Prisons chief criticises pension changes

Written by Alan Robertson on 5 November 2014 in News

Scottish Prison Service chief executive takes aim at UK Government after attack at HMP Glenochil

The head of Scotland’s prisons has hit out at the UK Government over plans to raise the pension age of prison officers after two of his staff were attacked.

Police are investigating after two prison guards were attacked by an inmate with a knife at HMP Glenochil last week, resulting in both being treated in hospital, one for serious facial injuries.

Speaking at the Prison Officers Association Scotland annual conference the following day, Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said the incident demonstrated the dangers staff face on a daily basis.

And the SPS chief executive fired a broadside at UK Government ministers for failing to acknowledge this by pressing ahead with a “flawed decision” not to recognise prison officers as uniformed workers alongside armed forces and police.

In 2012, prison officers from England and Wales were joined by colleagues in Scotland in going on strike over government plans to raise their retirement age to 68, in line with the state retirement age, over the next two decades.

McConnell reiterated the SPS’ and government’s support for the position taken by the POA regarding the pension age of prison officers. 

“I share your view that it is not reasonable to expect someone to undertake operational frontline duties into their late 60s,” he said. 

“And if ever we need examples to reinforce the real risks and challenges our colleagues face every day, then the incident at Glenochil yesterday evening is just that: two officers going about their duties were seriously assaulted in an unprovoked attack involving a weapon. 

“And yet, London sees this differently. What lens are they using? It must be pretty fogged-up.

“I want to be clear about this: I am bewildered, as I am sure you are, that the prison officers did not achieve the recognition as a uniformed service that was extended to other parts of the public service. 

“This, I know, is something that the Union will continue to campaign on and it is something which we, as an organisation, agree with, and I know the Scottish Government has already made clear its support for that position.”

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