LibDems: 547 days since prison suicide strategy expired 

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today criticised the government for failing to implement a revised strategy for preventing suicide in prison, after the previous strategy expired 547 days ago, and called on ministers to urgently tackle the self-harm epidemic in Scotland’s prisons.

On 31st December 2021, the Scottish Government’s 2016-2021 “Talk to Me” strategy, designed to prevent suicide in prisons, expired. Since then, a revised strategy has never been published. The government originally committed to completing the revised strategy by spring 2023, but it has now been further delayed to the end of October.

In their 2022 report, Still Nothing To See Here, researchers from Glasgow University found that: “Following the introduction of the Talk to Me strategy there have been 42% more suicides than before it came into effect.”

LibDem Liam McArthur and First Minister Humza Yousaf.

Earlier this week, the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics indicated that Scotland has a “very high” number of people incarcerated compared to other European countries and one of the highest rates of suicides among prisoners.

In his former role as Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf said that he was “not satisfied” enough was being done to prevent people dying by suicide in custody. He also said he was “determined that appropriate early actions are taken to ensure the safety and well-being of young people in custody.”

Mr McArthur said:  “The SNP have presided over a self-harm epidemic behind the gates and walls of Scotland’s prisons. Tragic cases like those of Katie Allan and William Lindsay have exposed the tragic reality of self-harm.

“The government’s only strategy seems to be one of delays and broken promises. This inaction endangers more lives, retraumatises loved ones and leaves families feeling completely and utterly powerless.

“547 days is an appallingly long time for prisoners, guards and families to be waiting for action.

“To make matters worse, we have a Fatal Accident Inquiry system that is simply not fit for purpose, with investigations into deaths in prison taking years to complete.

“To save lives and restore faith in the system, the government must urgently bring forward a strategy which will implement proper checks and balances and enable a comprehensive rollout of mental health professionals across Scotland’s prisons.”

The Scottish Government’s “Talk to Me” strategy can be found here

You can find the Still Nothing to See Here 2022 report here

Humza Yousaf’s comments about custodial suicides can be found here and here  

You can find the Scottish Government’s confirmation that the completion of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy for prisons has been delayed until the end of October 2023 here.  

The figures from the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics can be found here  


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