Following the sentencing of Jason Graham for the murder of Esther Brown, Ross asks Sturgeon about the Scottish Government’s approach to prisoner early release:
Jason Graham was released early. He wasn’t monitored properly. Yesterday he got 19 years – yes, a long sentence – but not nearly enough for such a horrific crime. This week the Scottish Government launched a consultation proposing that violent criminals could get out after just six or seven years. The document suggests long-term prisoners could be considered for release after a just a third of their sentence…First Minister, can you honestly say your government’s approach to justice is keeping the people of Scotland safe?
My thoughts and sympathies are with Esther Brown’s family and her friends. Absolutely nothing I or anyone else in this chamber can say will ease the pain that family is suffering…In terms of automatic early release, of course this is an issue of contention and has been for many years in this parliament. This government legislated back in 2016 to end the previous system of automatic release for prisoners and that could not be retrospective legislation but it was an important move to make.We will continue to ensure our justice system continues to protect people from criminals and ensures victims get the justice they deserve. But also a justice system that tries to ensure – and I’m not talking about this case when I make this point – the principles of rehabilitation and reducing reoffending are at its heart.
Ross says Johnson should resign for attending a garden party at No 10 Downing Street at the height of the pandemic in 2020. He says he is concerned that the continuing debate around ‘Partygate’ will be a distraction from the good governance of the country.
Regretfully, I have to say that his position is not tenable…I don’t want to be in this position, but I am in this position now, where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives…I also have to look at the information I’ve got in front of me and stick with the position that I made quite clear yesterday that, if he did attend that party, he couldn’t continue as Prime Minister.
Ross also added that when he discussed these issues with the PM he made a defence of his own position, claiming that he hadn’t done anything wrong.
At First Minister’s questions, Ross accuses Sturgeon of treating Scottish businesses like an afterthought after still failing to pass on Westminsters rescue cash that was supposed to have been in place before Christmas. The Scottish Government’s advice on covid restrictions over Christmas had led to a huge reduction in footfall over the festive period and consequently many businesses have had to borrow huge sums of money just to survive.
Not a single penny of funding we were promised has reached businesses. Can she give a precise time-scale on when this money will be paid a month after it was announced? First Minister, this has happened time and time again. The SNP are quick to demand more money from the Westminster government but very slow to get it out to the business that need it.
When told that all 31 Scottish MSPs have called for Boris Johnson to resign, Rees-Mogg calls Ross ‘a lightweight’ and cites Alister Jack as someone of more importance in the party.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, who is a big figure is very supportive of the Prime Minister. Douglas Ross has always been quite a lightweight figure.
In response to Rees-Mogg calling Ross ‘a lightweight’ and ‘not a big figure, Sturgeon says his comments reflected the contempt with which English Tories hold Scotland itself. Ross had called on Johnson to resign after he had eventually admitted to attending an outdoor party, months after rolling out emergency pandemic legislation to make such parties illegal. Sturgeon observed:-
These might be personal insults directed at the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, but actually they say something much deeper about the Westminster establishment’s utter contempt for Scotland. If they can’t even show basic respect for their own colleagues, what chance do the rest of us have? The fact is Westminster thinks Scotland doesn’t need to be listened to, can be ignored, and now we’re being told we have to thole a Prime Minister that his own colleagues think is not fit for office.
An added benefit of being independent is that we will no longer have to put up with being treated like something on the sole of Westminster’s shoe.
Ross says Sturgeon’s covid restrictions during the festive period, compared with England, which had fewer restrictions, had adversely affected peoples jobs businesses and mental health. He said her “wrong calls” on restrictions were compounded by her government’s failure to pay compensation that had been promised to affected businesses, with some firms “still waiting for a single penny of support”.
The First Minister imposed restrictions that had a massive impact on jobs, businesses and people’s mental and physical health. But we can now see they weren’t needed. It was the Scottish public’s actions, not the SNP Government’s restrictions, that got this right. The First Minister has tried to build a reputation for caution during this pandemic – but she was far too gung-ho in imposing restrictions last month. The Government went too far.
We’re taking a sensible approach through this, which is why infection levels – though dropping now thankfully in all parts of the UK – are lower in Scotland than they are in England right now. Over the festive period, the numbers of people in hospital proportionately were lower. We’re not out of the woods yet, but I’m going to continue to take a cautious approach, because, frankly, the price of throwing caution to the wind is not paid by governments. The price of throwing caution to the wind is paid by people across the country in terms of ill health and sadly, in some cases, serious illness and death.