Debate needed on voting in jail

THIS week the Scottish Parliament will have its first opportunity to debate voting rights for prisoners, in the Stage 1 debate on the Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill put forward by the Scottish Government. The bill proposes that all convicted offenders who are being held in prison on the date of the referendum should be barred from taking part, whether or not Westminster meantime grants some prisoners voting rights in elections.

We understand and respect that a wide variety of views exist within the parliament and society more generally on whether some or all convicted prisoners should be able to vote.

This Tuesday, we ask only that the proposal to exclude all convicted prisoners, without exception, from taking part in a decision with such significant implications for their future is subjected to full and serious debate by MSPs, reflecting the value placed in Scotland on democratic rights, social justice and the effective rehabilitation of offenders.

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Dr Oliver Aldridge, addiction medicine specialist; Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People; Mark Bevan, Amnesty Scotland; Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty; Andrew Coyle, former prison governor; Mike Dailly, Govan Law Centre; Andrew Deans, Scottish Youth Parliament; Mike Ewart, former chief Scottish Prison Service; Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton, Church of Scotland; Tom Halpin, Sacro; Alison Hannah, Penal Reform International; Martin Johnstone, Faith in Community Scotland; Tony Kelly, Solicitor; Kaliani Lyle, Equality and Human Rights Commission; Juliet Lyon, Prison Reform Trust; Margaret Malloch, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research; Robin McAlpine, Jimmy Reid Foundation; Isabel McCue, Theatre Nemo; Gill McIvor, University of Stirling; Andrew McLellan, former inspector of prisons; Fergus McNeill, University of Glasgow; Jim Murdoch, University of Glasgow; Mike Nellis, University of Strathclyde; John Scott, Howard League for Penal Reform; David Shrigley, artist; Morag Sievwright, Faith in Throughcare; Richard Sparks, University of Edinburgh; Alec Spencer, University of Stirling; Alan Staff, Apex Scotland; Ruth Stark, Scottish Association of Social Work; Cyrus Tata, University of Strathclyde; Richard Thomson, Recruit With Conviction; Jackie Tombs, Glasgow Caledonian University; Robin Waterston, Quakers in Scotland; Pete White, Positive Prison? Positive Futures