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The closure of the Airborne Initiative 2004-7

2007 December 21
by Mary Munro

Update

“Young offenders scheme axed in manifesto U-turn” Herald

Following posted on 10.12.07

“Fears that SNP will renege on Airborne pledge” Sunday Herald

Following posted on 24.09.07

“Judge: social workers ‘conspired’ to destroy the Airborne Initiative” Sunday Herald
“Camp Airborne Again” Daily Record 21.9.07

Following posted on 28.05.07

“MacAskill plans to resurrect Airborne scheme after controversial closure “ Sunday Herald
“Boot camp for youths could reopen” BBC

Following posted on 8.12.06

“Fury at youth crime ‘broken promises'” Scotsman 7.12.06

Following posted on 28.8.06

“SNP vows to bring back boot camp” Courier
“SNP pledge on boot camp for offenders” Evening Times
“Former prison chief to stand against Labour over Airborne” Sunday Herald
“Abandoning Airborne is returning to haunt the Executive” Sunday Herald
“Former SAS chief may take on Labour in Paisley South” Herald
“SNP vows to reopen Airborne boot camp for young offenders” Scotsman

Following posted on 25.4.05

“Fairweather: Airborne closure was prejudiced” Sunday Herald
“‘Uninformed’ ministers closed youth project “ Scotsman
“Call for rethink on youth project” BBC

Following posted on 29.7.04

“Emotional end for Airborne offenders’ project: The Airborne Initiative for young offenders formally closed its doors yesterday after the Scottish Executive cut off its funding earlier this year. . .”Scotsman

Following posted on 24.5.04

“Airborne alternative being considered” Evening Times
“Step forward for plan to replace Airborne” Sunday Herald
“Airborne type project on drawing board”Scotsman

Following posted on 12.4.04

“Experts voice concerns on Airborne-cash boot camp” “Further doubt was yesterday cast on the Scottish Executive?s controversial decision to close a boot camp for young offenders. The SNP redoubled its criticism of ministers after it emerged that another project for repeat offenders that was to be given Executive funding after the closure of the Airborne Initiative was branded “not good enough” by inspectors . . .” Scotsman
“Airborne’s successor ‘not good enough’?: Controversial funding in doubt after Airborne?s replacement fails to get official accreditation. “The flagship project for offenders that was to be given Scottish Executive funding after the controversial closure of the Airborne Initiative has been branded ‘not good enough’ by official government inspectors. The Constructs project, based in West Dunbartonshire, was to have been the main beneficiary of the £600,000 funding withdrawn from Airborne in February. . .” Sunday Herald

Following posted on 1.3.04

“How the vote on Airborne was tied to PR politics” “On Thursday, after Jack McConnell had refused during first minister’s questions to budge one inch on the executive’s decision to discontinue funding of the Airborne Initiative, Duncan McNeill, the deputy Labour whip, was grinning broadly as he came down the High Street in Edinburgh . . .” Herald
“Lib Dem tells of pressure to vote against Airborne” Scotsman
“Airborne: LibDems ‘blackmailed'” “Liberal MSPs who had planned to inflict defeat on the Scottish Executive last week over its controversial plan to scrap the Airborne Initiative were warned that to do so could ‘unravel’ the governing coalition by jeopardising Labour’s commitment to proportional representation . . .” Sunday Herald
“Betrayed by Politics” Dirty politics and fly-on-the-wall TV killed off Airborne, but it almost brought the Executive’s coalition down with it . . .” Sunday Herald
“Why I took the most difficult decision of my life and voted against Airborne” “As a strong supporter of the Airborne project, why did I not vote for the SNP amendment asking the Executive to reconsider its decision to stop funding it? Here are my personal views. First, from discussions with the Executive it was clear that they would not concede or make compromises on the basic point of reversing their decision. The issue had built up into a question of the Executive’s virility [. . .] An inquiry by a committee will enable the minister to set out the Executive’s case and be closely questioned on it, and enable Airborne to set out its stall, explain its ethos and methods and rebut criticisms. So, if it can make out a good case, Airborne has a far better chance of being revived in some form via committee than in a private reconsideration by ministers. . .” Sunday Herald

Following posted on 27.2.04

“Lib Dem opposition crumbles as Airborne Initiative is closed” “The Scottish Executive last night narrowly avoided defeat in a vote over the future of the Airborne Initiative for persistent young offenders after a rebellion by the Liberal Democrats crumbled. Only one of the Lib Dem group in the Parliament voted in favour of retaining the project, despite support for it in their last election manifesto. . .” Scotsman
“Two votes spell end of boot camp” Evening Times
“Cowardice, betrayal and the Lib Dems” Scotsman
“Close vote spells end of Airborne”Herald
“Two votes in it as MSPs shut young offenders project” Times
“Executive set on putting boot into brave experiment” Times. Linklater.
“‘Boot camp’ vote scrapes through” “Scotland’s first minister has narrowly avoided a defeat in parliament over the future of a boot camp for persistent young offenders. The Scottish National Party was demanding ministers reconsider their decision to withdraw funding from the Airborne initiative in Lanarkshire. The SNP came within just two votes of a majority after a Liberal Democrat rebellion crumbled. . .” BBC
“Vote over Airborne Initiative could force Executive rethink” “A crucial vote which could force the Executive to rethink its decision to withdraw funding from the controversial Airborne project will take place this evening. . .” Scottish TV
“MSPs to vote on future of Airborne” “The Scottish Executive today faces a potential defeat in a parliamentary vote on the closure of the Airborne Initiative for young offenders [. . .] Labour’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have come under pressure to vote against the Executive in today?s vote because of a manifesto commitment made last year to keep Airborne up and running . . .” Scotsman
“Why Airborne should get a second chance” “Staff and campaigners fighting to save the Airborne Initiative made an emotional appeal to the Scottish Executive yesterday, in a bid to rescue the pioneering project from closure. Team leaders and graduates from the so-called boot camp gathered in Edinburgh where they urged ministers to reconsider their controversial decision to close the unit, with the loss of 26 jobs. . .” Scotsman
“Support for Airborne” “Barely a week ago, the Airborne Initiative project to help young offenders seemed doomed after the Scottish Executive opted to deny further funding. But the campaign to save it, supported by The Scotsman, has grown in strength and intensity. . .” Scotsman
“Manager regrets TV show on Airborne” “The general manager of the Airborne Initiative, which was the subject of a television documentary, yesterday said he regretted that the programme had been made. Tony Burley’s comments came as staff, politicians and ex-offenders launched a campaign in Edinburgh appealing to ministers to keep the Airborne Initiative open . . .” Herald
“Initiative hailed as better option than jail” John Paul Crook loved driving. Drunk or disqualified, it made no difference to him . . .” Herald

Following posted on 25.2.04

“Campaign to save young offenders centre” “Staff and ex-offenders at a controversial centre designed to give hardened young criminals a second chance are stepping up their campaign to prevent it from closing down [. . .] They are joining forces with a number of MSP from across the political spectrum to ask the Executive to wait before taking a final decision on the centre’s future . . .” Scottish TV
“Airborne closed at peak of success, figures show” “The row surrounding the Airborne Initiative for young offenders intensified last night after new figures revealed it was closed down despite displaying some of the best results in its history. Campaigners fighting to save the rehabilitation unit in Lanarkshire believe the Scottish Executive?s decision to shut down was ill-timed, because the centre had shown a marked improvement in the number of people finishing the course. . .” Scotsman
“Crime and bafflement” [. . .] Scottish Executive ministers have long predicted that prison numbers would rise as courts adopted a tougher stance with more serious offenders. Regrettably, this is necessary and it is already having its impact on lowering crime statistics.
[. . .] But unless the Executive wants even higher jail numbers, closing Airborne is more than short-sighted . . .” Scotsman
“Ministers accused of fudging Airborne Initiative numbers” “Ministers have been accused of fudging the figures in relation to the Airborne Initiative in order to justify its closure.
Clive Fairweather, the former chief inspector of prisons, believes the Scottish Executive has used inconsistent figures to justify its move to withdraw funds from the project which provided an alternative to custody for persistent young offenders. . .” Herald
“No rethink over ‘boot camp'” “Ministers have vowed not to change their minds over the decision to withdraw funding for a “boot camp” for young offenders [. . .] But First Minister Jack McConnell defended the decision, saying: “The project was not value for money and was not cost effective.” He added: “The money will be far better used in other projects elsewhere in Scotland.” . . .” BBC
“Ministers ignored own report to close Airborne Initiative” [. . .]”The Airborne Initiative for young offenders was the subject of a positive report by Scottish Executive inspectors just weeks before it was closed down by ministers, a leaked document seen by The Scotsman has revealed. . .” Scotsman

Following posted on 23.2.04

“Executive must think again over Airborne” “We write as supporters of the Airborne Initiative to express dismay at the Scottish Executive?s decision to withdraw funding from this ground-breaking, successful project. Airborne?s client group is the most challenging faced by any non-custodial disposal. At least 80 per cent of incoming trainees have served sentences in prison, yet, over the past nine years, Airborne has made a huge impact in reducing the rate of reoffending. . .” Letter in Scotsman. Rt. Hon. The Baroness Linklater of Butterstone and 22 others.
“Pressure on McConnell to re-open Airborne” [. . .] The Scottish Executive is facing mounting pressure to re-open a boot camp for persistent young offenders, following the launch of a national campaign by some of the country’s leading experts in the field of criminal justice. In an open letter to The Scotsman, the group of 23 senior figures has appealed directly to Jack McConnell in a bid to save the Airborne Initiative. The First Minister is said to be “furious” at the way the closure was handled earlier this month – and shocked by the outcry. . .” Scotsman
“Worth a second look” “Far from fading away, as Hugh Henry, the deputy justice minister, must surely have hoped, the row over the closure of the Airborne Initiative for young offenders has grown in scale and volume. . .” Scotsman Comment
“Ian Rankin battles to save ‘boot camp’ for Britain’s hardest young offenders” “Ian Rankin’s greatest creation – Inspector John Rebus – spends his time catching them. But the writer himself just wants to give some of Britain’s hardest young criminals a chance. . .” Independent
“Boot camp battling to survive” “A controversial boot camp for some of Scotland?s worst offenders is fighting to remain open after public funding was withdrawn. . .” Scotland on Sunday
“Pressure grows to save Airborne” “A campaign is to be launched to save the Airborne Initiative, the controversial programme for serious young offenders, which had its funding withdrawn by ministers. Staff and board members at the charity have decided to fight to keep the Lanarkshire centre open and will lobby the Labour Party conference in Inverness this week. The move comes as the Sunday Herald has learned that the decision to axe the project was far from unanimous within the Scottish Executive, with some ministers baffled as to why it was taken. . .” Sunday Herald

Following posted on 17.2.04

“TV’s boot camp boss in plea for leniency” “The boss of a controversial boot camp has urged the courts to show leniency towards 11 young offenders who are facing prison following the unit’s sudden closure. Trevor Royle fears the youngsters will be unfairly punished for the failure of the Airborne Initiative, which was forced to close after losing £600,000 of funding. . .” Evening Times
“Campaigners angry as independent study backing boot camp ends” “A new study which could have secured the future of a boot camp for young offenders, closed by the Scottish Executive last week, has been scrapped just weeks before its findings were due to be published [. . .] Criminal justice sources say the report would have proved uncomfortable reading for ministers who were determined to close the facility . . .” Scotsman
“Airborne Initiative’s vital role in battle against crime” “For a long time I believed that those who commit serious crimes against their fellow citizens should simply be locked away and serve their term. Today, while I still firmly believe that punishment must be meted out, I now also take the view that since it costs us taxpayers about £30,000 a year to hold someone in prison, every effort should be made to reduce the likelihood of their reoffending. . .” Scotsman. Gerald Howarth (shadow defence minister)
“Criminal justice initiatives need proper evaluation” [. . .] “Ministerially-set targets for Airborne Initiative and its statistical potential – with a throughput of 80 young offenders per annum – to demonstrate compliance, or otherwise, with those targets are obscure. This matters because, if Airborne Initiative actually prevented one premature death among its yearly 80 young-offender attenders [. . .], then its performance would be both worthwhile and cost-effective by Nice (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) standards for the National Health Service. But it would require a controlled study lasting over 50 years for Airborne Initiative to demonstrate the fact by the yardstick of statistical significance! . . .” Herald. Letters from Professor Sheila M Bird, Susan Davies.
“‘Boot camp’ closure attacked” “The closure of a controversial facility for young offenders is being described as “stupid” by Scotland’s former prisons chief. Clive Fairweather questioned why the deputy justice minister withdrew funding from the Airborne programme when in June, he praised its progress. Mr Fairweather said the decision was “stupid and shortsighted”. . .” BBC
“When cowards decide to get tough on crime” “It takes a brave minister to champion the cause of penal reform. It is neither popular with voters, nor does it burnish political reputations [. . .] The Airborne Initiative, based in Braidwood near Carluke, was very much in this tradition. . .” Scotland on Sunday
“Why accusations of Ned TV helped pull the plug on a pioneering bid to cut youth crime” “Eight months ago politicians praised the Airborne Initiative to the hilt. Last week they closed it. What happened in between? Just the little matter of a TV series. . .” Sunday Herald
“Why Labour has the young in its sights” “‘IF there are other alternatives for these young men I would like to know what they are,’ says a Scottish sheriff who laments the end of the Airborne Initiative. As an alternative to jail he can now think of no equivalent project that will remove criminals from the community and try to make sure they return as better citizens. . .” Sunday Herald
“The Airborne I knew:The inside story” “Let’s call him Frankie, because that’s not his real name. . .” Sunday Herald
“Fury at Closure” “Scotland’s former Chief Inspector of Prisons has accused deputy justice minister Hugh Henry of ‘political hypocrisy’ over the closure of a boot camp for young offenders. . .” Daily Record
“Airborne had little option but to cease operations” Scotsman. Letters from Clive Fairweather, John Scott.

Press releases

“Airborne Initiative Lessons Ignored Claims Former Chairman” Airborne Committee
“SNP Government Will Relaunch Airborne Initiative” SNP (2005)

See also

SNP Manifesto 2007 (extracted on this site)
Performance Inspection of Criminal Justice Social Work Services. Report on Argyll, Bute and the Dunbartonshires’ Criminal Justice Social Work Partnership Part 3. The Community Supervision of Offenders on Probation and Statutory Licence.
Scottish Parliament. Scottish Executive debate on Young People in Scotland. 26.2.04. The SNP motion inviting the Executive to reconsider its decision to withdraw funding from the Airborne Initiative” was debated as an amendment to the Executive motion on a better deal for young people in Scotland.
Evaluation of the Airborne Initiative (Scotland) – Research Findings (June 2000)

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