Crime Prevention

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:30 am on 23rd September 1999.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 9:30 am, 23rd September 1999

The first item of business is a debate on motion S1M-163, in the name of Angus MacKay, on crime prevention. There is also an amendment to that motion.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Do you not agree that the lack of members in the chamber is criminal?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour 9:31 am, 23rd September 1999

At least allegations of criminality are marginally relevant to the debate.

I am pleased that we have the opportunity today to debate a topic that is one of the top priorities of the Scottish Executive. Reducing crime and anti-social behaviour and increasing community safety are matters that will prove to be as important for the new Parliament as they were for successive Administrations in Scotland, in particular for the Scottish Office under the Labour Government from 1997.

Members of the Scottish Parliament are fortunate to be able to look back on a substantial legacy of achievement on which to build a safer Scotland. The debate provides us with an ideal opportunity not only to reflect on what has been achieved, but to look ahead at what we aim to do to make our communities safer.

The Scottish Executive has inherited an approach from Labour in the Scottish Office that is every bit as relevant to the aims of the Parliament. No apologies need be made for picking up that standard. The phrase "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime" is a real commitment not only to deal effectively and swiftly with offenders, but to tackle the root causes that lead to criminality in the first place. We take the twofold nature of that commitment very seriously. Being tough on crime is only half the battle.

Crime has been dropping steadily for a number of years. However, last year, for the first time since 1991, there was an upturn of 3 per cent in recorded crime figures. Although that increase can be attributed mainly to a rise in crimes of dishonesty, such as housebreaking and theft, there is no doubt about the long-term trends in issues such as violence, sex crimes and drugs. The Executive is taking a more focused and rigorous approach to those key areas. We have moved swiftly to implement the new measures in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, creating orders on anti-social behaviour, sex offenders, drug treatment and testing and a new offence of racial harassment.

Recent indications from the police suggest that higher crime figures have been recorded for the first half of 1999. That is a clear warning to us all against complacency. We are providing the police with the resources to tackle the crimes that cause the public the most distress. We also must maintain our investment in anti-crime measures.

On a more positive note, police clear-up rates continued to improve last year—that has been the trend throughout the 1990s. Our substantial investment in the installation of closed-circuit television systems throughout Scotland has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to those figures.

It is worth reflecting on the programme that has been in place for some time. That programme has three main themes. First, we intend to tackle the underlying causes of crime—social, educational, and economic. Secondly, we aim to prevent offending, not only through crime prevention as it is traditionally understood, but by enabling early intervention in situations that may lead to offending. Finally, we want to deal with offenders in ways that reduce the risk of reoffending. It is important that we develop practical and sustainable policies rather than attempt half-hearted, quick-fix solutions.

There is no doubt that deep-rooted divisions still exist within Scotland. The debilitating fear and distress caused by crime eats away at our ideals of community and society. We are, however, committed to a just society, in which every individual is valued. That same individual must hold personal responsibility to society and must be held responsible for their actions.

Crime is not an abstract notion; it cannot be considered in isolation from its causes, many of which are rooted in underlying social problems. Deprivation and disadvantage are daily facts of life for too many people in Scotland. Crime and poverty are inextricably linked. It is estimated that, in Scotland, two out of every five babies are born into poverty. At this point it is worth pausing to congratulate my colleague the Minister for Health and Community Care on her recent announcement that, working alongside the UK Government, the Scottish Executive is committed to lifting 60,000 children out of poverty by the year 2002.

Educational achievement, on average, is much lower among low-income families. Substantial evidence shows that poor education and poor health are contributory factors to delinquency. Those are key areas on which the Scottish Executive is focusing. We already have a range of policies and initiatives in place—such as the new deal, new community schools and social inclusion partnerships—to combat the social deprivation and isolating social exclusion that so often leads to crime.

In respect of community safety, the Scottish Executive has a duty to provide the means for people in Scotland to feel safe. The coalition takes that duty very seriously. We are determined to fulfil the commitment to ensure that Scottish people feel safe and secure in their homes, as well as in the surrounding locality and communities in which they work.

I would like to outline what we have done so far to improve and advance community safety. We have an excellent relationship with local government, whose support is fundamental to delivering the Scottish Executive's priorities in a number of areas that affect our local communities.

We have a joint strategy for action—the safer communities through partnerships programme, which was launched in June 1998 in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers. The strategy encourages local authorities and the police to lead local partnerships—involving public, private and voluntary bodies—to tackle the community issues that are of the greatest concern to local people. That concept has been adopted by most local authorities in Scotland. As the motion recognises, only through the forging of such strong partnerships will we see the fulfilment of our broader agenda to reduce crime, to reduce the fear of crime and, not least, to improve the quality of life in communities throughout Scotland.

We are determined that those partnerships will work and we are helping them in a number of ways. In February, the Scottish Office published "A Safer Scotland: Tackling Crime and its Causes", which describes the Government's strategy for tackling crime and its causes and identifies the way forward for building public confidence and safer communities.

The justice system must be fair to all those who are involved in its process. The public must have confidence that the system convicts the guilty and acquits the innocent. People need to be confident that, if they are witnesses or victims, the system will deal with them with consideration. Using best practice gained from established partnerships, we recently published guidance entitled "Safer Communities in Scotland", which provides a framework that partnerships are encouraged to apply to all aspects of community safety.

A number of recent reports have identified a need for joint training between police officers and local authority policy officers, not only to gain an understanding of organisational and cultural differences, but to develop practical processes for the development of joint policies and strategies. Bearing that in mind, we are in the early stages of creating a joint training programme in conjunction with the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan to satisfy that need.

As part of the on-going process of developing and implementing our community safety policies, I am hosting a conference on 2 November to drive home the need for partnerships to be results focused. I also want to reinforce the Government's desire for tangible improvements in community safety.

The Scottish Executive is determined to develop and forge new approaches. We must support our communities by responding to their local concerns and ensure that public services can respond through the integration and effective co-ordination of community safety strategies and action plans for proper crime prevention.

The concept of working partnerships between local people, agencies and organisations is crucial to the success of the new communities that care initiative. Partnerships under the umbrella of that initiative are being established in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee with funding from the Scottish Executive crime prevention unit. The social exclusion programme is funding a fourth project in South Lanarkshire. Those locally managed and locally accountable programmes focus on improved community safety; they are grounded in careful risk assessment and management. Their aim is to achieve sustainable reductions in youth crime, school failure and drug abuse.

It is not our intention merely to pay lip service to the community safety partnerships—we are backing up our commitment with hard cash. I was recently able to announce details of a new challenge competition that aims to make our communities safer. A sum of £3 million is being made available in the financial year 2000-01 to support communities in Scotland that want to establish new and innovative projects to contribute to that community's well-being and safety through crime reduction measures.

Of that money, £1.5 million will be available to fund initiatives that fall into the broad category of community safety and the remaining £1.5 million will be specifically to fund CCTV. The community safety part of the competition will provide an added dimension to our efforts to make Scotland safer. Although CCTV has had some limited criticism, I am convinced—and I believe that the statistics support this—that the camera systems have made a significant contribution to cutting crime throughout Scotland.

We are taking action against drug misuse, which is one of the biggest threats to community safety. Members may or may not be aware that, today, the 108th drug-related death in Strathclyde this year was reported. The damage that drug misuse and dependency does to our community is very visible. We see it in the intimidation and violence that is spawned by drug dealers peddling their trade on our streets. We see it in the threat to our homes and businesses from those who steal to feed their addictions. We see it in the health risks posed by discarded needles and in the direct and corrosive impact that drug misuse and dependency have on our young people. All those have appalling consequences for our communities.

Let me repeat the clear message that the First Minister recently gave to drug dealers. If they are selling drugs, we will direct all our law enforcement agency resources to catch them. If we catch them, we will prosecute them. If they are convicted, we will send them to jail for a long time. While they are in jail, we will do everything in our power to seize the proceeds of their destructive activities. The First Minister added that drug dealers had been corroding our communities and our people for too long, but that all Scotland was united in condemning their evil trade and wanting to work together to stop it.

Tackling drug misuse is at the heart of the Scottish Executive's agenda; we are vigorously undertaking that commitment. We are taking a genuinely cross-departmental and cross-agency approach that cuts across all boundaries. A ministerial committee has been formed to oversee the implementation of drugs strategy. It will provide integrated policy and integrated policy delivery, focusing primarily on results. I chair the committee. It includes ministers involved in education, health, justice and the community, and it reports directly to the Scottish Cabinet.

The "Partnership for Scotland" document sets out the Executive's programme for the next four years. It includes a clear commitment to implement measures to prevent drug abuse. Those measures will be harmonised with other action in our social inclusion agenda.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Does the minister agree that the 108 premature deaths through drug abuse in Strathclyde alone—we do not yet have the figures for all of Scotland—represent 108 personal and family tragedies? The minister made a point about discarded needles and the people who deal in the drugs of death. Does he agree that the deaths are almost exclusively related to heroin and Temgesic and that we have to confront the fact that no one has died of cannabis consumption? Until we address the inconsistencies in our drugs laws, we will lose the battle with our young people, who are not listening to us or to our drugs strategy.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Matters relating to the legalisation or otherwise of cannabis are reserved to Westminster. However, to pick up on Mr Sheridan's comments, one of the key things that has to be understood and that has to inform all our policy on tackling drug abuse is that there is not just one drug problem in Scotland, there is a multiplicity of drug problems. Whereas the kind of drug-related deaths that Mr Sheridan described have taken place in Strathclyde—and especially in certain parts of Strathclyde—drug-related deaths in other parts of Scotland are caused by the abuse of other drugs and other cocktails of drugs, often in specific ways and in conjunction with alcohol.

In other words, there is no uniform drug problem across Scotland. We have to find solutions that tackle the way in which drugs come on to the market and that take into account the variety of drugs in their different strengths and in different cocktails. We must also put resources at the disposal of the appropriate agencies to help to prevent people from getting into the cycle of drug abuse and to help to rehabilitate people who may have had one of a variety of addictions.

I accept that the vast majority of drug-related deaths in Strathclyde have been caused by the type of drug abuse that Mr Sheridan described. However, across Scotland, a wide variety of patterns of drug abuse has been related to drug deaths. We need a sophisticated approach.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Can the minister tell me whether anyone in Scotland has died from cannabis consumption?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am not aware of the figures for cannabis abuse, or of the way in which it links with other forms of drug abuse. However, I am aware that all the advice from law enforcement agencies is that fewer drug users use a single drug and more drug users use alcohol, cannabis and harder drugs, such as heroin, in a cocktail. That produces a lethal mixture of dependency and overdose. We must be sophisticated in the way in which we consider the pattern of drug abuse—the issues are not separate in the way that Mr Sheridan describes.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Does the minister agree that the lesson from places such as Amsterdam, where cannabis has been legalised and is sold in cafes, is that wherever cannabis is sold, other hard drugs are beneath the counter? Does he agree that the use of cannabis almost inevitably leads to the use of other drugs?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Is that from personal experience, Phil?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am tempted to allow Mr Sheridan to intervene again—this is becoming interesting.

I will restate my point. Generally speaking, it is not true that cannabis is used, or misused, in isolation from other drugs. It is true that the pattern of drug abuse in Scotland predominantly and increasingly involves a cocktail of different drugs, which—with the especially pure heroin that has been coming into the country recently—has contributed to the increasing number of drug-related deaths. I cannot comment on the example of Amsterdam, but I am grateful to Mr Gallie for making the point.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Not at the moment, Mr Harper—perhaps a little later in the debate.

Our strategy is set out in the document "Tackling Drugs in Scotland: Action in Partnership", which contains the agreed policy approach for the vast majority of agencies that are in partnership with the Scottish Executive. The strategy includes a wide-ranging programme in the form of national objectives and priorities for action. Protecting communities from drug-related anti-social and criminal behaviour is one of its four overarching aims. Treatment and rehabilitation, education, prevention and enforcement all have a complementary part to play.

The police and other enforcement agencies do sterling and successful work at both national and force level in countering the increase in the volume of drug dealing and trafficking. We are keen to increase the momentum and that is why the "Partnership for Scotland" document includes a commitment to

"take tough action on drug dealers, establish a Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency and step up action to stop drugs coming into Scotland".

The Executive has made clear its commitment to provide increased resources to establish a Scottish drugs enforcement agency, which will build on the success of the Scottish crime squad and increase the size of drug squads at force level.

Work on that agency is well under way, with the involvement of key enforcement agencies, but considerable planning remains to be done. However, within the next 100 days, I expect to be able to announce details about the structure of the drugs enforcement agency and, within 150 days, we will appoint a chief executive or director to head the agency. Very soon after that, the agency will become operational.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

Can the minister assure us that the establishment and manning of the agency, and the increasing number of officers on drugs duties in local forces, will not impact on the number of officers assigned to other non-drugs-related duties? In other words, are the increased resources that the minister mentioned truly additional and not simply a redeployment of existing force strength at a local or national level?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I welcome that intervention, because it gives me the opportunity to make clear our cast-iron commitment to provide resources of approximately £4 million—the precise costing still needs to be determined—which will support 200 additional officers. Although we have not yet decided how those officers will be split between the national agency and local forces, it looks as though 100 additional officers will go into the central agency and the other 100 additional officers will go into local constabularies.

We are working with drug action teams in every part of Scotland and with a wide range of organisations to implement our broader drugs strategy and to monitor results. We are investing additional money in drug action team support to assist in implementing the strategy. This week, their resources were doubled to £1 million for local implementation. We will also be seeking to maximise the role that community safety partnerships can play in tackling drug misuse. Furthermore, we have announced that £300,000 will be invested in central research on the effectiveness of drug prevention and rehabilitation treatment.

The Scottish Parliament offers opportunities that have never been available in Scotland before. Not only do we have a Parliament again, but we have a Parliament with the power to set up procedures, which will be considerably more open, to develop and evaluate policy and practice.

The Parliament provides the means to meet quickly and directly the challenges that we will face in the future. I hope that I have given a clear view of the future that we aim to create for crime prevention and community safety. That future will provide us with a unique opportunity to build a truly inclusive society for Scotland.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the continuing need to work together for a safer Scotland and acknowledges that the formation of powerful yet practical community safety partnerships, as promoted by the Scottish Executive, provides the means of sustained involvement from all members of our communities and the agencies which serve those communities.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Before I call Phil Gallie to speak to and move his amendment, I want to raise a point. Yesterday afternoon, I had to make it clear that members who speak in a debate are expected to remain in the chamber for the minister's wind-up speech. The same applies for the opening speech. Members have requested the floor who have not been here for the start of the debate, which means, frankly, that their chances of being called are diminished.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 9:54 am, 23rd September 1999

In his opening remarks, the minister suggested that this issue was a top priority with the Scottish Executive. I am extremely disappointed that no other member of the Scottish Executive was in the chamber for the minister's speech.

It is hard to disagree with the motion, because it means all things to all men and shows neither commitment to nor the means of dealing with crime on our streets or in our homes. I am sad to say that the minister's speech did not detract from that perception.

The motion is wishy-washy and means little when it comes to addressing the real concerns of the general public. Our amendment adds teeth to the motion and seeks to ensure that the real problems of crime and crime prevention are dealt with in the chamber today.

I respectfully suggest that the minister should accept our amendment, because surely it is in the interests of everyone in Scotland for the public to respect and have confidence in the law. How can the minister turn his back on such an amendment?

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

One of the reasons why we will not accept the amendment is that its terms are too narrow. The Conservative party's manifesto from the previous set of elections stated that

"public confidence in the police is crucial in the fight against crime".

That is only one part of the broad agenda under discussion today, which is why we will not accept the amendment.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I hope to demonstrate that, although I recognise the minister's point, the public need to have confidence in and respect for the whole system—not just the police, but the courts and the procurator system. On that basis, I repeat that the minister must accept our amendment, because otherwise he is saying that those issues are of no importance to the Scottish police. I am sure that he does not believe that in his heart.

Our amendment recognises the dangers of people losing confidence in our system of justice, with the potential for citizens to be driven to a point where they take the law into their own hands. I already hear people saying that that is scaremongering and a fanciful suggestion. However, there is evidence to back up my point. In Kilmarnock, Frank Gilliland perhaps went over the top in an attempt to protect his property, but he did not deserve to go to jail. A week or two ago, an Aberdeenshire farmer threw dung at youngsters who were terrorising his six children and invalid wife. The farmer ended up in court, but those who were terrorising him did not. Perhaps more serious is the case of the Norfolk farmer who tragically killed an intruder. What pressures was that farmer under at the time and how much did his lack of faith in the justice system lead to that terrible situation?

I accept that there have to be community partnerships and community involvement. I welcomed the neighbourhood watch schemes, which played a part in attempting to contain local crime levels.

Photo of Ian Jenkins Ian Jenkins Liberal Democrat

Your amendment cuts out initiatives that you now say are worthwhile. I could have accepted your amendment if it had been an add-on to the motion, but I cannot do that because it disregards valuable work on community partnerships.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I disagree with Mr Jenkins's point, because I deliberately left in the part of the motion that says:

"the Parliament notes the continuing need to work together for a safer Scotland".

I left out the remainder of the motion. As worded, my amendment supports community involvement.

I welcome the existence of community policemen, who are perhaps a replacement for the bobby on the beat whose role has become redundant as a consequence of the change in criminality. Criminals today are highly mobile and policemen cannot be tied down to sticking to the beat.

I recognise the need for co-operation between the police, the procurator's office, the sheriffs, the social workers and the Prison Service. They all have a key role to play in an overall public partnership, but I am concerned about developments in each of those areas, which create an element of doubt and scepticism in the mind of the public.

Police numbers have fallen over the past two years and, before that, Government targets on police manning levels were not met by the local authority-controlled police authorities.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Strathclyde is 350 officers short. If the minister will acknowledge that that is the case and tell us what he plans to do to rectify the situation, I am delighted to give way to him.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Does Mr Gallie recognise that staffing in the Scottish police forces—civilian support staff and police officers—has risen over the period during which he says the number has declined, from 19,452 in 1998 to 19,509 in the current year? Civilianisation of core staff is a key element in trying to get additional officers out into the communities and into detecting and resolving crime. That is to be welcomed; it represents an entirely different picture from that portrayed by Mr Gallie.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I accept the fact that the Administration has replaced experienced, knowledgeable police officers with clerks and other pen-pushers, although I also accept that some of the civilian appointments have been worth while, such as those of the people who look after closed-circuit television systems. The Tory Government pushed for those systems and I hope that this Administration will press on with them.

On the subject of being tough on crime and drugs, I welcome the drugs enforcement agency, but the minister's words today must be challenged. He talked about £4 million being available for setting up that agency and suggested that the agency would not fill the new roles with policemen who are currently in position. Right out of the air, we will pick up 200 highly experienced and knowledgeable police officers and that £4 million will pay for them. A quick calculation shows that that equates to paying those officers a salary of £20,000 a year. A police constable's salary is around £18,000 or £19,000, so I would be delighted if the minister explained how the £4 million that he identified will meet the cost of those 200 police officers.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I reiterate my earlier comments. I said approximately £4 million, because, in order to ensure that we can properly resource the additional 200 officers, the full costings have still to be finalised. Further, I made it absolutely clear that those 200 officers would be additional and new. It would be ludicrous to suggest that 200 officers could be created out of thin air; an appropriate strategy for training and developing the additional officers, who will be entering the central drugs enforcement agency and local constabularies, will be required. That will be a matter for discussion with chief constables and the head of the new agency.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I accept that perhaps the minister has got his sums wrong. I will do a quick calculation for him. If we are talking about 200 officers, I will use an average salary—bearing in mind the various ranks—of £40,000 a year. That means that the minister will have to double his figure from £4 million to £8 million. We can guarantee that the required back-up, in terms of civilians and equipment, will cost another £4 million. The minister's sum has tripled in the space of a few minutes; that smacks somewhat of the Executive's plans for the new Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Those are precisely the economics that got the previous Conservative Government into such hot water in the first place.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The minister has already given an adequate demonstration of hogwash economics. Four million pounds will go nowhere towards providing the type of service that he has promised the Scottish public.

The police forces face other burdens. New legislation covering sex offenders and family protection is in place and today the minister mentioned a new act on racial harassment. That all adds to the burden on the police, yet the minister is responsible for a reduction in police numbers. From police sources, I have an estimate that the police service budget faces a shortfall of some £9 million this year. Given that 87 per cent of the police budget goes on manpower, that gives rise to great cause for concern.

The burden on the police does not stop with the number of policemen on the beat or available to the chief constables. A heck of a lot of police hours are wasted in the court system, on waiting for trials to come up and on trials that never take place. The previous Government attempted to deal with that problem by introducing a diet system, but to be truthful, that system does not seem to be working. Perhaps the minister could address that issue in the longer term.

On youth crime, I recall a situation in Ayr some years ago when 700 reported crimes were attributed to 15 young people. The frustration of the police was immense; they pulled the youngsters in and got to the root of a crime, then the youngsters were turned back out to offend again. We may wonder whether such situations are a thing of the past. I was advised by one force that 36 young persons committed 921 crimes; the value of the stolen property associated with those crimes was more than £250,000. Other forces have similar stories to tell.

We are not doing the youngsters any favours. One offender had committed 87 offences before he was 16; since then, in different sheriff courts, he has been convicted on a further 18 occasions. He is serving a six-month prison sentence, having already served a similar sentence. He had appeared before children's panels on 10 previous occasions; it appears that such panels are simply not working for persistent offenders. I draw the minister's attention to that problem and call for an urgent review of the youth justice system. Victims' interests must be represented as well as the opinions of those tasked with rehabilitation.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Mr Gallie has condemned young people for their involvement in crime. Will he join me in condemning the crime against young people that was committed by the previous Government, when it removed benefit entitlement for 16 and 17-year-olds?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I certainly will not join Mr Sheridan in that, but I join him in having concerns for young people. I believe that the Conservative Government did a heck of a lot to improve the lot of young people, in education and in other ways. We took a stand on benefits. The Labour party criticised that stand at one time, but I suspect that if Mr Sheridan ever reached a position of authority, he, like the Labour party, would backtrack if any attempts were made to change the situation.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I will give way in a moment.

The children's panels are failing persistent young offenders who are determined to live a life of crime. We can take great pride in the bulk of our youth. They do not cause trouble, they want to get on with their lives in peace and harmony and they are the ones whom I want to protect. At the same time, the interests of those who are set on the path of crime must be addressed.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I have two questions. Does not Mr Gallie agree that, given the many thousands of young people who are dealt with successfully in the children's panel system, it is wrong to quote one instance, such as the one that he mentioned, to condemn the entire system? Secondly, in Scotland, 30 per cent of young people under the age of 15 have tried cannabis. Seventy-five per cent have experimented with alcohol. Which is the biggest problem? Which drug leads to which?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I would argue that cannabis is the bigger problem, because it leads to other things. If we legalise cannabis, it will give added impetus to the attraction of trying new and perhaps dangerous drugs.

I was careful in my wording of the point about children's hearings—they are not doing persistent young offenders any good. I recognise that children's panels do a good job for many youngsters by sending a warning shot across their bows. I see that Mr Harper is nodding, so it appears that he accepts that.

The minister said today that there had been something like a 3 or 4 per cent increase in crimes such as housebreaking. However, the figures that I have show that the number of offences involving offensive weapons has risen by 13 per cent and that assault with intent to rape is up by 12 per cent, non-sexual violent crime is up by 10 per cent, serious assault is up by 9 per cent, robbery is up by 9 per cent and sexual assaults are up by 9 per cent. Those figures are totally different from those presented by the minister. Where did he get his facts? I can justify where mine came from.

To understand the public's perception of justice, it is essential to examine the trends in our courts. We must consider examples such as the one involving two youths who beat up and killed a youth who was a neighbour. What happened to them? They got 300 hours' community service. That hardly seems to be justice. I have now learned that the two youths are appealing against the severity of their sentence. The minister should go away and tell his friend and fellow member of the Executive, the Lord Advocate, to ensure that the Crown appeals against the leniency of that sentence.

There was also the case of the grandmother who used her granddaughter to attempt to smuggle drugs into Cornton Vale prison. Her solicitor's advice was that she could expect her sentence to be about 18 months. What did she get? She got a suspended sentence and was sent back to her granddaughter. What future does that give her granddaughter, if her grandmother's example is anything to go by?

Drugs in prisons are a curse. The inspector of prisons' recent report demonstrated that the major problem in prisons is drug abuse. How can that be? Why can we not achieve drug-free prisons? If we cannot achieve a drug-free environment there, how can we achieve it in society at large—in our schools, for example? It is just not on.

I recognise the problem of drugs being taken into prisons. Perhaps we need to take a harder line. We need to consider prison visits, for example, and decide whether every prisoner should be entitled to open visits. Perhaps they should be earned—a reward for prisoners. Without a doubt, visiting time is when drugs enter prisons and are handed over. The Executive has a responsibility to keep everyone in prison safe and to help prisoners to mend their ways, so that they can return to society in the long term.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I agree with Mr Gallie that drugs are an extremely serious problem in prisons. I recently visited Saughton prison and saw just how serious the problem there is. Does he agree that we must ensure that prisoners who have the guts to try to get off drugs in prison have counselling, full support and rehabilitation and that the various fellowships, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, are allowed into prisons? Prisoners need such support and counselling, which they are not getting at the moment.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

It delights me to be able to agree on this rare occasion almost whole-heartedly with Mr Raffan's comments. I, too, visited Saughton prison some years ago and saw new drugs rehabilitation programmes being introduced. The Justice and Home Affairs Committee should perhaps visit the prison to examine the ways in which drugs problems are being treated, as Mr Raffan appears to suggest that the high hopes of some four or five years ago have not been met.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

A couple of members have talked about visiting Saughton, so I thought that I would come to my feet, as I visited the prison myself a number of years ago. [Laughter.]

Seriously though, is Mr Gallie aware that the main problem with the rise in the drugs problem in our prisons, according to the inspector of prisons' report, is the increase in the incidence of heroin abuse? Would he care to comment on why that is? Why has drug consumption moved from softer drugs to heroin?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

That is the inevitable path. There is a link. People start on softer drugs, work their way through the leisure drugs, and all too frequently end on the heroin trail.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The gentleman has just finished an intervention in which he referred to his visit to Saughton some years ago. That happened because he failed to pay his dues to society. If he had, there might have been more money in the public coffers to meet the cost of benefit payments for young people.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Mr Gallie is wrong on both counts, but sometimes he is ignorant of some of the arguments in this chamber. I was not imprisoned for failing to pay my dues. I was in prison for breaching a court order that prevented me from stopping a warrant sale. Mr Gallie will be pleased to know, however, that the warrant sale did not take place, as we did prevent it.

Mr Gallie did not answer my question correctly. If he were aware of the detailed report of the inspector of prisons, he would know that the reason why heroin is abused more in prisons today is that it is not as detectable in the blood long term, whereas cannabis remains in the blood for several months. Prisoners are therefore moving from consuming cannabis to consuming heroin. That is the problem with drugs testing in our prisons.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I am sorry if I got the original reason for Mr Sheridan being in prison wrong. My understanding was that it was for failure to pay poll tax, but if he paid up and everything was fine, I accept his comment.

Drugs testing is certainly a factor in the shift towards heroin, and I am sure that the Justice and Home Affairs Committee will consider that issue. I trust that the Executive will do the same. I trust too, however, that Tommy Sheridan agrees that it is well worth carrying out drugs testing in prisons. Labour members on my left opposed such testing at one time in the not too distant past.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

They are not on your left any more, Phil.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

That is welcome. It is good that they have seen the light, Tommy. Perhaps one day there will be a wee halo round your head when you, too, go down the path of righteousness.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Comments should be made through the chair, please. Will you wind up now?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I will, but I see that Roseanna Cunningham is shaking her head. Does she object to my hoping to convert Tommy Sheridan?

Members:

Wind up.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I am not aware of a time limit.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Gallie, will you wind up, please, and refer your remarks through the chair?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

All right then.

The public see the problems in our prisons, and problems with rewards and with sentencing. They cannot understand why people who are sentenced to four years in prison come out after two. We must examine that issue.

I welcome the minister's recently announced intention to consider drug confiscation and the policies that are pursued in Ireland. If he is able to move the Executive into taking action on such policies, he will do much to improve the situation on drugs in Scotland and will remove some of the drug barons' standing in society, which we must erode.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Gallie, will you please come to a close now?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I also wish to mention trivia in our courts—trivia that saw the lack of a birth certificate allow someone who had sex with a minor to escape scot-free and that allowed someone who carried heroin within his body to escape scot-free because of a wrong signature on a warrant. I look to the Crown Office and to the way in which summary courts are used—

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Gallie, will you come to a close now?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I look to many other aspects of Crown Office involvement, in crimes where the public are sold short.

Again, I ask the minister to support the amendment and to put justice back on track.

I move amendment S1M-163.1, to leave out from "formation" to end and insert:

"principal means of achieving this is to ensure public respect and confidence in the justice system."

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 10:21 am, 23rd September 1999

It is rather unfortunate to have to follow such a bizarre speech. I am tempted to suggest that we should treat such contributions as little more than entertainment. Frankly, there is very little practical value to be gained from that sort of rambling.

The SNP recognises that there is little to object to in the Executive's motion and my comments are predicated on a basis of general support for community initiatives. Anything that helps to bolster communities is to be welcomed. In truth, it could—and probably will—be argued that it is the very destruction of communities that, over the years, has led to the near breakdown of civil society in some parts of Scotland's urban areas.

The previous Government deliberately brought about much of that destruction. Its ideological obsessions led it to disregard totally the enormous benefits to be gained from thriving local communities. I note with interest that the Tory amendment removes all mention of community from the Executive's motion—that seems rather apt, given the Conservative party's history in respect of community.

A number of specific crime prevention ideas have already been canvassed and no doubt more will be raised today. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the most effective crime prevention methods involve providing jobs and futures for people who may feel that they are no longer part of society. It has become fashionable to call them the socially excluded. The more old-fashioned of us may prefer to use the simple term poverty—economic poverty and social poverty. In my view, until we tackle poverty we will fail to achieve the real success that, presumably, we all want.

This is not the first debate on this subject in which I have been involved. I was involved in a similar debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on 16 June 1998, which dealt with the prevention of crime and—fascinatingly—the then justice minister, Henry McLeish, used the opportunity to announce the publication of

"a strategy for action on community safety".

The strategy was

"designed to improve community safety in Scotland through partnerships between public, private and voluntary bodies."

It was to encourage

"local authorities to take the lead in forming local partnerships, involving the police and other bodies who can influence community safety."

During the debate, Mr McLeish said that the strategy did not

"say exactly what should be done. That must be decided locally, in the light of local needs and opportunities, and as part of other local policies."

It is fair to say that the subject that we are discussing today does not involve anything startlingly new. It does, however, give rise to some pertinent questions, particularly in the light of another comment made by the then justice minister. He expected

"to see results from these partnerships we want real action, not planning documents."—[Official Report, House of Commons, Scottish Grand Committee, 16 June 1998; c 3-4.]

In fairness, I suppose that a guidance document is not a planning document. However, in the spirit of the assertions made by the then justice minister, I want to make a few inquiries of the Deputy Minister for Justice—in particular about the community safety partnerships that are mentioned in his motion. He may be able to answer some of my questions today—I will be happy for him to write to me separately if he does not have all the information to hand.

Can the minister give members an idea of the extent of uptake by various local bodies in response to the strategy, which is now more than a year old? Is there variation from area to area? If there is, are there any patterns to that variation? It would be reasonable to infer from the earlier safer Scotland document and this more recent publication that more emphasis has been placed on the perceived problems of urban communities, as opposed to rural communities, regarding access to resources and facilities for partnership projects. Is the emphasis a direct result of a variation in response from the start? If it is not, is there not a danger that rural communities will miss out? Will the minister ensure that uptake of the strategy is monitored?

On the basis of initial feedback which, I presume, has been undertaken in the past year, can an estimate be made of the likely long-term effectiveness of the scheme? How is it intended that that effectiveness will be monitored? What proposals are there to ensure that we receive regular updates on a number of factors, so that we are told how effective the strategy is?

I, too, have questions on policing. I hope that I will put my questions more constructively than have some others. Will the success or failure of individual community safety partnerships have an effect on the level of policing in a given area? On a point of more general concern to those of us who have to deal with rural communities in our constituencies, will the minister—today or in the future—make a statement on rural police provision? That was a concern at last year's Scottish Grand Committee debate. I suspect that it is still a concern, even among the minister's back-bench members who represent rural communities.

We all agree that public confidence is vital. There is little doubt that the public wants more bobbies on the beat. Manned police stations and regular patrols, by foot or car—although most people prefer police to be on foot—give a feeling that help is close at hand and that the police are acting as a deterrent to crime. Fear of crime is debilitating and often leads to people being trapped in their homes after dark, afraid to live normal lives. Visible policing helps to reduce that fear considerably. One of the most unfortunate trends in policing, which many members will recognise, is the reduction in visible policing and the reduction in manned police stations in rural areas.

Most people accept that there is an incongruity between public perception and what the police claim is the reality of how they have to operate in the modern day. Public confidence is paramount in such matters, and if that means playing a little to perception, I would say, so be it. The reduction in manned rural police stations has caused great concern in my constituency and, I suspect, throughout other rural areas, and in the commuter villages of the central belt. Few issues cause more concern, or bring people to constituency surgeries faster, than a threat to a local police station.

In last year's debate, I mentioned that Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary had used mobile police stations to ensure a regular presence in many smaller villages and hamlets. I understand that the initiative proved immensely popular. The mobile stations apparently made about 80 visits each month to smaller communities.

Tayside Police now has a limited ability to do something similar, which it has tried in some of the housing estates in Perth. It would be useful if the minister could address that sort of flexibility for the police as it is well worth considering implementing the initiative throughout Scotland. It would encourage public confidence and remove some of the fears felt by communities left without a permanent police presence. Although I have focused more closely on the challenge of rural policing, I know that most of what I say could apply fairly well to urban communities. I expect that other members may wish to pick on this point.

Closed-circuit television is another important factor in crime prevention and community safety. Applications for CCTV are increasing. I do not know the current total of applications, but I dare say that it is considerable and that many have been submitted at the instigation of communities. My argument is that the increase in demand for CCTV has been fuelled partly by the public's desire for what they regard as a second-best option to the bobby on the beat.

I feel sure that if there were a more widespread police presence, the demand for CCTV would not be so great. Much of the increase in CCTV in smaller towns and villages has come about because of the reduced police presence. In most cases, CCTV has been a success—I think we all agree on that. Crime rates are generally lower, although there are occasional signs of criticism, and public confidence is higher.

Yet again, however, I very gently push for a consideration of the regulation of the spread and use of CCTV. The rapid growth in use is taking place in a legislation-free zone and the undoubted effectiveness of the technology should not relieve us of our responsibility to ensure that there is minimal abuse and misuse of CCTV. There are no real safeguards, and there is no real monitoring of the extent of its use. Although local authorities and the police may make applications, it is clear that, in private areas, CCTV is going in almost unmonitored. The police and local authorities are unlikely to object to regulatory measures. They might broadly welcome them, because they would deal with some of the cowboys who are moving into the market.

Community safety and crime prevention must cover security in the home as well as on the streets. People have the right to feel safe in their own homes. Unfortunately, for women in particular, that right can be nothing other than a fond hope. I do not want to trespass on the Justice and Home Affairs Committee's current work, but I want to welcome initiatives such as those pioneered by Fife Council, to establish specific domestic violence units which combine the expertise of the police and social work departments and deal exclusively with domestic violence. The most recent figures show a higher number of prosecutions for domestic violence in the region and help to create a fuller picture of its frequency and extent. Much domestic violence is unreported and sometimes hospital admissions are the only real measure of its incidence.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am grateful to Roseanna for giving me an opportunity to respond to a number of her points. I am sure that she is aware that the Scottish Executive is participating in the Scottish partnership on domestic violence and in the on-going consultation. We are playing an active role and I welcome her comments.

It is right to say that there is a high volume of demand for CCTV, but that relates to the success of the CCTV schemes in 99 per cent of the areas in which they have been introduced. On a note of caution, I do not think that it is entirely accurate to say that CCTV is seen as a replacement for officers on the beat.

Police forces are clear that the implementation of CCTV has allowed for more effective use of officer time because they can be directed through command and control structures to particular areas. CCTV has allowed the police to free resources to be used elsewhere. That important point is perhaps not part of the public's awareness. CCTV schemes that are funded and authorised by the Scottish Executive are governed by a code of practice. All users are bound to sign up to that code as a condition of receipt of grant.

I have some information on community safety partnerships to hand. There are 32 partnerships at present and they have recently been surveyed. We will consider their long-term effectiveness through a proper system of audit. It is worth making the point that all the partnerships that have started to bed down have tried to do so with a proper reporting relationship direct to the Scottish Executive. We want to ensure that best practice is replicated in all the existing partnerships, and in the areas where they are not properly up and running at the moment.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I am grateful for the minister's remarks. I will ask him for more detail on how the Executive plans to monitor the partnerships. I do not disagree with what he says about CCTV, but the issue is that whereas the police see it as an operational tool, the public often sees it as a second-best option. We must remember that it is possible for our perceptions of an appropriate way to proceed to run ahead of the public's—not just in this area, but in many others too. We run into that all the time and we need to learn how to take the public with us to ensure that people's confidence is not dented. Many of the demands for CCTV—particularly in smaller communities—arise because people feel that they have insufficient policing. They may be right or wrong in feeling that, but that is how the demands come about.

I will return to my remarks on domestic violence in Fife. The subject is important, because it is about crime in the home. Effective police and social work intervention undoubtedly has a deterrent effect and it is essential that such successful programmes are enabled across Scotland and not confined to one or two areas. There is significant cross-party consensus on this matter. We agree about the need for emergency residential accommodation, safe homes, crisis telephone lines and for all the other things that have been flagged up as absolutely necessary to tackle this particular crime. I hope that practical measures such as those will be introduced as part of the community safety initiative.

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced anti-social behaviour orders, which it was hoped would be an effective tool in the community armoury. I hope that the minister will be able to indicate the extent to which they have been used by local authorities in Scotland since their inception. I ask, because at a recent meeting with officials from Perthshire Housing Association, it was suggested that local authorities' resource difficulties mean that the orders are not being used. If that is true, it is a great pity.

Can community safety partnerships increase the number of anti-social behaviour orders and the number of individuals willing to come forward as witnesses? No matter what has been done so far to deal with anti-social neighbours, getting people to come forward remains one of the major stumbling blocks. The new mechanisms were meant to offer more flexibility than the alternative of eviction, but that does not seem to be happening in practice. We still have the cumbersome procedures that were meant—in part—to be replaced. I hope that there is some monitoring of the use and effectiveness of anti-social behaviour orders and some reconsideration of the difficulties that local authorities may be experiencing obtaining them. If there are difficulties, will the minister commit himself to ensuring that the problems are addressed?

The minister referred to drugs. There is cross-party agreement about the significant problems of drugs on our streets. I would distinguish—as I think would the minister—between the dealers and the users. The approach ought to be tough on dealers, and tough on the causes of users, but more constructive about the users themselves.

The SNP has talked about drugs courts as a way of tackling the drug-related crime that users indulge in to finance their habits. I hope that whatever proposals are made will distinguish between dealers and users so that some of the measures that were referred to earlier can be introduced—even in prison. I certainly wish to associate myself with the remarks made by Mr Raffan, who obviously wants to speak again.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Does Ms Cunningham agree that it makes no sense to send drug addicts who are guilty of minor offences to prison, where drugs may be more easily available than they are on the street? It makes much more sense to send them to treatment centres—if the beds are available. It is a scandal that there are only 120 residential beds in Scotland at the moment. After treatment, users can return to the community—hopefully in full mental and physical health—and, in recovery, contribute to the community. That is more cost effective than sending addicts to prison.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I wholeheartedly agree. The drugs courts idea is to remove offenders from the direct road to prison at the point where a prison sentence is likely to be the next one to be handed down. Many drug users appear in courts and are not charged specifically with drug crime. They appear for shoplifting, theft and other offences. The offenders for whom the real problem is drugs need to be identified and fast-tracked out of prison. For those who end up with sentences of four, six or nine months, prison is the least effective place in which to be treated. There are problems to be overcome in the treatment of drug users and the management of the rehabilitation process. The minister wishes to respond.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am grateful for the opportunity to comment. The drug treatment and testing order regime that is being introduced in Glasgow directly addresses the issue raised by Mr Raffan.

While we do not at present have drug courts in Scotland, there are a number of pilot projects, which will be reviewed, to test the effectiveness of diversion from the courts in terms of savings in court resources, freeing of court time and providing appropriate rehabilitative treatment for offenders to ensure that the vicious circle is broken.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

We are all trying to find the best solution for what we recognise is a serious problem. It will help if we are as constructive as possible about projected solutions.

Community safety is about tying together the various strands of public concern. It is about building confidence in the systems that we put in place for protection and punishment. It is as much about local initiatives to tackle vandalism through education as it is about grand strategies—such as the zero tolerance campaign—that affect the quality of life of most citizens.

I have highlighted some local initiatives that have been successful on a small scale, but which could be extended nationwide. They show the effectiveness of co-ordination of effort and the importance of dialogue.

Today's debate and the community safety initiative that is being pursued by the Executive are only small parts of that larger dialogue. As I said at the start of my speech, the larger dialogue is about giving people back their hope and belief in their futures. Only an end to deprivation and poverty can bring that.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 10:42 am, 23rd September 1999

I come to this debate with some trepidation and anxiety. It is my view that there are no easy fixes in this debate—there are no easy answers. People who seem so certain on subjects such as this—subjects that are so complex—always worry me.

I have been on a steep learning curve since becoming an MSP, and the issues of crime and community safety have been raised time and again by my constituents. They are the issues that are raised most consistently by victims of crime and—more often—by people who live in communities that experience disorder and harassment by young people.

As the minister said, it is clear that crime is linked to poverty and deprivation; but it is also true that the victims of crime and community disorder are often the most vulnerable and poorest people in society. The challenge for us is to recognise the importance of joined-up action between and across communities and Government.

I want to raise two important issues. The first is drugs. A report by the greater Glasgow drugs action team has shown that experimenting with illegal drugs is equally common in all communities, but that people who live in the most disadvantaged parts of greater Glasgow are more than 30 times more likely to be admitted to hospital in a drugs-misuse-related emergency than those who live in the most affluent areas. Everyone experiments, but the poor die.

We must also recognise that youngsters from families in which there are serious addiction problems are experimenting with drugs. The problem is related to poverty and I welcome the role of the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee in tackling it. The statistics are frightening, and represent tragic events for many families. I welcome the attack on drug dealers and the establishment of a drug enforcement agency.

The report also surveyed people in Glasgow who inject drugs. They reported that they had—on average—committed 26 offences in the previous month in order to feed their habits. While we take on the dealers, we must also address the rest of the problem: we must recognise that addiction-driven criminal acts will stop only when addiction stops.

The second issue that I want to raise is youth crime and disorder, which is consistently raised with me by elderly people. It ranges from low-level nuisance behaviour to under-age drinking, harassment and the targeting of older people. It can cause horrific stress and distress. To some young people, it is a sport and they do it because they have the power to do it. It is a form of bullying and it is the same kind of use of power that we see in domestic violence. It is unacceptable. We must recognise that that kind of behaviour exists. It must be addressed.

I spoke to a member of the children's panel for my area yesterday and she told me that referrals to the panel are increasingly serious. That makes me anxious. One of the strengths of the children's panel system is that it can intervene early. It can deal with and support youngsters who are beginning to get into troubling behaviour. If the referrals are serious, the youngsters must be much further along the road and it is unlikely that they can be helped.

The panel member also reported that most cases are still about care and protection. There are questions of physical abuse, neglect and sexual abuse of young people. We should remember that the most dangerous place that many of our children can be is their own home.

I welcome the overall strategy that the Government has presented. We must strike a balance between technological developments in CCTV and community safety initiatives and forums such as the one in my area. Communities often seek low-level, person-centred initiatives that can make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people. We must have confidence in the judicial system and we should talk to children's panels to examine how they can be supported in their positive work with young people.

It is important to work with young people. They are often stigmatised—they are seen on a street corner and immediately regarded as the problem.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I thank the member for giving way as I appreciate that she is near the end of her speech. Will she join me in criticising the local authority in Glasgow for the dearth of youth services in parts of her constituency, in particular in Pollok ward, which I represent on the city council? Pollok has a population of 7,500 and has no community centre—both were closed in 1997 by the city council. Will Johann Lamont join me in criticising those actions?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

The Labour Government has recognised, as I do, that people are in positions where they must make hard decisions. Local councils have also recognised that. We know the difficulties that local councils have faced in the recent past. We also recognise that things are moving forward through initiatives being taken to support local government in recognition of the particular problems that Glasgow faced as a result of council reorganisation. Changes will be made.

My experience of working with young people shows that they often cannot use facilities in communities because other young people prevent them from doing so. There is a kind of bullying that is complex and requires more than throwing community workers at it, although they have an important role to play.

We must talk to young people through the youth parliament and youth network organisations such as the one in Glasgow. We must talk to young people who care about their communities and about how they are presented—the young people whose agenda is to deal with and challenge the other young people in the communities who cause as many problems for young people as they do for the elderly.

We must talk to young people not only about the problems they create or are perceived as creating, but about their potential and their agenda on what they think Scotland can do for them. That will ensure that our communities no longer suffer the blight that they now endure.

Young people know about community safety as well as anyone else. It is essential to any strategy that we work with them and support them in initiatives that will make a difference to their future.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat 10:48 am, 23rd September 1999

This is an important debate and it is a pity that there are distractions in Harrogate and Inverness, but I welcome the fact that it is taking place and I welcome the Executive's motion.

There is widespread agreement that the best way to fight crime is to tackle its causes in the community. We must concentrate on detection and prevention and keep police services up to strength. I note that numbers have declined by about 130 since September 1997. That is a matter that I would like the minister to address in his winding-up speech.

We must, of course, use new technology to cut bureaucracy and free police officers' time for other duties.

We must ensure that every rural community has a named community officer. That is already happening in many communities. I attended a rural agricultural show on the border between Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway; the community officer was there. It is important that there is a visible police presence in rural areas.

There should also be a named officer for each beat in urban areas. That is an important objective. I agree with Roseanna Cunningham that one of the biggest causes of concern over policing is when a manned station closes, or when a station is not manned for a sufficient number of hours. Nothing undermines people's confidence more than telephoning their local station, only to be routed somewhere else because there is no one there. That issue needs to be tackled.

The Liberal Democrats want to retain the present number of police forces in Scotland, but we must identify more opportunities for joint operations and for procuring equipment and services across the English-Scottish border. Greater co-operation with constabularies in the north of England would assist crime prevention in the south of Scotland.

We back the use of CCTV with appropriate safeguards for civil liberties. We should also encourage the use of better home security systems. There are perhaps ways of building on the home energy efficiency scheme, for example by asking project co-ordinators to address the provision of home security with the aid of grants.

Better street lighting in some communities would be valuable. It is the cause of some regret that, in recent years, local authorities have had to cut the provision of street lighting in certain areas or have not maintained it to the highest standard. The police have achieved some success through targeting specific types of crime. In the Scottish Borders, they have made special efforts in several areas, particularly house-breaking, which have yielded significant dividends. There should be further targeting.

The biggest form of crime prevention is detection. Detection ensures that the criminal does not want to commit crime. It is the key element in policing. In the Scottish Borders, the detection rate has risen to 53 per cent—a remarkable achievement—but still only a bare majority of crimes are reported. As a senior police officer said to me recently, the police cannot do it all on their own; they need public assistance.

Crime prevention should be the duty of every citizen. I sincerely hope that we never become a society that is prepared to pass by on the other side. Working in partnership with the police is extremely important, and we should encourage greater participation in organisations such as children's panels. It is a cause of some concern that, locally, a significant advertising campaign is being used to try to recruit people to children's panels. We should look to better means of encouraging participation in such organisations.

We must encourage more reporting of crime and ensure that witnesses feel safe when they are giving evidence. We do not pay sufficient attention to their safety and confidence when giving evidence. We should perhaps develop the role of the police family liaison officer to assist people to come to terms with reporting and giving evidence on crime. The sheriff court users' group of the Scottish Consumer Council has, for a long time, advocated that there should be assistance in courts for witnesses—some form of guide or court assistant to help people through the process of giving evidence. For some people, giving evidence is the first occasion on which they have been in court.

Crime prevention must start early. That fact was brought home to me recently, when I was reading statistics on domestic violence. Out of 2,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 21, half the boys and a third of the girls who were interviewed believed that in some circumstances it is acceptable for a man to hit a woman. If that is what some young people believe, it shows the amount of work that we need to do. That is why the community safety forums are particularly valuable: they bring agencies together and they make the best use of the available expertise.

A community safety forum in the Borders has a youth awareness training course. Unfortunately, it lasts only three days—and it is held annually. It involves six police officers talking to 12 young people and taking them through a variety of experiences. I would be grateful for the minister's comments on that. More investment in that type of area would be valuable, as would more encouragement for the community safety forums in promoting an awareness of crime prevention and an awareness of what should be happening among young people.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 10:55 am, 23rd September 1999

I shall refer to the document "Safer communities in Scotland", although I found the managerial jargon that it contains a bit of a headache. I hope that it is easier for the public at large to understand—maybe it is an age thing, but I used to speak English. I do not know to which language such jargon belongs.

I refer to page 9 of that document. Under the heading "Developing a successful partnership", the document describes the findings of an audit, entitled "Safety in Numbers", that was carried out in England and Wales. One or two concerns are highlighted. The review

"found that many strategies do not reflect

  • local people's priorities;
  • are weak on the causes of crime;
  • fail to invest sufficiently in prevention".

I stop at those three concerns, as I want to focus on crime prevention—in particular, the prevention of youth crime. The minister said that the level of crime is falling, but he was referring to the level of reported crimes. I suspect that many people nowadays, for a variety of reasons, do not report criminal offences on the lower scale. They do not call the police, because the police do not have a swift response time.

Youth crime affects all manner of communities, both urban and rural. I welcome the fact that this document recognises the differences between rural and urban communities in regard to the criminal activities that take place within them and the policing that is required. We have all seen examples of petty vandalism, from a wheelie bin being taken halfway down the street to the acts of major vandalism by young people that usually take place at dusk during the school holidays.

The key to tackling youth crime, which has been identified by members today, is intervention at the earliest possible stage—and early means really early. Before I was a lawyer I was a schoolteacher. I remember seeing a five-year-old in the playground who was well on the way to a professional criminal career, and that is what happened. For some people, criminal behaviour starts pre-school, and we should identify the factors that make youngsters commit crimes.

I am glad that you are back, Phil. We cannot look for the illusionary quick fix. Phil Gallie is a great tabloid man, looking for short, sharp shocks, shots across bows and all that stuff. Those would have some merit if they worked. They do not work, and they do not pretend to address the causes of juvenile crime.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I shall give way in a moment. Let me get going a wee bit. I have sat through an awful lot of your speech, Phil.

We recognise that it is human, when we see someone vandalising property—particularly our own car tyres or something—to want to go out and kill that person. That is an animal reaction; it is not the reaction of a civilised society in dealing with the offender, nor does it serve the interests of the community. I am pleased that the report addresses social inclusion—I am getting used to using such buzz expressions now—because a great deal of youth crime depends on family background, what happens at school, friends, one's self-evaluation, peer and community influence, and whether the offender lives in a neighbourhood in which taking drugs is standard. I am not excusing youth crime; I am explaining it, Phil. Those factors must be at the core of crime prevention requirements of the young offender.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I do not disagree with much of what Christine Grahame has said about the problems of youth and the way in which they must be treated. I majored on the persistent young offender who has accrued a track record of 87 offences, goes from 10 children's panels hearings—which have no effect—to the courts, and ends up in jail. We have not done him any favours, and we have not done society any favours.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Phil Gallie took the words right out of my mouth. We will not have done such people any favours because we are not attacking youth crime in the right manner. Incarcerating people is not the right thing to do; prisons tend to become universities of crime, from which people graduate with better information and tricks than they went in with, and probably with worse drug problems too.

I commend the children's panel system. It may be creaking at the seams now, but it was a great innovation in Scotland in 1971. It endeavoured to take children out of the penal system and to deal holistically—to use another buzz expression—with crime. Families attended and people all around tried to get to the bottom of what was wrong with the children to make them act as they did.

In recent years, however, and particularly under the Conservatives, there has been a shift towards a more punitive disposal of young offenders, which does not work. After the dreadful murder of Jamie Bulger, John Major said that we should condemn more and understand less. How misguided. We can do both; we can condemn more and understand more, and that is the key to the solution.

Phil Gallie should beware making judgments on cases based on what he reads in the papers. He should read the evidence; our sheriffs are not all bampots. We need an informed understanding of juvenile crime so that our disposal can be informed. That is not to say that we should go soft on crime, just as an informed debate on increasing drug problems should not be described as being soft on drugs. We should not back off from those important and complex issues. This Parliament should address them and come up with adult responses to them.

I welcome the involvement of voluntary sector organisations such as Victim Support, Safeguarding Communities Reducing Offending and Barnardo's. Barnardo's has been running a programme for young offenders that has delivered a success rate of 60 per cent non-offending after four years. That is a good hit rate, and I hope that the Justice and Home Affairs Committee will consider that work in its discussions on youth offending.

That leads me to "Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland Report for 1998-1999", which does not contain such good news for the Executive. On page 21, there is a report of an inspection conducted in May 1998 at Polmont young offenders institution. The facility was 12 per cent overpopulated, and the report states:

"Of more immediate concern, some 25% of the population were lying idle on a daily basis, either because there was not enough work or because there were insufficient places for them on offending behaviour and other programmes. This is a situation which is unacceptable, both in terms of each offender's needs and of the potential long term impact that this is likely to have on communities throughout Scotland when they are released."

We should not just be preventing youth crime, we should do something once young offenders are in prison, but we are not doing it.

Page 20 of the prison report says of Glenochil:

"The facilities in the YOI reflected the lack of investment and the low priority which has been given to YOs generally."

On pages 15 and 16, on Longriggend, it says of the chief inspector's concerns:

"Paramount amongst these was the lack of a national strategy for young offenders and young remands".

Further on, in relation to drugs, it says:

"On the other hand, we felt that the treatment of drug withdrawal problems was still relatively perfunctory."

I have lifted those quotations out of the report, but I am sure that members are familiar with it. We must address those issues. We must not concentrate only on keeping people out of prison before they get established on the road to crime; if we put young people into custody, we cannot leave them to rot and learn bad tricks. I ask the Executive to take account of that.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 11:04 am, 23rd September 1999

I support the Executive motion with its emphasis on community, and I regret the way in which the Tory amendment has resorted to a one-club policy of concentrating on the criminal justice system. As Johann Lamont said, we are dealing with a complex matter, and addressing the criminal justice system is certainly one of many policies that must be carried out.

I do not think that the Executive is failing. Angus MacKay emphasised the strong measures that are being taken against drug dealers, and I am sure that every member of this Parliament fully supports the Executive's efforts. The reality, however, is that, no matter how tough we are, we will not solve the drugs problem with just one policy. I am sure that the Executive recognises that.

Education is important in addressing the problem of drugs. In talking about drugs, we should widen the definition to include, for example, alcohol. I was struck by a speech that the deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders police made last week, in which he pointed out that alcohol is a factor in 60 to 70 per cent of homicides, 75 per cent of stabbings and 50 per cent of all crime. That problem is a great challenge for us.

In addressing the education problem, we must look at evidence of what works. More generally, all crime policy must be based on evidence. Since 1997, the Labour Government has moved towards basing crime policy on evidence, and it should be congratulated on that achievement.

The sort of practical measures to which Angus MacKay referred go some way to solving the problem. I welcome the £3 million that is being allocated to provide such practical measures as closed-circuit television. Again, people must look at the evidence, which suggests that, while CCTV may not be a panacea, it is effective. Other practical measures include better locks on houses and better street lighting. The jargon calls all that target hardening, and the evidence shows that those measures have a quantifiable effect on reducing crime.

At the heart of the Executive motion is the prominence that is given to community safety partnerships. I welcome the one in Edinburgh and the local one in my constituency in the north of Edinburgh. It is important to involve local people in the solutions to problems. As Johann Lamont rightly said, it is local communities—and particularly the poorest people in those communities—that bear the brunt of crime. That is why we who represent those people are right to be tough on crime.

We must not forget, however, the underlying relationship, emphasised by Angus MacKay, between crime and poverty. The whole development of social policy is crucially important in crime prevention. A simple measure such as providing more nursery education has been shown to have an effect on reducing crime.

As a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee, I would like to throw in two other dimensions. The first is the issue of crime and race. Next week, we shall be questioning Jim Wallace about the Macpherson report. We must all be committed to taking action to prevent the appalling crimes of racial harassment and racial violence that scar our society. I think that the Executive's response to the Macpherson report has been important, although some of us think that it should go further in some regards.

The other issue about which the Equal Opportunities Committee is concerned is the question of crime and gender. To put it simply, men are far more involved in crime than women are. There is also a problem of male violence against women, and I welcome the work that the Justice and Home Affairs Committee has done on that. I am sure that members will support developments that will enable all women to benefit from interdict orders so that they will have protection from harassment by violent partners.

The Equal Opportunities Committee wants to examine the whole development of the strategy to combat violence against women. Quite rightly, people in this Parliament have emphasised the importance of services and the importance of better funding for Women's Aid and for rape crisis centres. I and many others will demand that that issue be addressed in this year's spending round.

We realise that we must deal with the causes of the problem. We must also emphasise the importance of preventing crime. The work of Zero Tolerance, for example, is fundamentally important. Next Thursday, the organisation will be holding a meeting here in Parliament about Respect, a new campaign developed to challenge the common attitudes that many men have towards women. I hope that many members will attend the presentation and will support the campaign.

As I said during the debate on domestic violence that Maureen Macmillan introduced, I hope that Zero Tolerance will be fully involved in the development of the Scottish Executive's strategy to tackle violence against women, because there have been some problems with that in the past. I hope we all recognise the central importance of preventing crime. That is why this morning's debate is so important. Of course we have to address problems in the criminal justice system, but we must also look at the underlying causes of crime and deal with them.

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative 11:10 am, 23rd September 1999

I agree with Malcolm Chisholm's final remark on the importance of this debate. Yet what do we find? Where are Jim Wallace and Donald Dewar? There is only a deputy minister sitting in the front row and the attendance generally is sparse.

All of us received the document "Making it work together". The word justice is at the top of the list of issues on the cover. Inside the document are a number of pledges, some of which are welcome. I do not deny that but I do question some of the statements made in it. We are told:

"We will promote effective measures to support the victims of crime. We will further protect our communities through the rehabilitation of offenders. We will be tough on crime and on criminals."

How tough? This morning we have been going round in circles and toughness is lacking. There have been only two or three speeches with any realism in them; some of the interjections have had touches of realism as well.

In the document there is a photograph of Jim Wallace chatting to two police officers. Again, where is he today? Where is Donald Dewar? Are they in Hamilton South perhaps? The document says:

"We will work together with the police and with communities to make our streets and neighbourhoods safe."

That means attacking the drugs menace that is blighting our society and it means being tough on criminals. I agree with the idea of drugs courts, which are long overdue and should be targeted at big-time dealers. They should be fast-track courts with no juries, like the Diplock courts in Northern Ireland, because we all know that juries can be nobbled, particularly when big-time dealers are on trial. Then there are often not proven or not guilty verdicts. It is almost impossible to prove that, but it happens. There are lawyers sitting in the chamber who know it happens.

Photo of Gordon Jackson Gordon Jackson Labour

Will Mr Young accept that there is no evidence that any jury in this country has ever been nobbled? The comment that lawyers here know that to be true is not right. We do not know it to be true; we have no evidence whatsoever.

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative

Mr Jackson cannot say the statement is untrue either, because we both have a problem: I cannot prove it and he cannot disprove it. I challenge any lawyer here to say otherwise. We can suspect but we may not be able to prove, on either side. Nevertheless, there is a very good case for not having juries.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Rather than this neanderthal approach, which is so typical of the extreme right-wing attitude of his party now, and rather than making silly personal attacks that are not worthy of the chamber, will Mr Young explain the appalling record on home affairs and law and order of his party in government—which was not so much a Greek tragedy as a Feydeau farce—and then, eating humble pie, tell us what he would do for the future?

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative

I have no intention of eating humble pie. As a former Tory MP, Keith Raffan knows as well as I do that the Tories had considerable success in the past on this. He chose to leave our party—

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative

The lights were going out. I am speaking for people on the streets who have said such things to me time and again. Will life ever mean that in a life sentence? It does on occasion, yet the law could be reported for breaching the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 because, more often than not, a life sentence comes with a recommendation of a limited number of years.

Justice must be seen to be done: that is a hollow phrase today when we do not often see it being done. I cannot find the words retribution or punishment anywhere in "Making it work together"—only the word rehabilitation. I agree with rehabilitation where it is humanly possible, but there must be retribution and punishment. That means that drug dealers, particularly the big-time ones, should be left only with what they are standing up in in court, rather than the miserly £30,000 that was levied against one convicted drug dealer.

Another problem is that, in the culture of certain communities, GBH is almost the equivalent of an OBE and a visit to the Barlinnie is like a visit to Buckingham Palace. Several years ago, a criminologist said on television that the middle-aged and elderly hark back to a golden age where there was virtually no crime. That is probably true of the harking back, but there has always been crime. That criminologist also said that there was more crime before 1880 than there is today. Most people feel, however, that there has been a change in society over the past 20 years. Drugs have played a large part in that.

We now have what I call the third zero generation. I am not being critical—any one of us could have landed in the zero generation depending on where we were born and if we did not have the benefits of education and employment. Most members of the zero generation are not criminals, but some are. They have time on their hands, as Tommy Sheridan I think once said, and many have contempt for society in general. The police, the community and government have a part to play but so have the procurators fiscal and the courts, who suffocate themselves with paper. They are often a weak link.

We should set up municipal courts, which again should be fast-track, to deal with certain motoring offences, littering, persistent truancy and the like. We should also think about something like the Peace Corps that could capture the imagination of youth.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I hesitate to intervene as to do so will prolong the contribution—[MEMBERS: "Prolong the agony."] To bring things back to the planet that the rest of us inhabit, will Mr Young explain why there is such a contrast between the current policy approach and that of the previous national Administration in its 18 years of government? Crime figures overall rose by 21 per cent between 1979 and 1997.

Will the member also clarify his comments on stripping drug dealers of their assets? He said they should be left with nothing but the clothes they are standing in if they are convicted of a criminal offence. Does that mean that he is, on behalf of his party, ruling out the Irish model of civil forfeiture where an individual can be prosecuted under civil law without a conviction having taken place for a specific drugs offence?

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative

The Irish method is very interesting and worthy of exploration. I was talking about very big-time drug dealers, not smaller drug dealers. Everything should be explored.

People find policemen on the beat comforting, but bear in mind that there are multi-storeys today and vast car parks and supermarkets and things have changed. Criminals are mobile today.

Mention was made of the children's panel system. I quote:

"In particular the children's panel system is a valuable forum for the young person who just strays off the straight and narrow and is often effective. However when it comes to the persistent offenders then it does not seem to work. The panel system has been in operation for 30 years and it is perhaps time to overhaul its purpose and aims. There are now many more young sophisticated and determined criminals around who need a different approach."

That quotation does not come from Tory central office but from the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, from highly experienced police officers. The children's panel has a part to play but it must be looked at again.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Does the member accept that for serious crimes and for repeat offending there is provision already for young people under the age of 16 to be referred to the courts system? Does he agree also that the children's hearing was a radical measure and has been accepted worldwide as an innovative way of offering protection to young people, as well as dealing with offending behaviour?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I call John Young and ask him to close on this point.

Photo of John Young John Young Conservative

That provision applies only to indictable offences. I will now wind up.

A government's first and basic duty is to protect the people that it represents: it does not matter what the political complexion of that government is. Sometimes that has been forgotten. I feel—and I stress that this is a personal view—that the west, and I do not just mean this country, is losing the drugs war. We can ill afford to do that. We must examine new measures and new strategies that may not have been explored before. That does not mean asking for people to be executed or put in jail and the key thrown away, but we must use a number of different measures.

I thought that Phil Gallie and Johann Lamont in particular gave realistic speeches: she knows what she is talking about. I do not always agree with him but Tommy Sheridan knows what he is talking about, as do a number of other people in this chamber. We cannot go on in the same way because we will lose out. We are coming to a new century and we should be prepared to take the bit between the teeth and take the necessary action.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 11:22 am, 23rd September 1999

I welcome today's debate. People throughout Scotland will want to hear it because tackling crime is important to them.

Today, as well as discussing how we tackle crime, I want to highlight the work that is carried out by the voluntary sector in combating crime and its effects. Throughout Scotland, people are taking positive action to make their communities safe and to provide alternatives to the criminal cycle into which young people can so easily fall. To use a phrase that has been referred to often this morning, I believe that we must be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

Being tough on crime means that, as a Parliament, we must support tough measures to target drug dealers, whose evil trade blights our communities. People will not forgive us if we shy away from our responsibilities. I am thinking of people such as Phyllis Woodlock, a Lanarkshire woman, whose 13-year-old son died after taking an ecstasy tablet. She is right to demand that drug dealers face tough sentences and that the proceeds of their criminal activities be confiscated. That is why I welcome the Executive's plan to create a drugs enforcement agency by June 2000.

Being tough on the causes of crime means that we must support the numerous community and voluntary organisations that provide people of all ages with an alternative to criminal activities. I want young people to be given opportunities for personal and social development. Providing meaningful education and leisure opportunities for young people is the best way of ensuring that they become productive and active citizens. Organisations such as the Girls' Brigade, the Boys' Brigade, the scouts and youth football teams all complement the youth services that are provided by our councils. I believe that those organisations play a major role in developing social cohesion in our communities. A young person who is valued in a community is more likely to respect that community.

Voluntary organisations such as community credit unions provide people with a means to save and borrow, which can stave off the need to approach illegal money lenders whose exorbitant interest rates can often drive people in desperation to commit criminal acts.

Victim Support provides valuable services in Scotland. Last year, 1,400 volunteers provided practical and emotional support to 40,000 victims of crime. The voice of the victim must be heard. In a recent criminal justice research report, two thirds of victims interviewed reported behavioural changes as a result of the criminal incident; they said, for example, that they were becoming more security conscious and more irritable and distrustful of others.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Karen Whitefield talks about victims of crime, but Labour has totally ignored them. Funding for Victim Support Scotland was slashed by £27,000 in 1998-99.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

This is an important debate. The Labour Administration, in partnership with the Liberal Democrats, will put the victim at the top of the agenda. Today, I am calling for action to support the victim. If Mr McGrigor listens to the rest of my speech, I hope that he will support what I am calling for.

Victim Support is active in reducing the fear of crime in our communities. Too often, some of our most vulnerable citizens have a heightened fear of crime. The provision of accurate figures on crime levels in their areas can alleviate unnecessary fear. England already has a victims charter and I call on the Scottish Executive to establish a victims charter for Scotland. That would enhance the rights of victims by clarifying what information and support they could expect to receive.

I also call on the Scottish Executive to expand the witness support services that were recently piloted in three areas. Other agencies, such as Rape Crisis and Scottish Women's Aid, also provide invaluable services and are illustrative of the important role that the voluntary sector can play in crime prevention and in dealing with the consequences of crime.

Before I sum up, I will mention briefly the role of closed-circuit television in combating crime. As some members will be aware, Airdrie town centre hosted one of the two pilot studies that were established to examine the impact of CCTV. The evaluation proved that CCTV has an important role to play in tackling crime: 21 per cent fewer offences were recorded in the 24 months following installation; the police cleared up 16 per cent more crime during that period; and, contrary to the arguments of opponents of CCTV, there was no evidence that crimes were displaced to outlying areas.

I do not believe that the police or the Scottish Executive or communities can alone tackle the problem of crime. A partnership is required, in which criminals are targeted, in which efforts that direct people away from crime are supported and developed, and in which increased employment and education opportunities complement enhanced police measures. Community and voluntary organisations throughout Scotland are struggling against crime and its effects. We must support them in that struggle—together, we can make a difference.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 11:28 am, 23rd September 1999

I am grateful to you, Presiding Officer, for calling me to speak in what is one of the more important debates that has taken place in this Parliament.

There is no doubt at all that the ability of people to feel safe in their homes and to walk the streets of their local communities without the fear of being attacked is fundamental to their quality of life. It is for that reason that I broadly support the community-based approach that the Government is taking and welcome the importance that it is placing on this issue.

As the minister acknowledged, even the quickest of glances at the statistics shows that there is no room for complacency. During 1998, recorded crime increased by an extremely concerning 7 per cent for drug-related crime and by 3 per cent for crimes of dishonesty—the two statistics are not unrelated. Although the latter represents a drop of 2 per cent since 1997, more than 76,000 crimes of vandalism were committed in 1998. Such crimes blight the lives of many people in Scotland, especially in urban areas. The initiatives that the Government has announced in the guidance paper and in the minister's remarks this morning are to be welcomed, but they must be followed through into communities and backed up with resources.

I do not want to labour my criticism, but it is worth noting that the minister did not centrally address the issue of resources—perhaps he will return to that when he sums up. The provision of resources at community level is crucial in ensuring that the efforts of local communities to combat crime are reinforced.

Closed-circuit television has been mentioned. I pay tribute to many local agencies in Glasgow, particularly housing associations, which have led the way in installing CCTV cameras with the enthusiastic support of local people. Most local people welcome the installation of CCTV cameras and, as my colleague Ms Cunningham said, demand is on the increase. However, there is some frustration with the associated problems, especially the lack of resources to ensure that the cameras are monitored and operational at all times and that there is consistency in the monitoring of the camera output.

We must also consider the impact of installing CCTV cameras in one street on neighbouring streets that do not have them. Since being elected, I have been struck by the number of people who live in areas without CCTV cameras and feel that they are bearing the brunt of crime that has been relocated from areas with cameras. The Executive and other agencies must give serious consideration to that when they make decisions about the installation of cameras.

Ms Cunningham mentioned bobbies on the beat and I have listened with interest to members' comments about the police. We must face the reality that, in many parts of Scotland—especially in Glasgow, the area that I know best—police presence in some communities is minimal, which leads to diminished public confidence. That is not a criticism of the police, who do a good job in difficult circumstances. We must ensure that the police presence on the streets is increased. To reiterate a point that was made earlier, we must ensure that the perceived success of local partnerships does not have an impact on the police presence.

To his credit, the minister acknowledged the link between poverty and crime. As Ms Cunningham said, we must recognise that the best way of combating crime is to provide people with jobs, real incomes, better educational opportunities and the feeling that they have a stake in the communities in which they live.

Young people commit much of the crime—especially in parts of Glasgow—that blights the lives of so many people. We must recognise that decisions taken by local authorities in recent years have exacerbated that problem. Tommy mentioned the situation in Pollok and I will give another example. Pollokshaws—in the Govan constituency—has a high incidence of youth crime and youth offences, but the one local facility, the local sports centre, is due to be closed by the local authority. I would like the minister to give an assurance that the Executive is considering how we can ensure that young people are given a constructive alternative to crime and offences.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

On a point of order. When Sir David Steel opened the debate, he said that those who were not here while the minister was making the statement would not be called in the debate. Now Mr Raffan has been called. Will you please give clarification?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I do not think that Sir David said that they would not be called; he said that their absence would be taken into consideration. A number of members, who were not here for the minister's speech or for other parts of the debate, have spoken. We take that into consideration, but it does not rule someone out.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Can I perhaps help you, Presiding Officer? My understanding was that Sir David said that members who spoke in the debate should be here when the minister summed up.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

No, Sir David was making the point that members who wish to participate should be here for the debate. As I explained, he was not excluding members; he was bringing it to their attention that they should show the courtesy of being in the chamber to hear what was being said.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 11:35 am, 23rd September 1999

Duncan McNeil made a fair point. I was going to start by apologising to the chamber and the minister for not being here at the beginning of the debate. I apologise for that unintentional discourtesy. I was in the middle of preparing a speech for this afternoon's voluntary sector debate and I did not realise—until I saw and heard the minister on the monitor—that he was going to talk so much about drugs issues. That is why I want to speak in this debate. I will be brief but, as my party's drugs spokesman, I want to comment on what he said.

Military terminology has now become customary in the debate about tackling drug misuse, but talk about wars on drugs, fighting battles and so on is not helpful; it does not make for an intelligent and thoughtful approach to this serious, global problem, which is spreading throughout the land. There are drugs problems in Caithness, in the small fishing villages around the Broch, as Fraserburgh is known. When I was a parliamentary candidate there 25 years ago, the main problem was alcohol; now it is pure heroin.

If we talk about a war, we may have to acknowledge that we may lose it. That is how serious the situation is. We must take an intelligent and thoughtful approach to tackling drug misuse. I have differences with the UK Government on its strategy. The Government is concentrating on cutting supply—I accept that that is essential—but it is not doing enough to cut demand. Three quarters of the £1.4 billion that is spent on tackling drug misuse in the UK is spent on detection, on the courts and so on and only a quarter is spent on treatment, rehabilitation and education.

It is always easy to advocate increased public spending and I am not saying that less should be spent on cutting supply, but we must spend a lot more on cutting demand. We must spend more on treatment and rehabilitation. It is a scandal that, in Scotland, we have only 120 residential beds for drug addicts. In the Fife part of my regional constituency, there are at least 5,000 drug addicts.

I am not soft on drugs. When I was in the House of Commons, after being lucky enough to secure a high place on the private members ballot, I took through the Controlled Drugs (Penalties) Act 1985.

I did that with all-party support, including the support of Scottish nationalists—it was Margaret Ewing, I think—and Welsh nationalist Dafydd Wigley. I had the support of the Labour party through Frank Field and other members of the Tory party—I was a Tory then.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

At least I am honest about my dubious past. With the support of every party in the House of Commons, the act increased the maximum sentence for trafficking in class A drugs from 14 years to life. That was important. I played a lesser part in passing the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, which deals with the law and order side of this matter.

In policy and thinking, I hope that I have developed from there. Those were important measures, but we must now emphasise the treatment and rehabilitation side. My party has advocated a royal commission on drugs. I would prefer it to be a royal commission on addiction, for precisely the reasons that have been stated. We cannot consider drugs in isolation and we must take into account the so-called gateway drugs—in Scotland, alcohol and cannabis and marijuana are among the leading ones.

I have serious reservations about the decriminalisation of cannabis and marijuana. Some members will probably find that disappointing, but I will explain my position. Treatment centres in the UK have, in the past three years, recorded a significant increase in the number of young people going in for treatment because of dependence on cannabis and marijuana. They are admitting themselves or being admitted by their parents, who are worried that they will go on to take harder drugs. We must take note of that.

I have attended open meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous and have huge respect for what those fellowships do to help addicts and alcoholics into recovery. They do not have a public profile and it is not for me to give them that or to say what their views are. However, none of the addicts in recovery to whom I have spoken favoured the decriminalisation of cannabis and marijuana. They felt that they had been brought up in a drugs culture. They started to use alcohol at a young age, went on to cannabis and marijuana and then graduated—the terminology is unfortunate—to harder drugs.

Prisons have been mentioned. Phil is extraordinarily naive if he thinks that we can stop drugs getting into prisons. I was at Saughton recently and at Craiginches relatively recently, where I spoke to the governors, who are very able and enlightened men. They said that if we introduced closed visits there would be a riot—it is as simple as that. There are closed-visits facilities for people who are caught passing drugs—which is very difficult to stop—but at Craiginches the ordinary visitors facilities are intolerably cramped.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I want to finish making this point. We need new visitors facilities at Craiginches, because the current facilities make it difficult for the prison to keep drugs out. The governor estimates that 70 per cent of the people in the prison are there for drugs-related offences.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I am not naive enough to suspect that overnight we could stop drugs getting into prisons. However, at the moment there is an unacceptable level of drug taking in prison. We must move to counter that.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

That is a commendable ambition. However, when Mr McLeish had responsibility for this issue as a member of the UK Government, he brought sniffer dogs into prisons. At Saughton, the deputy governor informed me that dogs had been in the previous day but had not found anything. An hour later, a prison officer found a lump of cannabis wrapped in plastic and covered with Bovril. The prisoners are ahead of us and ahead of the dogs.

We must take a more intelligent approach. I respect the drugs-free zones in prisons, but the problem is that people who are coming off drugs in prisons—often by going cold turkey, and in some cases of heroin addiction without being put on methadone and having the amounts reduced gradually—are not getting counselling. The extent to which counselling is offered and to which the fellowships are admitted varies greatly from prison to prison. Prison and institutional visits are one of the valuable things that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous do. They make it possible to hold the sort of meetings that take place so successfully the length and breadth of this country to help people in recovery.

As the governor of Saughton also told me, it is important that we stop seeing prisons in isolation. When people leave—this relates to all prisoners, not just addicts—there should be much more aftercare provided by local social services. That would give people the support and back-up that they need to keep them in recovery—to keep them clean and sober—so that they do not relapse.

There is a huge amount to be done to encourage rehabilitation and not nearly enough is being done in our prisons. This is not a soft approach—it is an intelligent one. We should regard the money that is put into rehabilitating people and ensuring that they do not become recidivists not as public spending, but as public investment. We will be returning law-breaking addicts to society as employed and taxpaying members of the community, rather than as a drain on its resources.

Not having been here for the first speech of the debate, I do not want to go on too long. However, I would like to comment on the recent widely reported remarks of the deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police. I am worried by talk of a drugs tsar, which usually means a senior police officer and, with all respect to the minister, who is clearly an able man, it sends out the wrong signal to have as the chairman of the ministerial committee on drug misuse the Deputy Minister for Justice. The emphasis should be more on treatment, rehabilitation and education. The minister takes a hardline approach to drug-trafficking, as he must—it is an evil trade. However, we must also consider the other side of the issue: it is important to cut demand.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I am about to.

The deputy chief constable said that voluntary agencies working in this field had to be streamlined. That was reported as meaning that they should be culled, which would be a disaster. We need better co-ordination of the voluntary agencies—I may have more to say about that this afternoon—but we should not lose people who have built up a huge amount of expertise and experience in the front line of tackling drug misuse. There is no doubt that we have a drugs crisis in this country, but that crisis would be infinitely worse but for the excellent work of the voluntary agencies. It is important that they can depend on receiving stable financial support from the Scottish Executive.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party 11:46 am, 23rd September 1999

As was said earlier, many of those who feel most unsafe live in our most deprived communities. The problems that they face are well known: people are unable to leave their homes without having someone to house-sit to prevent a break-in and the theft of their possessions; there is widespread vandalism; there is a fear of young people hanging about; and there is the scourge of drugs and drugs-related crime.

I am not sure that the audits, focus groups, surveys, citizens panels and people's juries that are referred to in the rather glossy report will tell us anything that communities do not already know. A couple of weeks ago, I had a meeting with the Finmill community safety panel in Dundee, which was very clear about its safety concerns and priorities. I would be more than happy to pass them on to the minister, so that we can bypass the inquiry phase and get on with action to solve the problems.

The report is inoffensive and contains nothing with which I would disagree. However, as Christine said, it is not the easiest document to read. I found more than 150 references to partnership and more than 50 references to strategy, but zero references to new money. Will the minister tell us how much new money will be available to tackle the problems? He announced £3 million to support communities in dealing with safety problems. That money is welcome, but it could be spent in one partnership area. If we ask, ask, ask and do not deliver, we will do more damage.

The document states that local authorities will be key players in the partnerships. However, they have seen their budgets cut by £1.3 billion in real terms over the first three years of this Government, which has meant that youth facilities have had to close or reduce their service. That is not really joined-up thinking, is it? Why do we not provide the youth facilities that would stop young people hanging around the streets and reduce youth-related crime? That is joined-up thinking. Will the minister tell us what new resources will go into developing youth provision?

Young people are themselves trying to do things to improve the communities in which they live. I would like to pay tribute to the Braeview Academy community safety panel, which had its first official meeting yesterday. It involves young people identifying their priorities and doing something to achieve them. Their question was: "Where are the resources to develop youth facilities in our area?" I ask the minister the same question, because this is all about resources.

The report says that the action plans that are to be drawn up put the onus on individual agencies to

"take ownership of those parts of the action plan which most relate to their core activities".

Will the minister clarify whether that is to be achieved within existing resources? If that is the case, how will it be done?

The police play a key role in community safety, yet police force numbers—and I am not talking about civilian staff—have decreased during the past two years. The police have a role to play in making communities feel safer, but that requires additional police presence. Will the minister say whether police resources will be made available in addition to the 200 police officers who will be ring-fenced for work on the drugs problem?

The report is inoffensive, if a little vague. However, we should not raise expectations in our communities if we cannot deliver. Adequate resources must be made available and I have yet to hear that that will be the case.

Photo of Gordon Jackson Gordon Jackson Labour 11:51 am, 23rd September 1999

Most people believe in crime prevention. The only people I have met who do not are criminals and my bank manager.

The trouble is that there are no easy fixes and no easy answers—Johann Lamont is right about that—and we disagree on how to tackle the problem. One approach, which I detected in the speeches by Phil Gallie and John Young, is to blame the courts for being too soft and demand that more people be locked up, and locked up for longer.

I believe in locking people up and that retribution is important for society. However, it is no use for the prevention of crime. The Home Office commissioned studies for the previous Government, which made it clear that detention is of minimal relevance to crime prevention. It wastes a lot of money and does not cut crime. If Phil does not believe that, he should consider the United States of America, where incredible numbers of people are locked up with no effect on the crime rate.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Is it not the case that many of the individuals who go through our courts have been released from prison on parole and committed a crime as soon as they got out? Such people clog up the courts and are simply recycled through our prisons.

Photo of Gordon Jackson Gordon Jackson Labour

That suggests that people who go into prison come out and reoffend. It does not suggest that putting people into custody does much good.

Detention is also expensive. The statistics that were produced by the previous Government showed that, in matters of crime prevention, £1 spent on non-custodial methods equals £7 spent on custody.

The other method of crime prevention is giving more resources to the police. We are all in favour of that. I welcome the establishment of the drugs enforcement agency and I am in favour of having more police officers in the street.

The trouble with those strategies is that they are born out of despair. In the past, the attitude has been that people will always commit crime, and the only thing that we can do is catch them doing it and lock them up. I am glad that we are to move away from that. Crime reduction is possible. I am a great supporter of CCTV, although I was sceptical at the beginning. I am conscious of the human rights issues, but I am convinced that it works and will support any initiative to give it more resources.

CCTV also works in another way. It gives people confidence and a sense of safety. Elderly people ask me whether their area can be given CCTV—not simply to catch criminals, but to give them a sense of safety, which is important.

The most important issue in the debate—and it is why I reject Phil's amendment—is the community aspect. The amendment goes away from that. I welcome the communities that care initiative. The minister has not had time to talk about the initiative, but it is important. It is sophisticated; it is not a slogan for political consumption. It identifies the risk areas in a community and targets them. The strategy has worked elsewhere, particularly in north America. It is an important step forward, but—and I always have a little complaint—we need to do more.

Most crime is committed by young men, and we need to deal with that. Yesterday, I read some statistics for people who are sent to prison for life for homicide. The peak age is 18. The biggest group is the 15 to 18-year-old bracket, and I have no doubt that that is the biggest group for all offending. We need to go into schools and set up and resource proper educational programmes that deal with the community aspects of crime prevention.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

I agree with Gordon Jackson's emphasis on community service. I have a report from the social work committee of Highland Council, which says that the grant for criminal justice services will not meet the needs that councils have identified. Highland Council and others are having to cut community services at weekends and in the evenings. Does Gordon Jackson agree that that is a matter for concern?

Photo of Gordon Jackson Gordon Jackson Labour

I do not know the details of what the member is saying, but I agree that such services should be better resourced.

We need to go into schools properly. The community bobby who has an hour with a class once a month is no longer adequate—and I mean such police officers no disrespect. In particular, we need to deal with young men who have offended. We need to go to the institutions where we lock up young people and tackle the business of rehabilitation. We should not think of rehabilitation as a soft option; it is in nobody's interest if an offender reoffends.

I accept that the problem must be seen in the context of society as a whole; we should talk about poor housing, poor health and a lack of education. As Roseanna Cunningham said, until we tackle those issues, our crime prevention strategies will not meet with success.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I am sure that Gordon Jackson will agree with this point, but I would like to mention it again with reference to Phil Gallie's earlier remarks. The problem with the children's panel system is the lack of resources to deal with persistent offenders.

Photo of Gordon Jackson Gordon Jackson Labour

I agree. I would like to extend the age limit to 18, for people being brought before a children's panel. I do not think that every young offender should go before a children's panel, but it should be a discretionary option.

Community initiatives such as the ones that I mentioned cost money. That worries me, because in the past money spent on such initiatives has not always been the most popular political option. People have spoken about tabloid politics—sometimes spending money on certain things seems to have such popularity. The community initiatives that the minister is suggesting are valuable but, like a lot of valuable things, they are expensive. However, I welcome them and hope that there will be the political will and the real resources to put them into practice. That is very much what we need.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 12:00 pm, 23rd September 1999

Gordon Jackson is right that young people between 15 and 18 are at most risk, either of being assaulted—in the case of severe crime—or of being charged with a severe crime.

I wish to raise a problem with the minister that has not been touched upon today—Scottish citizens who murder overseas. When someone is convicted of murder in Scotland, they will find on their release—if they are released—that they are subject to release on licence. However, a person who murders overseas—for example, in Canada—can be returned here once they have served their sentence and will not be subject to any supervisory requirements.

The police brought it to my knowledge that someone was returned to this country after committing a murder, who had spent only the first three years of his life here. He was not subject to any supervisory requirements. Perhaps he cannot give an answer today, but I ask the minister to look at that problem and to suggest proposals for dealing with it.

Euan Robson supported community policing—that is wholly admirable—and witness protection, which is very necessary. Of course the police must have the necessary resources. I am glad to see that police numbers will increase, but they have decreased by 266; whatever increases there have been in administrative support, that needs to be addressed.

There have been many significant speeches this morning on the issue of drugs, and support for a comprehensive approach. I agree with Keith Raffan about cannabis; it is a matter of particular debate. I wrote to Sam Galbraith about it because I believe that it has harmful medical effects. He confirmed in a letter dated 27 May that

"there are potential risks associated with the use of cannabis. These include, in the short term, impairment of concentration, memory loss and manual dexterity and in the long term, respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and lung cancer."

He continued:

"We have no intention of legalising or decriminalising the drug. This would send the wrong messages to society . . . at a time when we are encouraging people not to smoke and not to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, because of the harmful effects, it would be totally inconsistent to legalise cannabis."

It is my understanding that the minister touched on that this morning and that that is his position. I should be glad if he could confirm that his position remains strong on that issue.

It would help if the minister could say what is done with drug dealers' assets that are confiscated by the police and whether the value of those assets is ploughed back into police funds. What support is he giving to Scotland Against Drugs?

Karen Whitefield was right to call for a victims charter—more action is necessary on behalf of victims. It is important that when they go to court, there should be a victim-friendly atmosphere. That is why a video link is desirable in many cases involving serious violence to women. Victims should be better informed—I understand that measures are in place to take that forward—and when cases do not proceed, they should be told why.

Victims should also be told whether an assailant who perpetrated a violent attack on them is about to be released. A former constituent of mine, who was badly damaged in an acid attack, felt strongly that the incident might not have happened if she had been properly informed.

Those are not abstract, theoretical matters—they matter to those involved. I hope that stronger support will be given to Victim Support Scotland.

The case for CCTV—as has been said by many members—is overwhelming. It has been very effective, with a reduction in the commission of crime and a greater clear-up rate. Computerised fingerprinting and the use of high technology and DNA are also important.

I request the minister to continue to support the work of Apex Trust Scotland. If prisoners go into a job when they come out of prison, it benefits the whole community. Apex is able to facilitate that and has had a remarkable success rate. Will the minister support courses in prison? Whether they are anger management courses, modules or degrees, they all play their part in the overall spectrum.

What is important about crime prevention is the effective and successful protection of the community. I hope that the minister will address the problem of those who murder abroad being returned to Scotland without any supervisory requirements.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

On a point of order. I have to complain that I have sat here since 9.30 am, when the Labour benches were a lot emptier. I have had my button on since then, as I wanted to make a speech. I wanted to make an important point about a number of recent murders in my area and to raise that matter with the minister, but you are treating me rather unfairly.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

There is no guarantee that any member will be able to speak on a particular issue. I recognise that Mr Sheridan has had his button on for some time, but so have many other members who wish to speak. I apologise if he cannot raise his points, but I am sure that the minister will take them up for him in another way.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

I am not a known supporter of Tommy on many matters, but he has been here all morning and others who arrived late have been allowed to speak. That is an issue which needs to be resolved.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I am sure that we can refer that to the Procedures Committee.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party 12:07 pm, 23rd September 1999

I am guilty of having played no part in stopping Tommy making a speech, although I recognise that some members' speeches went on for some time.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Presiding Officer, is it possible that we can move to extend this morning's proceedings to allow one or two other colleagues to speak in the debate? If so, I would be prepared to move such a motion.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

No, Mr Gallie. To accommodate everyone who wishes to speak, we would have to extend this part of the meeting almost into this afternoon's time. It is not possible, so we will move on to Mr Matheson, who had begun to speak.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Third time lucky.

In considering today's debate, and having seen the minister's motion, I thought that there would be cross-party support, particularly in relation to the guidance document. However, I was not prepared for the Conservative approach to crime prevention of, "Shoot them and hing them." If there is anything that the minister should take from the debate, it is that no party has a monopoly of ideas on how we should tackle crime and remove it from the streets of Scotland.

Several members highlighted a variety of successful crime prevention schemes that are either running in their own areas at present or have done in the past. The issue of mobile police stations has been highlighted—they were a success for the police in the Dumfries and Galloway area. We have heard about the success of Fife Council's domestic violence programme. Karen Whitefield referred to credit unions and the impact that they could have on reducing crime on our streets. There are many good ideas, which should be promoted.

One of the key features of the guidance document is that it focuses on finding local solutions to local problems and ensuring that local communities are consulted in the process of establishing strategies. I stress to the minister that it is essential that any form of consultation with local communities is worth while and effective.

We all recognise that, where possible, local communities should be empowered to tackle their own problems. However, there can be nothing more demoralising for those in a local community who go through a consultation process than to feel at the end of it that their views have not been listened to or acted upon. I stress that the minister should ensure that the strategies that are implemented lead to genuine consultation—I am conscious that, for a variety of reasons, that word has been abused.

Several colleagues mentioned the fact that the concept of community safety partnerships is not new. Yesterday I was having a chat with a gentleman from Victim Support in Lanarkshire, who told me that he was involved in a community safety strategy in Kilmarnock back in 1975.

As was said, if Victim Support is to have a key role in the strategy, its funding must be addressed. Karen Whitefield highlighted the issue of a victims charter. Members should know that I lodged a motion for a members' business debate on Victim Support and the provision of a victims charter. I hope that Karen and other colleagues who support that will sign the motion in the chamber office.

The post of local authority liaison officer, which is covered by the guidance document, is not new. To my knowledge, the first local authority liaison officer was in place almost eight years ago in Falkirk as part of Central Scotland police. It is essential to recognise that much work has been done in the past by a variety of organisations, both statutory and voluntary. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. In effect, the document formalises that process, rather than creating a new one.

I hope that the minister will recognise that to talk about preventing crime is insufficient. To prevent crime, we must look beyond that, at the causes of crime, which, as the minister said, are often based in social disadvantage—unemployment, poverty and a feeling of hopelessness. That is why we must recognise that the guidance document must work in partnership with social inclusion strategies. How will the minister ensure that that will be done in the implementation of the crime prevention strategy?

I want to highlight several points that have been raised. What additional resources will be provided to ensure that the strategy is put in place and will have the funding that it requires?

There is concern about the use of CCTV and the need for regulation. Although we recognise the benefits of CCTV, there are concerns about the present code of practice and about whether the code is being adhered to. I would welcome the minister's assurance that that will continue to be monitored—not with a CCTV camera—so that public confidence in CCTV is maintained.

I return to Roseanna Cunningham's point about the need to monitor the community partnership strategy effectively, to ensure that it works and that failings are addressed early on. It will have been wasteful for us to have a three-hour debate to discuss the document if people end up still living in fear because of crime in their neighbourhood. Will the minister ensure that there is an adequate system to monitor the strategy's effectiveness and that any failings are addressed early on?

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative 12:14 pm, 23rd September 1999

First, I apologise to the minister for being late for this debate. I was delayed by two fender-bender episodes on the M8 this morning. No one was injured, I am happy to say.

A number of issues have cropped up this morning. I want to dispel the idea that we are the hang 'em and flog 'em brigade. I know that we have had that tendency in the past. [Interruption.] There was no mention of hanging, flogging or shooting, Roseanna. We are the caring Conservative party now. Many of us agree about the strategies to solve—Keith Raffan asked for a change in terminology—what could be called the drugs dilemma instead of the drugs war. There is a serious issue here. It behoves us all to take on board that, although we disagree in certain areas, many of us agree on a great number of aspects of the problem. It is a health, education and law and order matter.

Karen Whitefield called for support for the victims charter and for Victim Support. It is incontrovertible that £27,000 has been knocked off the funding for Victim Support. I support Karen's call, and hope that the minister will respond to it.

I was appalled last night to hear the comments of Richard Holloway. I hope that others will join me in condemning them. I know that the Administration takes this very seriously.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

I am sorry. I cannot give way as I only have a few moments, but I promise that I will give way to Tommy Sheridan in the future.

I hope that others will share my condemnation of the bishop for saying such an insensitive thing about using a joint.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Sheridan, the member has already said that she does not wish to give way.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Mrs McIntosh was attacking an alleged comment. She was not there.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Sheridan, please sit down.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

I admit that I was not there. If I had been there, I would have condemned him roundly. It was an incredibly insensitive thing to say, particularly given where he was.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Three different newspapers have said three different things.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

The comment was made and reported.

On the drug enforcement agency, we have sought clarification on what the minister's measures are. The funding is vital. We do not want officers to be taken away from other parts of the police service. The minister's comments about the funding are welcome. When he gets the arithmetic done, I will be glad to hear what he has to say.

CCTV has been mentioned many times. I know that there are a number of fans within the chamber. I have seen what happens in my area. CCTV frees up police time and saves the police running around looking for the wrong guy. When a crime is witnessed on CCTV the instruction can be immediate, and the description is accurate and can be checked as soon as the police catch a person. The police can track where a person is going. I am a big fan of CCTV.

There are various methods of getting police around, such as having bobbies on the beat or using bicycles. I have even seen a policeman on a bicycle in East Kilbride—not much good for car crime and catching speeders. We appreciate that there are changes to be made in the way in which we police. It is a technological job now. The police have information available to them in their cars for tracking and for apprehending. We have to move with the times and be as well equipped as the bad guys are.

Children's panels were mentioned. There have been a number of calls on radio for recruitment to children's panels. I notice that men are being sought. Why is that? Is it because it is women who dish out admonitions and instructions on behaviour? I appeal to men to volunteer for the children's panels. Do not leave it up to women alone.

I apologise for the time that I have taken. Members will know that there has been some confusion about the speaking order.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Can I conclude from the fact that you are allowing Angus to follow that you have changed the standing orders? The business bulletin clearly states that Tom McCabe would speak "no later than 12.20". It is now 12.20. Does that mean that you are prepared to extend the debate, but only for certain members?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Sheridan, I have already explained that there is no guarantee for any member to speak in a debate. We try to accommodate as many members as we can. I will move on so that we can bring the debate to a conclusion.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour 12:21 pm, 23rd September 1999

Although Lyndsay has attempted to pour some consensual water on to the Conservative debate, she might have some difficulty controlling the dangerous dogs that sit beside and behind her. Before she was in the chamber they intervened in a considerably less consensual manner.

All members will be impressed and pleased by the way in which the debate has been conducted. Broadly speaking, we have had a degree of consensus about community safety and how to improve it. However, I must exclude most of the comments from the Conservative party from that statement. Mr Matheson said that no party had a monopoly on the issues. As far as I am concerned, the Conservatives have not even reached the Old Kent Road, let alone anywhere else. I hope that the quality of Tory speeches on the subject will improve in future.

I also hope that members will forgive me for not addressing every point that was raised. I am happy to answer in writing any questions that have not been addressed. Before returning to some of the specific matters raised in the debate, I want to mention some of the general themes that inform the debate.

The Scottish Executive recognises the high-risk factors that inevitably lead to delinquency and escalating tariffs of crime. Members have touched on those risks—poverty, homelessness, unemployment, poor health, low educational achievement and teenage pregnancy—in the course of the debate. The transition from childhood to adolescence is difficult enough, but when it involves a mix of those additional factors, the risk consequences become extremely high, both for young people and their communities. The Executive accepts responsibility for trying to minimise those risk factors.

I want to talk about the establishment of social inclusion partnerships, because they are central to the way in which we will address some of the problems that have been discussed. They also address questions in relation to funding. SIPs are a good example of the way in which we want to take the agenda forward. The partnerships are set up to get the best out of existing initiatives as well as to support additional and innovative activities, such as improving access to training, employment and education, improving child care provision, people's health and overall quality of life. Those strategies are based on information about the priorities and concerns of local residents, and I am particularly pleased to see that many of the social inclusion partnerships support the local community safety initiatives.

To support the work of the SIPs, we are making available £137 million over three years from the new social inclusion partnership fund. That is an example of the kind of co-ordination that I was talking about earlier. That addresses some of the questions about whether funding will be made available, directly or indirectly, to support the work of community safety partnerships and attendant issues. That money is in addition to the £3 million for closed-circuit television and community safety, the £1 million invested in the drug action teams across Scotland and the £300,000 for research.

My colleague Tom McCabe informs me that there has been £3.5 million of expenditure in South Lanarkshire, particularly on new youth facilities—an issue that was raise a few times by the SNP. Young people, who identified the need for the facilities and what kinds would work, designed those facilities. Much of that expenditure will impact on Hamilton, when that work comes fully on line.

We have also invested £270,000 in the communities care project that Mr Jackson mentioned. Those are substantial innovative intervention projects that consider in great detail the ways in which we can tackle the problems of crime and crime prevention. They are not cheap options, but they are very effective and have a high preventive function. I hope that demonstrates that there is a substantial cash investment, through different avenues, in our policy on crime prevention.

At the core of the debate is the need to empower communities, community leaders and individual residents and to inform them about the way in which their community functions, the resources that are used and the way in which statutory organisations bring policy and practice to bear on those communities. We must ensure that individuals feel that it is safe and meaningful to be involved in their communities.

Too often, in communities that are heavily affected by high levels of drug use and drug dealing for example, it is very difficult for people to be brave and to stand up and be counted. In those circumstances, it is hard for people to speak out about what action should be taken to keep drugs off the streets, to say what must be done to ensure that rehabilitation projects and preventive education work. It is difficult for those people to say how the local community can work with law enforcement agencies and public sector agencies to ensure that the community is consulted and able to bring pressure to bear on the people in its own streets, so that they can work in the interests of the community rather than living in the shadow of the drug dealers.

What I found most depressing about the comments from the Conservatives is that they were big on high-profile issues and short on the details of community safety and crime prevention. They were woefully short on some of the long-term issues about social inclusion and regeneration.

The Conservatives made two points in particular on which I would like to comment. Between the end of the previous Tory Government and the present day, grant-aided expenditure for police forces has risen by 6.35 per cent in real terms. That is a fact; nobody can say that we are not putting additional resources into law enforcement. I also want to re-emphasise that, as Michael Matheson says, nobody has a monopoly on the issue of crime, particularly not the Conservatives. They talked tough on law and order, but there was a 21 per cent increase in crimes committed from 1979 to 1997.

Let us leave law enforcement and turn to the more practical—

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Does not the minister agree that, in the final years of the Conservative Administration, between 1991 and 1997, the crime figures plummeted? The Labour party has managed to reverse that trend.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

The point that I am making is that the Conservatives had 18 years of government in which to bring to bear the full panoply of all the agencies, budgets and policy instruments to tackle the crime that is rooted in our communities, from law enforcement to regeneration. Despite having a generation of government and investment, the Conservatives failed; they do not hold a moral position from which to lecture any other party about the way in which we protect our communities from crime.

I will now turn to the constructive points that were made by SNP members. I welcomed Christine Grahame's comments, although I was rather concerned on her behalf because I read an article written in response to the voice of the new intellectual leadership of the SNP, Mr Andrew Wilson, and his comments on being British. The commentator said:

"The trouble is, much of what is being offered sounds as if it has fallen off the back of a new Labour think-tank."

Having heard the terms social inclusion and holistic, I was concerned that Christine might have been underneath the think-tank when it fell over. I was somewhat distressed. I welcome the broad consensus on the issue. The SNP made some valuable contributions to the discussion.

I am very happy to answer in writing questions about further details on community safety partnerships that I did not manage to address in today's debate. Audits have been carried out of the 32 community safety partnerships, and we are in discussion with the Accounts Commission and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary about the way in which we can establish broad monitoring mechanisms to ensure that those partnerships are effective and that best practice is replicated. I hope that that answer and others in writing will allay any fears on that front.

Rural policing is broadly an operational matter for the police forces and the chief constables. However, in Fife, for example, a number of mobile CCTV systems are available. Such mobile systems are an example of the way in which CCTV can be deployed effectively in non-urban, rural and remote parts of Scotland, where particular problems can arise that are difficult to deal with. CCTV is also effective in dealing with problems in urban Scotland: vandalism in school playgrounds, drug dealing in particular streets and areas, carjacking, house-breaking and what not.

Unfortunately, there is a large number of issues that I will not have time to talk about. I will wind up by saying that I think that it would be welcome, at a later date, to have a further and wider debate specifically on the important subject of drugs. This Administration is committed to enforcement—no one could imagine that that is not the case. We are also committed to prevention and rehabilitation. There are short-term, medium-term and long-term approaches.

In the short term, the drug enforcement agency will yield important results in interdicting the supply of drugs to our communities. In the medium term, we have to tackle the problem of demand: that will involve preventive and informative education on the use and misuse of drugs. In the long term—and I am glad that 99 per cent of the members in this chamber agree with this—the solution to the drugs problem and the wider crime problem will involve social inclusion and regeneration. That means delivering on the new deal, delivering on social inclusion partnerships, delivering on regeneration of all our communities, and especially of the peripheral housing estates, and ensuring that the education system works for all people in all communities in Scotland.