2016 Holyrood Elections: Review of Party Manifestos

2016 Holyrood Elections: Review of Party Manifestos

Howard League Scotland


We have reviewed the manifestos of the five parties currently represented at Holyrood, comparing the various pledges and commitments against five key issues where Howard League Scotland would most like to see action in the next Parliamentary session:


• Reducing the prison population
• Reducing the use of remand
• Better use of community sentences
• Reducing the female prison population
• Increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility


We have focussed on the section of the manifestos that relates specifically to justice issues. However, we recognise that it is important to consider the party manifesto commitments on justice in a wider context. Many of the solutions to the issues above lie outside the criminal justice system and in health, education, housing and employment policy. 




Howard League Scotland says:


There are still too many people prison in Scotland.


Scotland’s imprisonment rate is one of the highest in western Europe. There are currently 7,937 people in Scottish prisons today. The Scottish Prisons Commission (2008) recommended that the Scottish Government pursue a target of reducing the prison population to an average daily population of 5,000.  The current set of prison population projections suggest that prison population levels in Scotland will remain at an annual average of 7,800 between now and 2022/23.


What do the party manifestos say?

Scottish Conservatives want to


• end automatic early release for all prisoners


• abolish parole for the “worst offenders”


• send anyone in breach of a Community Payback Order to prison for 24 or 48 hours


• introduce payment-by-results schemes to tackle reoffending


Scottish Greens want to


• encourage greater use of diversion from prosecution


• abolish short prison sentences of less than 12 months


• ensure custodial sentences are only used for those who pose a threat to the public


• decriminalise the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use, and decriminalise the possession of drugs that grow wild in the UK
Scottish Labour want to


• introduce a presumption against prison sentences of less than six months


Scottish Liberal Democrats want to


• reduce overall prisoner numbers


• introduce a new presumption against short prison sentences of less than 12 months


• work with the Sentencing Council to change prosecution and sentencing guidelines to refer those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use for treatment, education or civil penalties, ending the use of imprisonment


Scottish National Party wants to


• support new efforts to deliver effective alternatives to custody