Raising the standard

Scotland's communities

Key pledges

The challenge

Long term unemployment, inadequate support for the chronically sick and disabled and poor housing conditions continue to create unacceptable levels of hardship and insecurity in Scotland.

Too many of our families live in poverty. Too many of our citizens, and particularly pensioners, live in fear of crime.

As a country we need urgent action at a strategic level to reclaim our inner cities, urban housing estates and isolated rural communities to make them places where people want to live again.

Our priorities

Providing opportunites

The Scottish Parliament must establish a close working relationship with the UK Government to address directly the causes of poverty.

In the past too much priority has been given to schemes that concentrate on development contracts rather than on local people. Regeneration should come from those the initiatives are designed to serve.

We will:

A fair deal for children & young people

We shall establish a Children and Young Person's Commissioner to oversee the protection of children and young people's rights and promote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Commissioner will monitor the activities of persons and organisations exercising functions under the Children (Scotland) Act and within the criminal justice system. Ihe Commissioner will also promote research into and public awareness of matters relating to the welfare of children and young people.

We will tackle youth crime. We will seek to prevent youngsters drifting into crime by supporting families with out-of-school care, offering training in parenting skills and improving work training and leisure opportunities. We will speed up disposals and make them more effective, by ensuring adequate resources for Social Work Departments and for Children's Hearings. We will make sure that there is proper follow-up for young people leaving custody.

We will establish an inter-ministerial committee for children, young people and families chaired by the Minister with responsibility for children's issues.

Support for people with disabilities

Disabled people have much to contribute to the new Scotland, and the new Parliament must enhance their opportunities to do so. Scottish Liberal Democrats believe in the inherent right of each individual to fulfil his or her potential. In seeking to help disabled people realise their potential,

We will:

Fighting crime

The best way to fight crime is tc tackle its root problems in the community and to concentrate on prevention and detection.

We will:

Reforming our justice system

Scotland's court system operates far too slowly and there are too many people in prison. We need to redirect resources to preventing crime and stop those convicted from re-offending. Liberal Democrats will conduct a radical review of criminal justice in Scotland.

We will:

Provide access to justice for all

We will stop the waste of resources in the present court system, by streamlining management, particularly of court time. We will provide better support for the procurator fiscal service. We will give courts greater powers to make speedy informal decisions on family matters. We will ensure that adequate and affordable legal aid is equally available across the country.

Reform prisons

Scotland's prisons must cease to be universities of crime. We will introduce far more training, education and work into prisons. We will cut prison numbers by encouraging greater use of non-custodial sentences, where offenders pose no risk to the public. In the longer term, we will build smaller prison units, particularly for women.

Decent and affordable housing

There is far too much poor housing in Scotland. Cold, damp and cramped homes affect health, education and job opportunities. Scottish people also need greater security from bad landlords and more power to make decisions about their homes.

We will:

Reduce homelessness

We will require councils to have local homelessness strategies, and to operate rent deposit schemes. We will also give them more powers to bring empty homes back into use. We shall ensure adequate short-stay hostel places as a step towards permanent secure accommodation. We will continue to support the Rough Sleepers Initiative.

Planning Scotland's future

Scotland has many areas where old industries have decayed, leaving landscapes derelict and communities deprived. At the same time, new development threatens to encroach on many of our open spaces and unspoilt countryside.

We will:

Arts and media

Scotland's culture is one of the richest in Europe. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament will provide a new stimulus for the arts and for the development of a national cultural strategy. Investing in the arts not only enriches the lives of Scottish people, but is an important source of job creation, especially in the tourist industry

We will:

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