Scotland politics

Scottish election: Parties focus on justice and elderly

Iain Gray, Alex Salmond, Tavish Scott and Annabel Goldie
Image caption Party leaders hit the campaign trail the day after the STV political debate

Scotland's main parties have been focusing on their plans for justice and care for older people, as election campaigning continued.

The SNP outlined its plans for improved victims' rights, while the Tories focussed on early prisoner release.

Labour pledged a national charter for social care and the Lib Dems unveiled their policy on council tax cuts for pensioners.

Voters go to the polls in the Scottish Parliament election on 5 May.

Party campaigning continued after the main four party leaders went head-to-head in a debate on STV.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said his party would bring a new Victim's Rights Bill to speed up compensation payments and extend the scheme where cash seized from criminals is spent in local communities.

He pledged to try to lift the £30m cap on the cashback for communities initiative, which he said had benefited more than 300,000 young people.

Mr Salmond said: "Our Victims Rights Bill will enshrine in law the rights of victims to compensation and damages, ensure victims receive compensation faster with quicker action taken against those that fail to pay, increase the support and information available to victims and increase the protection available to victims during the court process.

"And we will make sure that, when it comes to obtaining compensation, we will act to ensure victims get the money they are due without having to cross paths with those who offended against them."

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said her party "quickly realised the error" of automatic early release of prisoners after the system was introduced.

She said the Conservatives would fight to end the "discredited" policy in the next parliament, while claiming the main Holyrood opposition parties had frustrated efforts to scrap the practice.

'Strolling out'

Miss Goldie said: "Although it was the last Conservative UK government which introduced early release, they quickly realised the error of this system, and so left a repeal of early release on the statute books in 1997.

"This was ignored by the incoming UK Labour government.

"Sentences are already cut by up to 50% irrespective of the criminal's conduct in jail. In many cases they are released after 25% of their sentence with a tag."

Miss Goldie added: "As it stands, someone who now gets 12 months in jail could be strolling out in a matter of weeks."

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said his party's social care charter would ensure equal services for older people across Scotland.

The service would merge health and social care into a single organisation with a dedicated budget, taking control of social care away from councils and absorbing some duties performed by the NHS.

Mr Gray said: "I want to see fair care for all older people, with the same high standards no matter what part of the country you live in.

"This report is an important step forward in developing Labour's plan for a new national care service, which I want to see it up and running within the lifetime of the next parliament."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott said pensioners on incomes of less than £10,000 would not have to pay any council tax.

Mr Scott, whose party backs the abolition of council tax, said: "Our plans will lift 20,000 pensioners who live on less than £10,000 a year out of paying council tax altogether."

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