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Chamber and committees

Justice Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Agenda: Interests, Decision on Taking Business in Private, Petitions, Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1



Justice for Megrahi (PE1370)

The Convener

Agenda item 3 is consideration of public petitions. The committee is asked to consider and agree what action, if any, it wishes to take on the petitions. Possible options are outlined in paragraph 5 of paper 1, which is a note by the clerk. I refer members to that paper. I remind members that, if they wish to keep a petition open, they should indicate how the committee should take it forward, and that, if they wish to close a petition, they should give reasons for that.

The first petition, which is on an independent inquiry into the Megrahi conviction, is discussed on page 2 of the clerk’s paper. I invite members’ views on the petition.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

We should be consistent with the decision that we took the last time that we considered the petition. Operation Sandwood continues and, in light of that, we have no option but to keep the petition open. I am very happy to do that.

The Convener

Do members agree that we should keep the petition open pending the completion of operation Sandwood?

Members indicated agreement.

Fatalities (Investigations) (PE1567)

The Convener

Petitions PE1501 and PE1567, on investigating unascertained deaths, suicides and fatal accidents, are discussed on pages 3 and 4 of the clerk’s paper. I invite members’ views on both the petitions. Who wants to kick off?

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

Both petitions have run their course. I note the additional contribution at annex C from James Jones. I am not inclined to regard that as changing my view that we have reached the point at which we should close the petitions, but it is worth saying why that is the case.

Mandating something in the past, which is essentially what is being asked for, ought not to be necessary. It is possible for a fatal accident inquiry to be held in the circumstances addressed by Mr Jones. We do not need to take any action here for that to be the case. The usual way to make assessments is entirely proper.

It was perfectly proper for the two petitions to be brought here, but they have run their course and we should draw them to a conclusion.

The Convener

There has certainly been a lot of correspondence from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and satisfactory answers seem to have been given to the petitioners. We have had no further communication from the petitioners. Mr Jones is a third party, and he is moving off the petition ever so slightly.

Is it the committee’s view that it is time to close the petitions and that they have been dealt with satisfactorily?

Members indicated agreement.

Inverness Fire Service Control Room (PE1511)

Petitions PE1510 and PE1511 are on police and fire service control rooms. The two petitions are discussed on pages 5 and 6 of the clerk’s paper. I invite members’ views on both petitions.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

In the letter of 31 August on petition PE1511, the author has strayed considerably from the original intention of the petition. The letter includes gratuitous comments and factual inaccuracies. For example, with regard to the first paragraph 4, there are more middle managers in the Highlands and Islands than was previously the case.

The second paragraph 7 refers to morale. I am always interested in how morale is gauged, because it is a personal rather than a collective matter. It also comments on retirements, but the situation is entirely in line with the profile of the service and is consistent with the position across Scotland. In addition, there is enhanced training in the islands.

I would be happy to ask the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for its views on the issues, but the letter strays way beyond the initial lines of the petition.

That is helpful.

Liam McArthur

I agree with John Finnie’s point about asking the SFRS for a response to the points made. Perhaps it might want to limit itself to the points relating to the petition, but I would leave that open to the service to determine.

The letter raises issues on which it would be helpful to get a response from Scottish ministers. Therefore, I would support inviting them to respond on the same basis.

The Convener

A lot of issues have been raised and it is only fair that the service gets a chance to respond to them. Are we all of a mind to keep the petitions open? An added complication is that the Scottish Police Authority still needs to look at the interim arrangements for Inverness. Do we agree to keep the petitions open and to ask for responses from the SFRS and the Scottish Government?

Members indicated agreement.

Thank you very much. I suspend the meeting briefly to get the witnesses in for agenda item 4.

10:09 Meeting suspended.  

10:10 On resuming—