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Sturgeon set to sack Justice Minister MacAskill

There are changes afoot Smile

KENNY MacAskill is about to be axed as Justice Secretary as new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon forms her Cabinet.

Mr MacAskill has come under widespread and withering criticism for his handling of the justice brief since being appointed in May 2007.

He has fallen out with various groups and organisations, including the judiciary, especially over his determination to abolish the centuries-old corroboration rule, one of the cornerstones of Scottish criminal law.

Mr MacAskill has been at the centre of a series of controversies, including the early release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds in August 2009, early automatic release for sex offenders and violent criminals and the routine arming of police. This string of rows has been seen to have eroded public confidence in the justice system.

   Alex Salmond resigned because he lost the referendum, but the Three Stooges – Alex Neil, Mike Russell and Kenny MacAskill, should all face the sack for their collective incompetence

   Party spokesman

Among those tipped to replace him Mr MacAskill is current Transport Minister and Falklands veteran Keith Brown, who narrowly failed to win the job as SNP deputy leader. Mr Brown is well liked within his party and is seen as a safe pair of hands to take over at justice.

Yesterday, during her first ever First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, newly installed Ms Sturgeon notably failed to personally back Mr MacAskill when asked by Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie when he would be sacked.

She had earlier been sworn in as First Minister of Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh following the resignation of Alex Salmond from the post after seven years.

Other senior Ministers who could be moved are Education Secretary Michael Russell, Health Secretary Alex Neil – who replaced Ms Sturgeon in that brief – and Culture and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

It’s understood that Ms Sturgeon may also take the opportunity to promote more women into senior posts. Yesterday, Scottish Labour called for a “Cabinet clear- out”, claiming failures in health, education and justice meant heads had to roll.

A party spokesman said: “Alex Salmond resigned because he lost the referendum, but the Three Stooges – Alex Neil, Mike Russell and Kenny MacAskill, should all face the sack for their collective incompetence. Alex Neil has broken promises he made to cancer sufferers as well as putting the NHS in crisis, Mike Russell has failed school pupils, college and university students and Kenny MacAskill’s charge sheet includes a botched centralisation of Scotland’s police force, a clumsy attempt to remove corroboration from Scotland’s  justice system and armed police on the streets.”

The spokesman added: “If Nicola Sturgeon means what she says about having a new start, then she can get rid of these failed ministers.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: “It may be that the absence of any sort of defence of the Justice Secretary by Nicola Sturgeon is a tell-tale sign of things to come. If the new First Minister wants to walk away from Alex Salmond’s illiberal record on justice, she cannot afford to haver. She must sack Kenny MacAskill.”

A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “The new First Minister will confirm her ministerial line-up in the coming days. I am not going to indulge in speculation.”

The full list of Cabinet appointments are:

• Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy – John Swinney MSP.

• Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities – Keith Brown MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training – Roseanna Cunningham MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning - Angela Constance MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport – Shona Robison MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights – Alex Neil MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Justice – Michael Matheson MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment – Richard Lochhead MSP

• Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs – Fiona Hyslop MSP
Iain McKie

I await some insight into how Mr Mathieson will handle the justice brief.

I see it as positive that he is not a lawyer but we are well aware how powerful the justice system is and how it can isolate those who might try to change it - particularly outsiders.

There is also a danger that the already incestuous relationship between the Lord Advocate and government becomes even closer. If ever effective political monitoring of the Crown Office was needed it is now.

In passing I would put on record my respect for Mike Russell, Alex Neil and even Kenny MacAskill who  are labelled the 'three stooges' by the right wing 'Express' which desperately hangs on to the past and is firmly rooted in Westminster and therefore no friend of Scotland.

From an intellectual, visionary point of view there are few if any on the opposition benches who could hold a candle to them. Michael and Alex particularly have been powerful advocates for Shirley and now Alex Neil is in the forefront of Willie Gage’s battle to prove his undoubted innocence.

While I can well understand the wish to create ministerial gender equality it remains to be seen if giving three relatively unexperienced politicians the three most onerous government briefs will pay off.
Big Wullie

Like Iain I too hold Alex Neill and Mike Russell in high esteem although I cannot say the same for MacAskill who in my opinion is all for Victims and unwilling to listen to Miscarriages or anything that would bring the justice system into disrepute.

I think he damaged the justice system beyond repair with his emergency legislation and the way he tried to force through the removal of corroboration with his heavy handed tactics.

It however remains to be seen if Mr Matheson will be a figurehead or his own man.

Only time will tell.

Perhaps we could write to the new justice minister with our concerns over cases of miscarriage of justice and ask if he has any new ways he will deal with these?
Iain McKie

I feel it is important that those who have concerns about justice make them known to the Justice Secretary.

I know he receives many representations from the political and legal spheres but precious few I guess from those actually affected by his decisions.

While it is unlikely he will do other than a polite response writing ensures that issues are at least on his radar.

I certainly intend contacting him shortly re issues on my agenda. Forum Index -> Test Forum 1
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Sincere thanks to all those who have supported Shirley and challenged miscarriages of justice on this forum.