THE First Minister has said he agrees that 100% of rapists should be sent to prison, amid outcry over one convict who was given community service.

Humza Yousaf was pushed during First Minister Questions (FMQs) on sentencing guidelines in Scotland during a clash with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross.

Sean Hogg, 21, was handed a 270-hour community payback order after being convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl earlier this month.

Ross challenged Yousaf on the Scottish Sentencing Council guidelines which advise against custodial sentences for offenders under 25.

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Ross said: “It must be 100% of rapists convicted of that crime going to prison.

“Let me repeat the words of the victim as my question to the First Minister: Why is it okay for anyone to rape someone and not go to jail?”

Yousaf said that between 2018 and 2021, 98% of people convicted of rape were sentenced to prison.

He added: “I agree with the sentiment that if someone commits rape they should go to jail.

“I believe that, but of course, I also believe very, very firmly that it is up to the independent judiciary, it is up to judges, it is up to those in the High Court, to make a decision about what the appropriate punishment is for an individual for the crime that they have committed.

“The courts can still, even with this guideline in place, impose a custodial sentence on a young person if they consider that to be appropriate in light of all the facts.”

The FM said the Scottish Government is looking to “improve the justice system when it comes to particularly those individuals, particularly women, who are often the victims of sexual offences”.

Yousaf added: “It is important that we continue to give the judiciary the independence that they have. It's important to have that separation between government and judiciary.”

Elsewhere, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Yousaf had tried to “convince the country he represented a fresh start”, and accused the SNP of “command and control, financial mismanagement and complete lack of transparency”.

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“This isn't just how they govern their party, it's how they govern the country,” he added.

Focusing on the ongoing ferry crisis, Sarwar pointed out that when Yousaf was transport minister six years ago he said solving the issue was his priority.

The FM said: “I of course recognise the challenges, those who rely on ferry services in island communities have suffered in the last few weeks, particularly given the Easter tourism season.

“But let me also speak very clearly to those island communities that we understand not just the frustration that we are taking action to ensure that we bolster the ferry network services.”

The National: Sarwar focused his questioning this week on ferry delaysSarwar focused his questioning this week on ferry delays

Sarwar said island communities were in “desperate need of support now” and asked if the Scottish Government would redirect fines paid by CalMac to affected communities.

Yousaf replied: “We’ll look at any proposals that are suggested by anybody across the chamber, including the one that Anas Sarwar just mentioned there, but look I completely accept and am unequivocal in saying that the Government understands and regrets any delays and disruptions that have impacted island communities”

“What doesn't help island communities is soundbites, and really easy soundbites from Anas Sarwar,” Yousaf added.

It comes as Yousaf vowed that the Scottish Government will not “steamroll” rural communities into accepting plans which would restrict fishing.

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A consultation on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) closed this week, with the proposals potentially limiting fishing in more than 10% of Scotland’s waters.

“The outcome that we all want is a sustainable marine environment,” he said, amid reports that rural communities were unhappy with the plans. 

“What we want of course is our fishing industry and our seas to be sustainable for the future – we want that industry to continue.

“Of course, our fishing communities, our island communities, our coastal communities have often been at the forefront of that effort around sustainability.

The National: Cameron said HPMAs had been compared to the 'clearances'Cameron said HPMAs had been compared to the 'clearances'

“So we want to work with them, we want to engage with them.”

Yousaf added that he would not enforce the policy on any community opposed to it. 

Tory Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron claimed “not one community” in his constituency wants the HPMA’s imposed. 

He added that it is “no wonder this policy is being compared to the (Highland) Clearances”.

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Asked if he would scrap the plans for HPMAs, Yousaf said: “The point is that there are no plans yet.

“There is a consultation, we do not have set sites, we do not have set criteria yet.

“What we want to do is, at a very early stage, inception stage in fact, work with coastal communities, island communities, our fishing communities, because ultimately I do believe there is agreement on the outcome.”