Kenny MacAskill

Prison officers were once willing to work with over-capacity in jails but a pensions row could remove goodwill. Picture: Michael Cooper/PA Wire

Prison numbers crisis is not new but solving it will now be harder

A prison numbers ­crisis is nothing new. I ­experienced it early in office with weekly reports passed on to Cabinet. It wasn’t easy and disaster was faced on ­several ­occasions. That I remained in office was down to the willingness of prison officers to work with numbers over capacity, that they could have rejected. Now we’re back there again but it’ll be harder this time.

The list of possible medical actions is growing and so too are the demands for treatment on the NHS. Picture: Getty

Kenny MacAskill: Here’s what we need to do to save NHS Scotland from going under

HMS Health is slowly sinking. For sure, NHS Scotland isn’t going under any time soon but it’s most certainly taking in water. Fortunately it is in calmer waters than in England or Wales, as a report from Nuffield Trust showed. For that, those currently charting the route deserve some credit, as health services across the Western world are equally feeling the squalls.

Nicola Sturgeon's speech to the SNP conference was well-crafted, well delivered and well received. Picture: John Devlin

Kenny MacAskill: Tax rises are inevitable and it’s simply a question of how much and who will be paying

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP conference was well-crafted and well delivered – you’d expect no less from a consummate politician. It was equally well received by delegates even if it was less revivalist than in past years. Some announcements had been trailed, others were delivered fresh to the excitement of party members and interest to the media. It certainly painted a picture of the fairer Scotland that she seeks.

Nicola Sturgeon has played to the gallery at past conferences, getting rapturous applause. Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Kenny MacAskill: A mix of grievance and justification will rally the SNP’s rank and file

The SNP gathers on Sunday in better heart than might previously have been anticipated. After all, it’s the first conference for many years following an electoral setback, and the loss of so many party stalwarts was a shock to the system. Mutterings and discontent had started amongst newer members who are not used to reversals, and amidst party stalwarts concerned about future direction. Not just a second independence referendum, but the political positioning of the party was being privately questioned.

Incarceration should be for those who are a danger to the community and need to be segregated for our security

Kenny MacAskill: Tackling social problems is best addressed in communities, not prisons

Increasing the period for a presumption against prison sentences has been under discussion for some time. There’s a growing acceptance of the need to extend the current period of three months, and there is backing for it in law enforcement and the correctional field. Senior figures, from Scotland’s most senior judge, through HM Inspector of Prisons and those that work in the justice system, have endorsed the proposal. Politically, it’s likely that the Scottish Government will have the parliamentary support required, so it is almost certain to become law.

Modern slavery and human trafficking is happening right here and now across Scotland. Picture: PA

Kenny MacAskill: We have a duty to make sure no-one is enslaved anywhere, least of all here

It’s the 21st century, but slavery is sadly still with us, not simply in reminders from the past in the shape of statues. It’s ongoing and happening in our communities. Perhaps it’s not as institutionalised as in past centuries where it was ingrained in societies, but it’s most certainly commercialised. This time it’s not through great trading companies who made vast fortunes, but through serious and organised crime groups, who equally make huge profits out of human misery. Some are international gangs or triads, others are our own ne’er-do-wells.

Ruth Davidson serves up ice creams on the election campaign trail in Giffnock. Picture: John Devlin

Kenny MacAskill: The Tories have clawed their way back, but to what purpose?

The Scottish Tories have come a long way since being wiped out in 1997’s election, ironically saved by devolution. David McLetchie and Annabel Goldie’s wit steadied the ship, Ruth Davidson energised them and the independence referendum revitalised them. 20 years on they’re the principal opposition in the Scottish Parliament and ensconced in the UK Government.

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