THIS newspaper has been an ardent critic of the UK Government's policy of detaining asylum seekers at the Dungavel detention centre since its inception.

The Sunday Herald believes that it is inhumane to hold vulnerable people, many of whom have already experienced significant trauma in their homelands, in conditions some rightly see as little better than prisons.

However, to learn that the UK's Home Office refused to allow elected Scottish parliamentarians to check on the welfare of detainees will only heighten concerns about the treatment of those held behind the walls of Dungavel.

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The Holyrood MSPs who sought to visit the holding centre made clear they had no wish to usurp MPs at Westminster, who hold responsibility for immigration. The Home Office claimed it wanted to preserve the privacy of detainees. The excuse is weak to say the least. Meetings between MSPs and detainees could be made voluntary - ending the problem there.

More importantly, the suggestion by the Home Office that MSPs have no right to visit a highly controversial immigration holding centre in their own backyard smacks of a ministry with something to hide.

Putting aside the rights and wrongs of whether immigration should remain reserved to Westminster, MSPs have a locus to ask about the welfare and health issues affecting Dungavel detainees, some of whom may be constituents.

It is, for example, common practice for churches and charities to organise prison visits, offering support to those convicted of crimes or being held on remand.

Such visits are entirely proper, yet MSPs are being prevented from making contact with individuals who are not even in the criminal justice system.

The Sunday Herald is in agreement with MSP Pauline McNeill who stated that it is "imperative in any democracy that elected members have a right to visit" detainees.

We also have concerns that Scottish Secretary David Mundell has apparently yet to respond to the request of McNeill, who wrote to him in early April asking him to intervene.

If ministers fail to allow MSPs into Dungavel there will be real questions for them to answer about what it is they are afraid of people seeing in this place of detention.