeish, said every effort was made to persuade the German owners to continue to invest in Scotland.

He told MSPs: "At the end of the day, however, it is not the job of government to tell companies how to run their business.

'Invest further'

"If, like Continental, they feel that they do not want to invest further, then unfortunately we cannot force them to."

Mr McLeish said a government-appointed action team had been set up to find new employment for the workers and the future use of the site would also be considered.

[ image: John Swinney: Continental concerns]
John Swinney: Continental concerns
But the Scottish National Party's enterprise and lifelong spokesman, John Swinney, voiced concern that the strength of sterling may have played a part in Continental's decision.

He said a Continental company minute had revealed an unwillingness by government to offer support to the plant "over a period of five years".

And he added: "The government has presented a case for acting in a reactive fashion, rather than a proactive fashion.

"The government has not delivered the active company development support that could have been expected by a company facing the challenges within the manufacturing sector."

Mr McLeish said the Labour government and previous Conservative administration had been in regular contact with Continental over the future of the plant and told MSPs the controversial company minute was not a view shared by senior management.

He added: "I would want to refute utterly and totally the criticisms in particular which were made by certain members of the SNP about zero response - it simply didn't happen."

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