Labour policy on blade and alchohol culture criticised

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By G.A.Ponsonby

SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has reaffirmed the SNP’s commitment to addressing Scotland’s knife crime and alcohol culture as Labour’s stance came under attack from a senior prison official.

Mr MacAskill pledged that the tough policies that have resulted in knife crime falling by a third in Scotland would remain in place if the SNP are re-elected on May 5th.

In a statement yesterday the Justice Secretary condemned the booze and blade culture that has seen many young lives blighted but insisted that tough stop and search policies introduced by the SNP were having an effect.

Mr MacAskill said: “Knife crime is ugly, insidious, brutal – and, unfortunately, still all too prevalent in Scotland.  Far too many youngsters, particularly in Glasgow and the West, carry a blade as a badge of honour.  And far too many then use it, causing tragedy for themselves and their victims.”

The SNP policy of implementing police stop and search procedures against knife carriers has resulted in knife crime offences dropping by 3000 a year, a fall of a third.

The SNP have attacked Labour’s plan to jail anyone who leaves their front door with a knife in their possession describing it as “unworkable and ineffective”.  The Nationalists claim that the policy would see innocent hobbyists and workers and forgetful members of the public facing criminal records and jail sentences.

The SNP also attacked the confused messages coming from Labour over the mandatory nature of the policy after Labour’s finance spokesperson, Andy Kerr, told Newsnight Scotland that in reality the courts would have a “degree of latitude” in their knife crime sentencing and that judges could take decisions “based on the evidence before them”.

Labour’s policy has also been attacked by the head of the Police Federation in Scotland who told the Sunday Times that he’s unconvinced the policy can work in practice, while a spokesperson for the Prison Officers’ Association (Scotland) described the plan in a letter to the Herald as “simply not credible”.  Andy Hogg said: “Scottish Labour seem to be completely unaware that Scotland’s prisons are already several hundred over capacity, and the opening of HMP Low Moss will simply alleviate current pressure.”

Mr Hogg claimed that Labour’s policy ran the risk of “seriously compromising the safety of both prisoners and prison officers”.

The SNP insisted that the best way to tackle the scourge of booze and blade was by increasing stop and searches, putting police on the streets, giving young people alternatives by investing the proceeds of crime in activities in their communities and making the average sentence for using a knife longer.

The party have also pledged to maintain their fight against cheap booze by pushing for a minimum price of alcohol in the coming term.  The policy was opposed by Labour in Holyrood despite support from police and health professionals and charities.