Serious Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:08 pm on 18th February 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 9:08 pm, 18th February 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am by no means a policing expert, and obviously such crimes are recorded differently across jurisdictions. The fact is, however, that violent crime in Scotland has reduced by 49%, as has been recognised by his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament: Liam Kerr said that we have to recognise that Scotland has turned the corner when it comes to violent crime.

Good policy and effective policing strategy should not be controversial, which is why I am glad that similar initiatives have begun to be rolled out, such as the London violence reduction unit announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan.

In addition, the Scottish Government continue to provide real-terms protection to the resource budget for policing and have committed to protecting that budget for every year of the current Session of the Scottish Parliament. That amounts to a significant increase in investment of £100 million by 2021. As of April last year, the SNP has ensured that the police will also fully benefit from being able to reclaim VAT of around £25 million a year, which for far too long was stolen and kept by the Treasury here in Westminster. [Interruption.] I hear chuntering from the Government Benches that we knew it from the start, but the Scottish Conservatives also knew it from the start, yet it was in their manifesto too.

In England and Wales there are now 21,000 fewer police officers than there were in 2010, which makes it the lowest number since comparable records began. Those figures mean a decrease of nearly 15% from the previous nine years. However, I do not want to be complacent, and I stress that there is still plenty of room for improvement, but Scotland is becoming a much safer country thanks to the public health approach.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the White Ribbon Campaign, I draw particular attention to the importance that domestic violence plays in a public health approach to violence. This is an area where we have much further to go, both north of the border and across the rest of the UK. Gender-based violence is a national shame in every part of the UK. In 2016-17 there were nearly 59,000 reported cases of domestic abuse in Scotland, and in nearly 80% of those cases women were the victims. Although the way the data is collected can differ between countries, it is demonstrably higher than in similar small European nations such as the Republic of Ireland.

Domestic abuse clearly has a serious effect on the mental health and development of future generations. Around 16% of adverse childhood experiences are caused by witnessing domestic violence in the household. The vast majority of this, of course, is perpetrated by men against women. That is the largest contributor to ACEs of any household environmental factors. Compared with someone with no ACEs, someone with four or more is more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes in adulthood. For example, they are 16 times more likely to perpetrate violence, and 20 times more likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lifetime.

The Scottish Government are taking action to reduce domestic violence in households through an increase in health visitor numbers and the roll-out of family nurse partnerships, and through targeted investment in projects and services that support parents and families to cope better, keep children safe and prevent children going into care. Although that falls outwith the Scottish Government’s policing strategy, it is steps like this that help people participate in society, tackle serious violence at its root cause and stop the cycle of violence perpetuating itself on and on.

In conclusion, the most compelling stories are the ones that are true. Over the past decade we have seen Scotland go from being called the murder capital of Europe to being the safest nation on these islands in which to live. I fear that in many crucial ways the serious violence strategy for England and Wales was a missed opportunity to tackle the problem in a completely objective and holistic manner, as we have done in Scotland. I implore Members across the House to see violence for what it is: a resilient societal disease. Although the symptoms must be appropriately punished, the root causes also deserve to be treated. We can no longer waste time and human energy trying to deal with the symptoms of generational violence.

While Scotland is enjoying lows in recorded crime that have not been seen for decades, violent crime in England and Wales is rising to deeply worrying levels. Thanks to the Scottish Government, and particularly the violence reduction unit, Scotland is becoming a safer country. I urge that a similar approach be tried and tested across the rest of the UK so that we may learn from each other. We need to understand better why violence happens, we need to be as objective as possible in tackling it, and we need to be mindful of the many forms that it comes in. We need an all-encompassing public health approach to violent crime.