14 December 2006

(S2O-11478) Scottish Criminal Record Office Fingerprint Experts

2. Mr Kenneth Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to ensure that fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Record Office will be treated in a fair manner when the organisation becomes part of the Scottish forensic science service in April 2007. (S2O-11478)

The Minister for Justice (Cathy Jamieson): We expect all public servants to be treated fairly. That is the responsibility of their managers and employers. In this case, the Scottish police services authority will be responsible for the Scottish fingerprint service from April 2007.

Mr Macintosh: Does the minister accept that it was her former Cabinet colleague, the previous Lord Advocate, who decided that four fingerprint officers should not be returned to the expert witness list? That decision, I may add, was taken publicly, at a meeting, with the four officers sitting behind the Lord Advocate but without their being given advance notice of the decision. Does she accept that the person whom she appointed as the interim chief executive of the new service has made it clear to six SCRO officers that they have no future in the service despite their long and unblemished record in the SCRO and the fact that their professionalism was upheld by successive inquiries? Does she believe that those Executive decisions have had no effect on the welfare or future well-being of the SCRO officers and that the Executive has no responsibility to ensure that fair play exists in public services?

Cathy Jamieson: It is important to clarify that the Executive works on the policy direction—it will ensure that the SPSA is set up properly and is able to take over the Scottish fingerprint service—but that it is for the Lord Advocate to decide who is used in the courts as an expert witness.

I have been at pains to stress—and I stress it again today—that there is a process that involves the employers, the trade unions and the individuals concerned. I do not believe that it would be right and proper to discuss the detail of that in the chamber while the negotiations are continuing. However, I stress the important point that everyone has employment rights that must be upheld. I expect that to happen whoever the employer is, and in this case I certainly expect the fingerprint service to look at that.

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): There should be increased confidence in the future of the service now that Mr Mulhern is in charge of it. Does the minister agree that the challenges for the service include ensuring that future employees have the opportunity to learn from the experience of other bureaux; that employees have adequate management support in doing the job that they have to do; and that we do not return to the position in which members of staff are hung out to dry by wholly inadequate management?

Cathy Jamieson: I know that the member is familiar with "The Scottish Fingerprint Service Action Plan for Excellence". That plan will require a number of actions to be taken. It will ensure that the appropriate professional development is provided and that management systems are appropriate and fit for the job that people are required to do. I look forward with interest to any comments or recommendations that the committee that has been considering the issue will make in due course.

Stewart Stevenson
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