LONG term prisoners will not be released early from jail Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The First Minister revealed in Glasgow that prisoners serving a sentence of more than four years will no longer be eligible for automatic early release.

Currently they can be freed after serving two thirds of their sentence, a policy which has been criticised by many calling for serious criminals to serve the term they are given.

Ms Sturgeon said a bill going through parliament will be tightened to change the ban on automatic early release from those serving ten years or more to four years.

The First Minister said it would improve the justice system and public safety.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Prison remains the most appropriate place for serious offenders, and we had already included proposals in the Prisoners (Control of Release) Bill to end automatic early release for certain categories of prisoner.

"We will go much further, ending automatic early release at two-thirds of their sentence for all long-term prisoners in Scotland,which are defined as those sentenced to four years or more. That means every prisoner serving a sentence of four years or more will remain in jail for much longer than is currently the case if deemed necessary by the Parole Board."

The First Minister was speaking during a visit to Victim Support in Glasgow.

The move means prisoners are not eligible for automatic release and will need the approval of the Parole Board.

Ms Sturgeon also said the supervision of serious offenders would be improved when they are released.

She added: "We recognise that tough action is required to tackle those offenders who commit the most serious crimes, ensuring that communities are kept safe while at the same time making efforts to reduce the likelihood of reoffending."

The move was welcomed by victims' campaigners.

Susan Gallagher, Acting Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland said:

"For those who live in all of the communities in which we work this should be viewed as a step closer to achieving a system in which sentences are straightforward and understandable to the victim and those communities.

"We also support the guarantee of a period of post-release supervision for prisoners, as we recognise the significant role played by community supervision, not only in facilitating enhanced reintegration into the community, but also in supporting offenders to desist from further offending."

The Scottish Conservatives who have been arguing for an end to automatic early release in the Scottish Parliament said the vast majority would still be let out early.

The party, which introduced the policy across the UK in 1993, said the vast majority of offenders would get parole after serving half their sentence.

John Lamont, Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, said: "This is clearly welcome news but it still falls short of what the SNP has been promising to do since first getting elected in 2007. It will still mean that 97% of prisoners will be automatically released from prison half way through their sentence, no questions asked."

"Automatic early release of prisoners is an insult to victims and makes a mockery of our justice system. Despite the announcement today, the vast majority of offenders will continue to enjoy the benefits of our soft touch justice system."