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New chief tears into for-profits.
ROBBIE DINWOODIE - The Herald July 23, 2002

AN outspoken attack on the Scottish Executive's plans for more privatised jails was made yesterday by the new chief inspector of prisons on the day he was appointed.

The Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, will take over from Clive Fairweather, who had also become an ardent opponent of bringing the private sector into the penal system.

Dr McLellan has also criticised the proposal to close Peterhead and said yesterday that he "remained to be convinced" by the argument for private prisons. Citing the examples of schools and hospitals, Dr McLellan questioned their cost effectiveness and morality on the grounds that only the state can imprison, so only the state should take responsibility.

He opposed the proposed closure of Peterhead because the local community was keen to retain the jail and its renowned programme for treating sex offenders.

Dr McLellan, who will take over in October, added: "I want to be involved in controversial and difficult matters. All credit to Clive Fairweather for the way he has been prepared to be fearless, and I will be glad to follow in his footsteps."

Claims that the government wanted a placeman were confounded with his appointment, which has called into question the executive's will to drive through their proposed reforms. Only in March Jim Wallace, the justice minister, announced plans to build three new private jails and close two prisons, with the loss of 670 jobs.

Proposals in the prison estates review include the closure of Peterhead and Low Moss, at Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, and the reduction in size of Barlinnie, Scotland's largest prison, by almost 50%.

During his year as moderator, Dr McLellan visited every prison in Scotland and wrote a report critical of the principle of privatisation. His charge, St Andrew's and St George's in Edinburgh, has links with Saughton prison and he was chaplain to Cornton Vale women's prison.

Mr Wallace said yesterday: "I am delighted that Dr McLellan has agreed to take up this appointment. No one can be in any doubt as to his independence and his commitment to prisons. He will make an excellent chief inspector."

He said of Mr Fairweather, a former SAS soldier appointed by a Conservative government eight years ago: "He has been compassionate and forthright in the eight years he has served as chief inspector, having been reappointed twice to the post."

Roseanna Cunningham, the SNP's shadow justice minister, said the appointment signalled the demise of prison privatisation, given that Dr McLellan, as both former moderator and as former convener of the Kirk's church and nation committee, had outlined his opposition in principle to the policy.

"Labour may have thought they were getting rid of a thorn in their side by removing Clive Fairweather, but I suspect they will soon find that their attempt to silence the inspectorate has fallen flat," she said.

"I am sure that Andrew McLellan will take a dispassionate, objective view of the Prison Service, just as Clive Fairweather did, and with it come to the conclusion that further privatisation will be a disaster."

Mr Fairweather, although wounded by his failure to win a further term, said he was pleased by the choice of successor. He hoped the emphasis would continue to be on encouraging prison officers to work with inmates and be role models.

"There should be not revolutions, but incremental changes, yet officers are facing the threat of more change with 40% of their number being privatised. How do you make them see it as a vocation, if you are privatising them into a turnkey job?"

Mr Fairweather also gave a typically colourful view on his relationship with the government of the day. "In the past I was accused of being a rottweiler, and it was said they were looking for a poodle," he said. "But I always thought I was more of a collie, giving them the odd nip or peeing on them occasionally. I hope my successor will do the same."

Glasgow-born Dr McLellan is a staunch campaigner against nuclear weapons and said yesterday that he had not yet decided whether he would be back at Faslane for the demonstration next February. By not ruling out going to Faslane, Dr McLellan opened up the intriguing possibility of the chief inspector seeing remand cells from the inside, although he pointed out that, when he attended last year, he made clear he would not break the law and risk arrest.

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