Domestic Violence

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:36 pm on 27th October 1999.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:36 pm, 27th October 1999

The main debate this afternoon is on the motion on domestic violence and the amendment. Members wishing to speak should press their buttons now. The opening speakers know the times that have been agreed for their speeches, and the clocks will be operating. In view of the number of members who wish to speak in the debate, there will be a time limit of four minutes for back-bench speeches. The clocks at the sides of the chamber and behind me will register the actual time used by the speaker.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 3:08 pm, 27th October 1999

I am delighted to move the motion on behalf of the Scottish Executive. I am especially pleased that once again the Parliament has an opportunity to debate a topic that is rightfully one of the top priorities of the Executive.

Many members will recall the members' business debate secured by Maureen Macmillan on 2 September—indeed, such was the interest and commitment that a motion was passed to extend the debate for a further half hour.

What struck me then—and I think that those who attended the debate will agree—was the enormous amount of cross-party support in our Parliament for the important work being developed by the partnership to improve the range and standards of provision in Scotland for women and children experiencing domestic abuse.

In that same spirit of consensus, the Executive will accept the Opposition's amendment. The amendment outlines the exact work programme of the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse, and we have no difficulty in supporting its sentiments. However, I want to make a plea that, when we talk about these issues, we move on from campaigning rhetoric to discuss the reality of the strategic action that the Parliament and the Executive are beholden to take. That aside, I am pleased to accept the amendment.

All of us continue to be shocked at the extent of domestic abuse and at the real and disturbing effect that such violence has on children who are caught up in it. However, domestic abuse is not peculiar to Scotland, nor is it a modern-day phenomenon. Sadly, the problem has been rooted in society for centuries and has an international dimension. We have an opportunity—indeed, a responsibility—to create a climate in Scotland that will not tolerate violence, particularly domestic violence.

Many years before coming into Parliament, I worked in a voluntary capacity for women's groups and I was, and still am, a great supporter of organisations such as Women's Aid, Rape Crisis and the Zero Tolerance Trust. The services provided by some of those organisations are often an oasis in a desert of despair and hopelessness for many women seeking to escape. Today, I would like to extend my support and thanks to all those volunteers who do such a marvellous job. [Applause.]

We are all too well aware that many women's groups experience difficulties. Women's Aid, in particular, has expressed its concern that there is no consistency of approach and therefore no security on offer to allow it to plan for the future and to improve the quality of services and expand their range. Those matters have exercised the Executive's mind and I hope that today's announcement will both produce acceptable arrangements to improve the current position and provide tangible and necessary support to develop the work outlined by the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse.

On 27 September, I attended the most recent meeting of the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse, at which the main topic of discussion was its draft work plan, which had been widely circulated for consultation. The final version was submitted to Scottish Executive ministers on 14 October. I am pleased to announce that the Scottish Executive has approved the work plan and has invited the partnership to proceed with the many tasks that the plan contains.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the partnership, chaired by Anne Smith QC, for the work that it has done so far. I was able to see at first hand the committed and professional way in which those involved go about their business, and I have full confidence that the next important phase of their work will be delivered with the same commitment and professionalism.

During the debate on 2 September, Maureen Macmillan highlighted the plight of women in rural areas. It is clear that women in outlying islands and other remote areas face the greatest difficulty in gaining access to the services that are vital to their needs.

We know that there are gaps in provision and that there are inconsistencies in the way in which such services operate. That is precisely why the work of the partnership is so important. With regard to service provision, the bases of statutory services are generally found at a range of locations throughout rural areas. Nevertheless, the very size of such areas means that many communities will be distant from outlying services, which makes access to emergency services extremely difficult for women who experience abuse.

Community issues such as lack of privacy and lack of confidentiality bring other problems. I am very concerned that in some of the remote and rural communities, there is often an acceptance and tolerance of domestic abuse, which frequently results in the isolation and marginalisation of those who attempt to address the problem. I am pleased that the partnership will specifically address the wide range of issues that affect women in rural as well as urban areas.

I want to refer to the issue of prevention and education. Recent research carried out by the Zero Tolerance Trust suggests that one in two young men and one in three young women believe that it is acceptable to hit a woman or to force her to have sex in certain circumstances.

Such ideas and beliefs, which underpin and legitimise violence against women and children, including domestic abuse, must be effectively challenged if we are to achieve a society in which relationships are based on equality and mutual respect, and a culture in which abuse is not tolerated. The long-term aim of public education and preventive work must be to eradicate domestic abuse from Scottish society. That aim will not be achieved overnight, but the Scottish Executive must and will pursue it.

To support that important work, I am pleased to announce details of a funding package that the Scottish Executive believes will begin to improve local circumstances, particularly when service levels are not adequately meeting the needs of victims. Women taking the crucial—often brave—step of getting out of their ordeal must not be denied the comfort of the proper range of professional support services.

Women need to have full confidence in those to whom they turn for help. If we fail them then, their hopelessness returns, often with even more dramatic effect, for it becomes far more difficult to attempt to escape for a second or third time. That plays into the hands of perpetrators, who can continue their serial abuse, safe in the knowledge that the system has failed the victims and their children.

We must never forget that the victim never deserves what has happened to them and that it is never their fault. No one deserves to be abused and there is no excuse for domestic abuse.

I know that there are pockets of excellent service provision. The local authorities that have made it a priority should be commended, but the position in Scotland is far too patchy, inconsistent, unco-ordinated and lacking in focus—we know that from the work of the partnership. We also know that there are particular problems in rural areas, with ethnic groups and with those who are disabled, and, of course, that the impact on children is traumatic, distressing and often long-lasting.

The funding package that I announce today aims to improve local circumstances significantly. First, we are setting up a domestic abuse service development fund, which will operate from April 2000. Additional resources of £3 million—new money—will be pumped into the fund over the next two years. Local authorities will be invited to apply for grants that will be directly linked to the work of the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse.

To access the fund, local authorities will be required to submit detailed proposals on how the funding will be used to improve service provision. Local authorities will be required to set out their plans to develop or improve multi-agency arrangements. In particular, we will want to know how they will interface with local voluntary agencies that are involved with women and children who experience domestic abuse. Importantly, applications will be partnership applications—local authorities will not submit applications in isolation and without the necessary consultation. They will be required to demonstrate their commitment to tackling domestic abuse, by match-funding the grants that they seek. Over the next two years, there will be £6 million to begin properly to address the dreadful plight of those in our communities who are suffering, often in isolation and silence.

That is not all that I can present to the Parliament. I can announce new arrangements with Scottish Homes that will complement the measures flowing from the development fund. Those arrangements have a direct impact on women's refuges and move-on housing.

In Scotland there is a shortage of places in refuges to which women who are suffering from domestic abuse and their children can go for security, help and assistance. In the early 1990s, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities estimated that there was a need for one refuge space for every 7,500 people. That indicates a need for more than 650 places in Scotland, whereas only approximately 360 refuge places are now available—that falls some way short.

A survey of service provision to women experiencing domestic violence carried out in 1997 identified the limited availability of refuge spaces as one of the key constraints facing Women's Aid groups, so that emergency accommodation was not always available near to where the women seeking help lived. There is also a recognised need for more accommodation that allows women in refuges to move on to a house of their own and to start to rebuild their lives.

I am determined that we should make progress in that area, and I have asked Scottish Homes to allocate up to £2 million of its development programme over the next two years to fund capital projects to create additional refuge places—150 to 200 new bed spaces. That is a substantial increase in the investment made by Scottish Homes, reflecting the priority that we believe should be attached to meeting the need.

Creating more refuge spaces and move-on accommodation is not just a question of bricks and mortar; I will be looking to local authorities in particular to provide help with funding the support staff who will be required. I expect Scottish Homes and local authorities not just to work closely together but to work with other interested parties such as Women's Aid groups and housing associations to develop projects that address priority needs.

The increased funding from Scottish Homes, combined with some of the extra resources available from the development fund, should help to ensure that we make real progress towards addressing the shortage of accommodation in some areas for women and children escaping from domestic abuse.

The package that I am announcing means that £8 million will be available over two years to improve local arrangements for assisting women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. What we have today is a good starting point on which we can build for the future. The Scottish Parliament must play a significant role in ensuring the best possible service for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. We will do that in partnership with local government, Scottish Homes and the voluntary sector. I am confident that it will be an effective and strong partnership to deliver our commitment.

Today the Parliament sends out a strong message, from the Executive, from the members of Parliament and from the people assembled in the gallery, that we will not tolerate domestic abuse in the Scotland of tomorrow.

I move,

That the Parliament supports the final Workplan prepared by the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse and welcomes the establishment by the Scottish Executive of a Domestic Abuse Service Development Fund to improve local arrangements for assisting women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 3:23 pm, 27th October 1999

Like everyone here, I welcome today's debate. I hope that what I have to say will show that the amendment is not simply rhetoric, as the minister fears.

I welcome the funding announcement: it is an important step forward, because we should all be aware of the extent of the problem. Anyone who is uncertain need only have listened to evidence given to the Justice and Home Affairs Committee on 22 September. That evidence, particularly from the police, excited a great deal of media comment, perhaps because it was the police talking about the "ingrained" problem in Scottish society and referring to the "hugely under-reported" extent of this area of criminal activity. At that committee meeting, Chief Superintendent Stewart Davidson pointed out that of the incidents reported to the police, an estimated 73 per cent involved physical violence. That figure is extraordinarily high, especially when we know that there is so much under-reporting.

In society, a major problem surrounds the treatment of men who are guilty of this crime—I mean not just in terms of the way in which the legal system deals with it. Society still seems to find it difficult to judge impartially men who are known to be guilty of this crime. When it is confronted by men who vent their anger on women in this way, frequently society still sees them as lax—that concerns me. The noise generated by a violent assault taking place can still fall on deaf ears, even in the poshest of hotels. I know about that from the incident at Gleneagles involving a prominent footballer. As a society, confronted by the visible evidence of black eyes and broken limbs—the harsh reality of such an assault—we still seem to find it possible to accord a place to the men who carry out such abuse. I find that difficult to deal with.

We wish it were not so, but the view is still expressed—although not by the police—that such matters are private. It is a long time since the police expressed that view, but—regrettably—there are still areas of our society where the matter is treated in that way.

It is still thought that the knowledge of those activities should not affect the man's employment, his job prospects, his prominent position and his status in the community, and that he can go on being a media darling, if that is the case. That sends out an appalling message to people, particularly young people, in our society.

While we now recognise more widely the crime for what it is, there is still a reluctance to intervene. There is little point in simply blaming the police, if the rest of us affect deafness and blindness when we are confronted with the evidence. Of course, when I say us, I am not saying that people in this chamber would choose to act in that way. I talk about us as a society. However, we would be kidding ourselves if we did not recognise the complexities of dealing with domestic violence. It strikes right at the heart of one of the institutions that we have all been raised to think of as synonymous with safety. The echoes can be heard down the generations—I am talking about the family.

Last year in the press, and again this year before the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, details of research on the residents of Cornton Vale prison were a matter of public comment. They are worth reiterating. I was utterly astonished at the figures showing the extent to which the women in that prison were themselves victims of crime; survivors might be a better way of describing it. Seventy per cent of those incarcerated in Cornton Vale have suffered emotional abuse. Sixty per cent have suffered physical abuse. Fifty per cent have suffered sexual abuse. The abuse usually started when the women were young and continued into their adulthood, even if the identity of the perpetrator changed. Having been the victims of crime, they were now committing crime themselves. It is a disgrace that we have people in our society who live in a world where that is the cycle of their lives.

The Scottish National party recognises that what is required is a combined approach that tackles the problem on a number of fronts. In each of the areas, there are clearly identified problems. The first area is education, which should be looked at in terms of society in general and—equally—in terms of the professionals. The Deputy Minister for Communities has already referred to something to which I was going to refer, which is the worrying suggestion—shown by the Zero Tolerance Trust's research—that we seem to be making very little headway with the next generation on the issue. It is incomprehensible to me that we have not made any progress in that area. We need to work within the education system to try to redress quickly that worrying trend.

The series of television advertisements that ran some years ago—and more recent ones—were an excellent way to help that process. However, I cannot help feeling that brief campaigns might work only briefly and that what we need is a long-term, co-ordinated campaign.

That brings me to the issue of resourcing, which is part and parcel of today's announcement by the Executive. Anyone who has had dealings with people who are active in the field will know that there has been a serious problem of funding, especially as a result of restraints imposed by the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. We all recognise the difficulties in respect of that.

I know that in information that it provided, Scottish Women's Aid said that it wanted there to be a national funding strategy to resource local groups, as well as its national office. That should be an important component of any revised funding strategy. However, we should at least recognise the problem of the refuges that are unconnected with Scottish Women's Aid. Not all women's refuges are so connected. I will admit to having not appreciated that until a year or two ago; like most people, I made the assumption that, if it is a refuge, it must be part of Scottish Women's Aid. That is not necessarily the case. I am aware of a number of refuges in the south-west of Scotland and in Aberdeen that are in that position.

Shakti, the organisation that seeks to give assistance to women from ethnic minorities, is also in that position. It is worth making a special mention of Shakti in the context of the debate, because it deals with particular problems—the same problems that are manifested elsewhere in society, but writ slightly larger. The briefing from Shakti states clearly that there is a problem of toleration of domestic abuse in many ethnic minority communities, because to challenge it would threaten family honour and the social standing of male members of the family. Over the past two years, Shakti has struggled to maintain a basic level of funding.

The problems that Shakti is referring to are not confined to ethnic minorities, although they may be exacerbated in some of those communities. I seek the minister's assurance that refuges that are not affiliated to Scottish Women's Aid—for whatever reason—will be included and not excluded. Perhaps she could indicate where they will stand in the funding initiative. I hope that the title of the fund indicates a non-prescriptive approach.

I have already discussed campaigns. The problem, as always, is how to resource longer-term campaigns—whether or not they be police campaigns. It is rare now to get a truly national campaign, except in the media. Without that, we are left with the vagaries of more local funding and more local decision making. Alternatively, we end up with a number of pilot projects dotted here and there, none of which is followed through, and with access to the service dependent entirely on where people live. A good example is a project that I will talk about a little later—the probation project, which is currently available only in Edinburgh.

National funding has long been necessary. I do not want to attack decentralisation, but in some policy areas it simply will not work. We have talked about rape crisis centres being funded in some areas but not others, and about women's refuges being kept open in some areas but starved of funds in others. It is now arguable that responsibility for maintaining and building on existing resources should be gathered into one pair of hands, so that we get consistency of provision across the board. I have long thought that that is one way in which the Parliament could make a difference.

If I have one small concern about today's announcement, it is about the reference to matched funding. I worry that that will mean that, over the next few years, the patchy provision that I mentioned will be replicated. Will the minister comment on that in her reply?

Finally, I wish briefly to refer to legal initiatives. As the minister knows, the Justice and Home Affairs Committee is considering carefully a possible legal change in a particular area. I hope that that will show the Parliament's committee structure in a very good light. My colleague on the committee, Maureen Macmillan, no doubt hopes to speak later in the debate, because she is the reporter on that aspect of the committee's deliberations. I will leave a longer explanation to her.

I want to commend to Parliament's attention the domestic violence probation project to which I referred earlier, which is currently operational only in Edinburgh. That has been set up specifically to deal with the issue of men's attitudes towards domestic violence after their prosecution and conviction, and to challenge them directly. Such projects should be available throughout Scotland, and I would appreciate a response from the minister on that.

The Justice and Home Affairs Committee has considered the partnership's work, and our concern about it relates to the time scale. I note that in the final work plan most of the implementation dates are in the first half of 2001. Today's funding announcement is welcome, but I hope that, as a result of the announcement and the debate, Parliament can do even more for women over the next 18 months, rather than make them wait another 18 months until the work plan is implemented. I hope that the minister will respond to those points.

I move amendment S1M-221.1, to insert at end,

"while at the same time recognising that a national strategy which includes public education and prevention programmes, shelter and support services and law enforcement initiatives remains an essential part of the campaign."

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative 3:35 pm, 27th October 1999

In opening for my party, I want to say at the outset that I am pleased to support the Scottish Executive's plan to establish a domestic abuse service development fund. I am also pleased that the members' business debate that Maureen Macmillan secured early in this Parliament's life has been recognised by the Executive.

I well remember how that debate distinguished itself on several fronts. It was among the first debates at which genuine harmony among the parties was displayed when consensus seemed doomed. So great was the number of members interested in participating that it was the first, and last, members' business debate to have the allocated time extended so that more members could make their contributions. That it was the last debate to be so extended is a point that still rankles, despite subsequent rulings from the Presiding Officer.

The debate was poorly reported in the following day's press. Many of us will remember Jackie Baillie's observation that the press gallery was almost empty. It was therefore a surprise to be asked to participate in a political review programme that weekend on the subject of the domestic abuse debate. Parts of the debate were featured and some of the minister's comments were broadcast to a wider audience.

That brings me to what I consider to be the crux of today's debate. The interviewer's opening remarks were that there was nothing new or compelling to discuss. I say to that interviewer, "Shame on you. That's the point." Domestic violence and abuse of women and children still happen. As we speak, women are nursing the wounds of a violent encounter with their husbands or partners or, perhaps worse, with former husbands or partners. Children are sitting in school, dreading the bell to go home in case their mummy has had another doin' since they left for school in the morning, and they wonder whether it is their fault.

Those are only the wounds that one can see—the burst lips, black eyes, broken noses or strained movements that signify cracked or broken ribs. What about the women whose abuse comes in a subtler form? They suffer constant berating, domination by a man who allows no freedom of thought or deed, or the degradation of submitting to sex acts against their will, and they have to keep quiet so that the weans will not hear.

The most important point to remember is that those things are happening daily and that women have to put up with them. There are a number of reasons why women tolerate such abuse. For some it is merely a change of abuser, from a father they wanted to escape to a husband who treats them no better. It is hard to admit that one has made a mistake by marrying or setting up home with a man who abuses one cruelly.

Some tolerate it, thinking that things can only get better when they have reached a low point in a relationship, and hope that the next day will see the return of the man they once loved and adored and who would cherish them until they were parted by death. Those women do not realise that their own deaths could be hastened by the same man; we all know that that happens. Of the six cases of deaths caused by domestic violence in Strathclyde since January this year, five were women.

There are women who stay because they fear for the safety of their children, who have already seen or heard the horrors that are inflicted on their mother. They will not just leave them to cope with an abusive father; they feel that it is better for them to be the barrier and to defend their children. For those children, home is where the hurt is.

There are women who stay because no one will believe that that public paragon, that upstanding member of the community or well-respected and well-connected professional, behaves like a monster in private.

Most pitiful are the women who stay because they have nowhere to go. That is the most shameful thing about the subject of the debate. Family and friends do not have spare accommodation and neighbours do not want to get involved. Where does a woman go in the middle of the night with a young family in tow? When a woman takes what is left of her courage and calls the police or makes the decision to go to a refuge, as in biblical times, there is no room at the inn. Women are forced to stay in violent homes, where the hurt is, until there is space in a refuge.

Because funding varies from city to city and town to town, the dependability and reliability of space being available is crucial. Housing benefit alone will not pay the bills. There are numerous responsibilities to be attended to, such as insurance, and safety regulations to be complied with. What about outreach work, or counselling for children, or research or training? Let us be blunt about this. Changes in attitude have come about, particularly from the police who, years ago, never got involved in domestic disputes. That situation has, thankfully, changed dramatically, but there is still much work to be done.

Organisations such as Women's Aid, Victim Support Scotland and the Zero Tolerance Trust—which recently ran the Respect campaign on young people's attitudes to violence, sex and relationships—all have core funding problems.

If ministers are to tackle the funding crisis and to solve the problem of workers not being paid, of women and children in need being turned away, and of getting the message across that help is available, they will have the support of this chamber. I hope that £8 million is just a start. Matched funding comes at a price; there is no guarantee that funding will be matched, and I hope that the minister will respond to that.

I pay tribute to the work of Women's Aid and of the other voluntary organisations that offer counselling, advice, advocacy and refuge 24 hours a day when possible. Those organisations represent excellent value for money. They have the expertise and the will to tackle the most unattractive feature of modern life. They help to clear up the mess of failed relationships. I am particularly grateful to Glasgow Women's Aid, which let me visit one of its refuges on Friday and talk to volunteers. Those are dedicated people. Let us support them.

I have one concern regarding the otherwise excellent document presented by the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse. The definition concentrates on male abuse of power. For those who have not been following the correspondence in The Herald, one of its contributors has been seeking to persuade readers that the proportion of male victims of domestic violence is similar to that of female victims. To think that men are the only abusers is nonsensical, and I am ready to admit that there are instances of women abusing men. But my experience, to which I shall return in a moment, and the figures of Strathclyde police, witness the fact that 91 per cent of victims of domestic abuse are women and that 15 per cent of them are subjected to repeated acts of violence—out of nearly 7,000 physical attacks, that is more than 1,000 women. That is an appalling statistic.

I said that I would return to my own experience of domestic violence—I am not about to confess to being a victim. Before being elected to the Parliament, I sat on the district court bench in the commission area in which I live. I have heard a barrowload of cases of violence and assault; a high proportion of them would be termed domestic. In all the years that I did that, I do not recall hearing one case in which the victim was a man.

The worst case that I ever heard was the trial of a man who had assaulted his wife in a horrific manner—the details of which I will spare members—which led to a case in a much higher court. One of the witnesses was their eldest son—a little boy who was barely secondary school age. Because of his tender years and the dreadful nature of the assault, it was agreed that I should clear the court before the wee boy came in to give his evidence. The formalities were slightly relaxed to make it less of an ordeal and less intimidating for him.

Imagine, if you will, the thoughts of a little boy having to relive the events leading up to his mother almost being murdered. On that occasion, he was in court to speak to a breach of the peace and to an assault—it would have been wrong for me to hear further details. Not once during the examination in chief, the cross-examination by his father's agent, or the re-examination by the procurator fiscal depute did that little boy look at his father sitting in the dock. His mother sat to the side, out of his line of sight so that he did not see the tears tumbling down her cheeks and she could not see the emptiness in his face or the tears in his eyes. It was harrowing to watch. That case could have been avoided if the woman and her son had had help from any of the support organisations that have been badly funded in the past. It need not have happened.

I admit that I was shaken by the experience: members will appreciate that I am still shaken by it. I sincerely hope that my retelling of it will move members sufficiently to ensure that they will do all that they can to stop it happening to any other wee boys. I support the motion.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Many members wish to speak in the debate. Speeches will be restricted to four minutes. I remind members that we now have clocks that show how long they have been speaking. In case there is any doubt, the clocks are located above me and on both sides of the chamber.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 3:45 pm, 27th October 1999

It has taken a long time to get domestic violence into the public consciousness and onto the political agenda. The Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse is to be commended for its work, and I welcome its work plan: it has much to commend it. The research behind it has exploded some of the prevailing myths about domestic violence: it is not the fault of the victim; it can occur in all social groups; and it is not caused by drunkenness, poverty, stress and so on.

The causes of domestic violence and discord are complex and many sided. Domestic disputes often begin with disputes about money, arguments over children, adulterous relationships or difficulties with in-laws. It is accepted that unemployment increases the pressure on families and the incidence of family breakdown, and there is frequently an alcohol or drugs element. None of those are excuses for violence against women. Domestic violence is about controlling behaviour, but it can become worse when other factors are present.

The work plan addresses the fact that there is a need for a strategic and co-ordinated approach to this issue. I am glad to see the emphasis on the importance of consistent service delivery across Scotland, and across barriers of race, disability and geography. The work plan is an excellent piece of work, but nothing is perfect and nothing is ever enough. The remit of the group was to address domestic violence perpetrated against women and children, but we must not forget that men are also victims of domestic violence. That is recognised in passing on page five of the work plan. We should not lose sight of that. In addition, verbal abuse can be as vicious and damaging as physical abuse.

We are making a start on tackling the problem and getting service provision in place, but there are enormous gaps. We are beginning to cope with the problems of women, but there are even wider gaps in the provision for children who are caught in the firing line between the adults in their lives. There is a woeful shortage of places in women's refuges, but there is an even worse shortfall in the number of children's workers attached to refuges. Those children need the help and support that they can get only from people who have the right professional skills.

Another problematic area is the situation of boys, particularly older boys in families who seek refuge but find that older boys are not welcome or are not permitted to come in to the refuge. That puts an enormous strain on the son, the mother and the siblings.

Considerable protection has been afforded by the existence of matrimonial interdicts and the power to obtain exclusion orders under the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981, but the act now needs significant reform to deal with the inadequate protection that is given to cohabitees, with the limited number of remedies that are available when there is no provable record of violence, and in particular with the need to be able to make a decision about housing—especially when there are children in the household. The Law Commission is consulting on a number of those areas, and it is important that that is followed quickly by legislation.

The work plan talks about the three Ps: prevention, protection and provision. I seem to have dealt with those backside foremost. I want to point out that, out of the 92 items listed for action, less than a quarter deal with prevention. Perhaps we should make progress on that front, in line with the other areas. Prevention is usually better than cure.

Finally, I share the concerns about the time scale. The time to act is now.

Photo of Janis Hughes Janis Hughes Labour 3:50 pm, 27th October 1999

I agree with Lyndsay McIntosh when she says that certain groups of people do not think that we have anything new to say about domestic violence. We should never make excuses for using every opportunity to highlight some of the terrifying statistics relating to the issue.

Domestic abuse is the most common form of violent crime against women in the UK. Partners or ex-partners murder half of the women who are killed in Scotland. Violence against women is the world's most pervasive form of human rights abuse. Ninety per cent of children whose mother is attacked are in the same or next room while the attack is taking place. All the statistics are horrifying in themselves, but if we consider them in a local context, they bring home the horror of domestic violence.

In my constituency, assaults within the home are reported to the police at the rate of one per day. In the past six months, 182 women from Rutherglen and Cambuslang contacted the police after being assaulted or sexually attacked. Those figures are particularly worrying given that, last year, local police launched a major initiative against domestic abuse. When we consider the fact that statistics are based only on the cases that are reported, it is clear that the situation is very serious indeed.

This is a matter of basic human rights. The European convention on human rights provides for the right not to be subject

"to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

It also confirms

"the right to liberty and security of the person."

Why are so many women being denied those rights? Women and children are never to blame for domestic abuse. The use of violence and verbal, mental and sexual abuse is a choice that some men make in order to exercise control over their partners and children.

There is no doubt that we need to take a multi-agency approach. Key agencies must be brought together at a national level if we are to tackle the issue effectively. We need consistency throughout the country, while acknowledging the specific needs of women from rural areas, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

The most important issue that we need to tackle is that of changing attitudes. Local agencies must be ready to deal with domestic violence when it occurs, but we must get to the root of the problem if we are ever to succeed in stamping it out. Initiatives such as zero tolerance focus on changing attitudes, but until the risk of abuse is eliminated, we still have to provide adequate services to give abused women and children the help they need.

We have already mentioned the research by the Zero Tolerance Trust, which considers boys' attitudes to domestic violence. It is horrifying to hear what boys say. As the mother of a 13-year-old boy, I firmly believe that education begins in the home and that, as parents, we have a social responsibility to change attitudes and to ensure that the next generation does not perpetuate the domestic abuse that goes on today.

The Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse has recognised the need for a multi-agency approach and is working towards that. Its work involves costing its recommendations. Even at an early stage, it was clear that extra money would have to be found. I welcome Jackie Baillie's comments on that. The difficulty of money is also faced by the other major players in the fight against domestic abuse—the police, the health service and the justice system—all of which are incurring extra expenditure on their work in the area. The partnership must consider better co-ordination and the targeting of resources at those groups.

We can make a difference to the lives of women and children, who barely exist, living under the constant threat of domestic violence. It is estimated that 100,000 children and young people in Scotland are living with domestic abuse. As a nation, we cannot allow that to continue.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party 3:55 pm, 27th October 1999

I welcome the minister's announcement today and recognise her commitment to dealing with domestic violence.

I am conscious that I am the first male speaker in this debate. It is important that males speak out about the problems of domestic violence. I am sure that there will be others.

Several members have touched on the unacceptable level of domestic violence. We must examine how domestic violence shatters the stability of a family, placing not only the woman who has been subjected to violence at considerable risk, but the children and young people in that household.

The fact that there is no such thing as a typically abused woman has been well documented. Equally, there is no such thing as a typically abused child or young person. Last year alone, 8,500 children and young people sought help from Women's Aid projects—often with their mother or carer—but less than half were provided with the refuge and shelter they required. That highlights the desperate shortage of provision for young people and children and, alongside the estimated 100,000 children who live with the experience of domestic violence in Scotland, the desperate need for additional resources to meet their needs. We should also consider the fact that around 60 per cent of children in a household where there is domestic violence are abused by the person who abuses their mother or carer.

The impact of domestic violence on children and young people can not be understated. Domestic abuse, along with other forms of abuse, is one of the most common reasons for young people becoming homeless. Young men aged 16 plus are particularly vulnerable, as Nora Radcliffe pointed out when she referred to the inability of Women's Aid projects to provide them with the accommodation they require. I hope that, in her summing up, the minister will address directly what can be done to ensure that there is provision.

Proper co-ordination between agencies is also important. A child or young person who has to take refuge with their mother or carer often has to go to a shelter and, at the same time, leave their school, leaving behind their friends. That not only disrupts the child's or young person's education, but can result in their leaving behind the friends that they need most during such a traumatic time in their lives.

I recognise that many statutory and non-statutory agencies work together where they can, but it is important that they work together in an appropriate manner. I ask the minister to address what guidance will be issued to statutory agencies to ensure that they work in proper partnership with Women's Aid refuge organisations.

The role of Women's Aid organisations is frequently undermined by the continual constraints under which they work, often as a result of standstill budgets year upon year, so I welcome the additional funding to address that issue. However, just as our education departments require the right funding to provide children with the right education, Women's Aid projects require the right funding to provide children with the protection they need when in difficulty.

It is also important that services are provided equally across the country. That is why it is important that we have co-ordination on a national level, to ensure that children, no matter where they stay, will be provided with a reasonable service in their time of need.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 4:00 pm, 27th October 1999

I have been involved in the debate on domestic violence for about 20 years. It is gratifying to see how far it has shifted and to have this debate in the Parliament so early in its life. I would like to pay tribute to Roseanna—who is not in the chamber, unfortunately—and to Lyndsay for their speeches. We can genuinely share ownership of this problem, and that gives us great hope.

We have to be clear about the realities. I recently met members of Greater Easterhouse Women's Aid, which is based in my constituency. They drew my attention to a deep problem. I will quote from their evidence, in which they said:

"Domestic abuse is insidious; it creeps up on you over a period of time. The abuser isolates you from family and friends, minimises and denies what is happening. He keeps you exhausted both emotionally and physically. He threatens you, degrades you and displays his total power."

We acknowledge that we have been moving forward in this debate, but that very progress has raised other difficulties about the demand for women's aid services, for which there is now an expectation.

The funding package announced by the Deputy Minister for Communities is extremely welcome, because of the chronic shortfall that we have experienced in the service over past years. The demand on Greater Easterhouse Women's Aid has increased by 398 per cent over the past four years—63 per cent over the past year alone. The group also asks us to give attention to the practices of police, housing bodies, social work departments and others who can, even unwittingly, operate against the wishes of women and children who are resisting violence.

It is proper to recognise again the progress that has been made by the police and others, but a woman exhausted by abuse, terrified of impoverishing her children, leaving her home and, worst of all, losing her children, does not want to get caught in the system. We know that such women will frequently minimise the violence for fear of losing their children.

We must create public services that can win the confidence of women and ensure that they are not penalised for the violence that is perpetrated against them. We must be careful about too often glibly asking why a woman did not leave. Sometimes, it is not so easy. We should not make her decision harder with sweeping statements about the inadequacy of single-parent families.

I welcome the statements that have been made here today. I have spent a political lifetime arguing for the equality of men and women in political representation, and I am very proud that we have two women ministers committed to advancing this agenda. I hope that this is just the beginning, because we have much work to do.

Much has been made of the Zero Tolerance Trust's research and contribution. We have to listen to its analysis. I will quote Evelyn Gillan, who recently gave MSPs a presentation, because it was very strong stuff. She said that

"the Parliament must make the links between different forms of male violence. We need to be clear about what it is we are trying to prevent and that means facing up to some difficult truths.

The overwhelming majority of violent acts are perpetrated by men, most of whom are known to the women; women and children have very little control over the violence that invades their lives; and whilst home is the safest place for men, it is the least safe place for women and children.

If we see male violence as a social problem which reflects wider values and attitudes then we believe change is possible."

I urge the Executive to think not just in terms of the costs of implementing this strategy, but in terms of savings. Public services spend a great deal of money picking up the pieces. That money would be better spent on preventive services. The Executive has, properly, pledged to tackle crime as a top priority. In Scotland, everyone should have the right to live free from violence. We can never achieve that unless we comprehensively tackle domestic abuse.

Across the chamber, we are deeply committed to the health service because we all know that it saves lives. I recently met Joyce, a woman from my constituency. She told me that she is quite sure that, had it not been for her local Women's Aid group, she would have lost her life. She now helps run such a service, to save the lives of other women in greater Easterhouse. We cannot underestimate the critical contribution that such services make.

I welcome the Executive's announcement today but please, this is just the beginning.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 4:05 pm, 27th October 1999

I will concentrate on what might be termed the last taboo—the abuse of women who have disabilities.

From my work with human rights organisations, I am sure that we have here what the "Journal of Disability Policy Studies" in February of last year called

"a problem of epidemic proportions".

The 1995 Strathclyde Zero Tolerance Project, quoting detailed research from Australia, Canada and North America, decided that, in Scotland, "we're no different." The global research—I can provide the minister with all the references—concluded that more than half of disabled women claim to have suffered some form of physical abuse, compared with a third of women without disabilities. Almost half of disabled women report some form of sexual abuse during childhood and the abuse normally takes place in the home or in a so-called safe institution.

There are no detailed Scots statistics, but I will inform members of cases made known to me. One woman, who is partially paralysed, is regularly raped by her partner. He says that she likes it. When she protests, he says that someone like her is lucky to have a sex life at all and he is doing her a favour. Another woman, who is in a wheelchair, is regularly battered. She got herself out of the house, but when she got to the refuge she found that it had no ramp and she could not even reach the doorbell.

Women with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable. They often rely on the abuser for personal assistance and financial support. They can have their assistive devices withdrawn by the abuser who may say, "You will not go to the toilet," "You will not have a bath," or, "I will take your stick away." They fear that, if they separate, their children will be removed. Often, their main communication with the outside is the abuser.

If all violence is about power and domination, the fact that a woman is disabled seems to heighten the need for dominance in some men. Women with learning disabilities are especially at risk. As girls, they may be less able to defend themselves physically or to articulate the fact of abuse. They may be unable to differentiate between appropriate physical contact and sexual or violent action.

I remind members of the chilling warning given by the Dorset police in 1993 during its investigations into the murder of Jo Ramsden, a woman with Down's syndrome who was raped and murdered. Dorset police stated:

"Our officers have been surprised and sickened by the number of men who are prepared to prey on mentally disturbed females. We have identified people who have committed very serious offences against these vulnerable people".

What is the Scots situation? Frankly, it is not good. Women's Aid currently has only seven barrier-free spaces out of a total of 360. That leaves large tracts of Scotland where people who are in a wheelchair and abused or blind and abused are on their own. Minister, there are probably many more refuges for maltreated dogs and cats in Scotland than for abused women with a disability.

There is one QWERTY phone in East Dunbartonshire, but otherwise no special provision for the blind or deaf. The national office of Women's Aid would like to invest in a text telephone and issue literature in large print and tapes, but so far has been unable to do so. There seems to be little provision for an abused woman who does not have a disability herself, but has a disabled child.

Today's announcement of £8 million of extra funding is welcome. I hope that the Minister for Communities, in winding up, will reassure the Parliament that some of the money will be used to achieve three objectives. First, to ensure that no disabled woman in Scotland remains trapped in a cycle of violence because refuge services are not available to her. Secondly, to pledge that a proper needs assessment into this abuse—as has happened in North America and Australia—will be commenced in Scotland. Thirdly, to get the issue out into the open. Because it is not discussed in the public domain, victims often think that the abuse is unique to them, so they stay silent and nurse their shame.

It is time, minister, to tackle the taboo.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:10 pm, 27th October 1999

I am pleased to welcome the document on domestic abuse and the partnership's funding package.

What pleases me most is that the challenge to domestic violence is underlined—it is no longer something that is peripheral and can be ignored by the establishment. We—the women and men of this Parliament—can with authority say to the people of Scotland, to Scottish institutions, to local authorities, to those in urban areas and to those in rural areas that this is a grave problem that must be tackled seriously and systematically, and that we will be listened to.

The funding package means that we can create more refuge places where they are needed. I particularly welcome the commitment to doing that in rural areas. In my constituency in the Highland Council area, there are less than half the recommended number of refuge spaces, and a huge mainland area north of Dingwall and west of Inverness has no local provision. However, since our first debate on domestic violence and because of the Executive's commitment, there is a new confidence among the women in that area.

Highland Council has plans for a new refuge in Ross-shire and—I am glad to say—it will have disabled access, which is something that we have long been concerned about. In Caithness, our raising of awareness of domestic violence has meant that women have been encouraged to form groups that want to set up a refuge in Thurso.

Refuges, however, cannot exist in a vacuum. As Jackie Baillie said, new women's groups need to be trained by experienced experts in supporting women and children, such as Women's Aid. Women cannot stay in refuges for ever and I am pleased that the involvement of Scottish Homes will mean that housing will be available for women to move on to. It is very important that in places where groups seek to set up refuges, funding is available for them.

I also welcome the commitment to education for children of pre-school age upwards. It has, in the past, been extremely difficult to gain access to schools in some areas as that has depended on the attitudes of particular teachers or principal teachers. That, too, is changing, but I ask local authorities to realise that there are organisations such as the Zero Tolerance Trust and Women's Aid that have a great deal of expertise in providing education programmes.

It is also crucial that schools have strategies for supporting children from violent homes—kids who truant so that they can protect their mothers and kids who cannot do their homework because of what goes on in their houses at night. Kids who must change schools need specific attention, as Michael Matheson said.

Finally, I want to mention strengthening protection for women. It can be very difficult for a woman to leave her abuser because she is often deeply afraid of him and rightly fears—as we know from statistics—that she will be in greater danger if she leaves. Half of the women killed in Scotland are killed by their ex-partners, as Janis Hughes said.

The law gives inadequate protection and the Justice and Home Affairs Committee has been examining ways of extending the present protection given to married women and to some cohabitees. The present protection—as Nora Radcliffe said—is given through the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981. It provides for an interdict with powers of arrest to be granted to women who are in danger, but that depends on the woman's and her partner's rights to occupancy of the matrimonial home.

The Justice and Home Affairs Committee hopes to introduce soon a simple bill that separates that protection of interdict with powers of arrest from rights of occupancy of the matrimonial home. The committee wants to do that as quickly as possible because, first, it will send out a strong message that there are no second-class citizens when it comes to protection from violence and, secondly, it will save lives. Women are being killed by violent ex-partners and we must do all we can to stop that happening.

Since September, the Justice and Home Affairs Committee has been taking evidence from organisations such as Women's Aid, the Scottish Family Law Association, the Scottish Police Federation and the Sheriffs Association. It is agreed across the board that legislation is urgently required and I hope that we will soon be able to present a bill to Parliament.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 4:14 pm, 27th October 1999

I think that most of us wish that we were not having this debate or, more accurately, that we did not need to have this debate. Clearly, however, we need to have this debate: these poignant issues need to be addressed. When one hears stories such as those that George Reid told, one despairs at the fact that such things can go on in what we claim to be a civilised society.

Much of what has been proposed today is welcome. What has been lacking from our efforts to deal with this problem is an appropriate number of refuge places. Like Lyndsay McIntosh, I have dealt in a district court with many cases of assault and breach of the peace in the home. In those cases, I was frequently struck by the fact that the women stuck with the abusers. Sometimes they stuck with them because the assault had been a one-off but, in many cases, the abuse had gone on for years and the woman would have left if she had been able to find a safer environment.

One of the most serious things about this issue, as Margaret Curran pointed out, is the fact that an assault in the home is much more serious than an assault elsewhere. Of course it is deplorable that people should be assaulted in the street, in a pub or in their place of work—it is never pleasant—but people are entitled to expect that their home is a place of safety. If a home is not a place of safety, that not only reflects badly on society but shows that we have failed to provide places of safety for people. To that extent, I welcome the Scottish Homes initiative, which will go some way towards preventing some of the problems that I have seen in the past.

Roseanna Cunningham, as convener of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, should be aware that there are things that her committee could do. The existing legislation—particularly the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997—is good up to a point, but it could be taken a bit further. There needs to be a realisation that it should recognise that many people who are abused are partners or common-law wives of the abuser. The existing terms do not recognise such people.

There must be a recognition that abusive behaviour is unacceptable. The problem used to be regarded as the result of dysfunctional people with dysfunctional problems. That is not the case, but even if it were, abusive behaviour would still be unacceptable.

Lyndsay McIntosh, with understandable emotion, dealt with the effects that abuse can have on children, which is the saddest aspect of all. The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 does not allow grounds for referral in many cases where children are at emotional risk in an environment where violence is frequently visited on their mother.

We welcome the progress that has been made today. We recognise that this Parliament cannot implement some of the necessary changes until such time as society recognises that abusive behaviour is utterly unacceptable.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 4:19 pm, 27th October 1999

I welcome this important debate on domestic violence. It is right that the Executive recognises the problem. It is also right that the Executive is taking action, through funding, to combat domestic violence throughout society.

I would like to add a different perspective to the debate. I want to focus on an area of domestic violence that is far too often neglected. I want to highlight one group of victims of domestic abuse to which little attention is given. George Reid talked about the last taboo. I am afraid that that is not the last taboo. I want to address the issue of male victims of domestic violence. I shall not talk about the debate in The Herald, or the statistics that were produced there. People can read that debate for themselves. Let us be honest: no one has referred to the dozens of international and domestic studies that have been conducted into the issue of domestic violence against men. I shall quote three of them.

We talked about Commonwealth surveys. A survey of 1,037 young adults who were born between 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, found that 18 per cent of young women said that they had perpetrated severe physical violence against their partners, while only 5 per cent of young men said that. The number of women who said that they had kicked or bitten their partners, hit them with their fists or with an object, was more than three times that of men. The 1996 British crime survey reported that nearly one third of the victims of domestic violence were men. In January 1999, the UK Home Office produced its own evidence to suggest that domestic violence is not a male disease. It reported that 4.2 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men, aged between 16 and 59, said that they had been physically assaulted by a current partner during the past year.

Most members have, quite rightly, referred to the appalling problems of domestic abuse that affect women and children. I had to think about whether I should even speak in this debate, as I did not want to remove the focus from the domestic violence that is inflicted on women and children. However, I think that this issue must be addressed. We talk about social inclusion. I make a plea for social inclusion—for equality of treatment and recognition, which is the most important thing, of the problems of all victims of domestic violence, be they men, women or children. If I have any criticism of the motion, it is that it does not go far enough.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 4:22 pm, 27th October 1999

I will address some of the points that Mr Rumbles made. However, I ask him respectfully to consider what all the agencies say about the nature of domestic violence, and I put a proposition to him. If there were significant evidence of women's violence against men, the first place it would be seen is in the development of self-help organisations. That is what the Women's Aid organisations tell us about the experience of women. When women got themselves together and raised the issue on the political agenda, it was directly as a result of their experiences.

I welcome this debate and the announcements that have been made today. I have time to address only a limited number of the issues that are involved. I am conscious of the work of women's organisations in developing policy, raising awareness and supporting women who experience domestic violence. It is testimony to those organisations—over many, sometimes hostile, years—that we are now at this stage. It is important that those organisations maintain a central role in the work at the next stage.

We all know the significance of the debate that we are having. It is important to view domestic violence in the broader context of male violence against women, and to respect those women who are survivors of domestic abuse. They are not a peep show. We should look beyond the bruises to, very often, courageous women who, while carrying those bruises, are the first to be concerned about the safety of their children.

Sometimes, in discussion of this issue, there develops a sad bemusement towards the women as if, as victims of crime, they are uniquely illogical. Why do they not leave? The reality is that women are often responding to their circumstances in the most logical way. Think of the strong messages that say that lone parents can damage the prospects of children. Remember the condemnation that follows if a woman, even if it is to save herself, flees and leaves her children behind. Consider the evidence of our own eyes and ears when we read of men who have attacked their ex-partners and their children after they have fled—the evidence that tells us that fleeing violence does not always make a woman safe.

Children, too, suffer. They may be seen as difficult or as having mental health problems because they do not attend school or because they display distrust of adults. In fact, what more logical response can a child have to their dad hitting their mum than staying home from school to protect her, or than not trusting adults when their father has made the most grotesque breach of trust by terrorising them and their family in their own home?

It is crucial that schools and health services recognise the essential role that they can play, not in exacerbating children's problems, but in supporting children. We know that domestic violence knows no class or racial boundaries. It is therefore essential that there are local organisations that meet locally the needs of women in poverty who find it difficult to get out, of disabled women or of black and ethnic minority women.

My final point relates directly to what Mike Rumbles said. We talk about support systems, of ways to protect women, of empowering women to take control, of getting women out to help children and of multi-agency work. All of those circle, and are designed to manage the fallout from, the central problem, which is violent men who think that they can be violent with impunity. If we are to change the situation, we need to recognise the gender-specific nature of such violence. It is essential to see the pattern.

The problem is not dysfunctional families. It is not the unhappy conjunction of individual men and women who do not get on. These are not men who are some freak of nature. Male violence is too persistent and consistent for that. We know that attitudes to male violence remain a major concern and reflect what boys and girls learn about acceptable behaviour. Many men can make their partners and children refugees in their own country and yet still go to the pub and talk about football. They remain part of the normal world. They are not ostracised, which is a central problem in dealing with male violence.

It is crucial that we support not only the central work of groups such as Women's Aid—women who suffer domestic violence cannot wait for the world's attitudes to change—but the work of groups such as the Zero Tolerance Trust. We must also identify what and who causes violence and how attitudes are perpetuated. If we do not acknowledge that domestic violence reflects the unequal power in our society, we will never get rid of it. We owe it to our children—boys and girls—to continue the process of changing our and their expectations of how things can and should be.

Photo of Kay Ullrich Kay Ullrich Scottish National Party 4:27 pm, 27th October 1999

I pay tribute to the progress that has been made during the past few years in addressing the problem of domestic violence, particularly in raising public awareness of such violence and in recognising that the safety and well-being of the victim must be paramount for all who deal with the issue. Much of the success that has been achieved has been due mainly to the willingness of the many agencies involved to develop strategy and policy within a multi-agency framework. There have, for example, been initiatives within the criminal justice system that make the protection of victims and their children a priority.

It is now Strathclyde police policy, for example, to detain in custody until the next available court hearing anyone arrested for a crime involving domestic violence. When evidence is not immediately available to justify an arrest at the scene, officers are encouraged to consider detaining the alleged offender under section 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, which allows time for a thorough investigation and, crucially, the opportunity for the police to obtain multi-agency assistance for the victim and any children involved.

Such practices, plus the co-operation of the judiciary in imposing bail conditions, which are now notified to the victim, represent a great step forward in the recognition of the need to treat domestic violence as a serious issue. That said, there are areas of the criminal justice system that give me cause for concern. Here, I want to highlight the 18 pilot diversion from prosecution schemes that operate in Scotland.

Diverting a case involving domestic violence from prosecution not only gives out entirely the wrong message to the offender and the victim, but puts perpetrators of domestic violence on a par with an elderly woman slipping a tin of salmon into her shopping bag. In effect, it allows excuses to be made for totally unacceptable behaviour. It allows the social work department to place an offender, for example, in anger management counselling, saying, "He did it because he was angry with her." Even worse, an offender can be referred for alcohol counselling, which gives weight to the age-old excuse, "It was the drink, m'lord." In all my years of sitting as a social worker in a sheriff court, I never failed to be amazed at the willing acceptance of drink as an excuse for an assault on a partner. The excuse is one that I find difficult to understand. After all, if drink made the offender violent, why did he wait until he got home before assaulting someone? Why did he not hit the big guy standing next to him at the bar? There are no prizes for guessing the answer to that one—the big guy would surely have hit him back. I therefore urge the Executive to remove domestic violence from the diversion from prosecution scheme.

There is certainly evidence of progress in tackling domestic violence, but the situation is far from rosy because agencies such as Women's Aid and Victim Support Scotland have been particularly hard-hit by cuts in local authority funding. For example, in North Ayrshire alone last year, 43 women and 67 children had to be refused refuge accommodation due to inadequate funding. Will the minister explain how local authorities are expected, given the continuing cuts in local authority funding, to match the funding that is being given?

Many priority areas must be addressed, including the development of services for children affected by domestic violence and improvement of services for victims in rural areas. Further, as George Reid said, it is recognised that disabled women, those suffering from mental health illnesses and those with drug and alcohol problems are particularly at risk.

I welcome today's statement, but we all know that there is a long way to go. If we are to achieve our aims, we must implement a national strategy as a necessary part of the campaign. There can be no excuse for domestic violence, and there can be no excuse for this Parliament not paying due attention to the needs of those afflicted by domestic violence. I urge members to support the amended motion.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour 4:33 pm, 27th October 1999

First, I welcome the commitment shown by the Executive in addressing this issue in the Parliament at this early stage. I also welcome the additional funding that was announced today as part of the domestic abuse service development fund.

It is encouraging that the Parliament is uniting behind the issue and accepting the amendment moved by Roseanna Cunningham. The support from Conservative and Liberal Democrat members is also encouraging. We have talked about consensus in the Parliament and, while there are issues upon which we will never agree, it is a sign of the Parliament's maturity that we do not try to create artificial divisions on issues about which we can agree. Today's debate, and the previous debate on the subject initiated by Maureen Macmillan, are fine examples of how we can take a consensual approach when the issue demands it.

Before I turn to my own comments, I want to address some remarks made by Mike Rumbles. I also endorse the comments made by Johann Lamont. Domestic abuse in Scotland, and throughout the world, is primarily the result of male violence against women. That is because of issues of economic or physical power and a range of reasons such as the cultures within our society. We must reflect that and deal with the issue.

In my experience at West Lothian Council, and since I became a member of the Scottish Parliament, I have dealt, like many others, with many harrowing cases. Sometimes the women involved in those cases have been helped by public services, but on many occasions those services and voluntary organisations have not been able to provide the support that the women required. As part of this whole initiative, it is critical that we ensure that that does not occur in future.

When people come forward with problems, we must ensure that public resources, pubic services and voluntary organisation support are all in place to help them through those problems.

The issue that I want to focus on is the one that I think is the most important in this whole debate—education. Many members have mentioned the recent report on the zero tolerance campaign. It highlights the attitudes towards violence and sexual violence by men against women, and it highlights the degree of the problem in our society. We will not eradicate domestic violence or sexual violence unless we can change people's core beliefs. That is why I am glad that a significant proportion of Jackie Baillie's contribution was on the question of education and changing the culture.

However, the issue is not only about changing the culture among the perpetrators of domestic violence; we also need to change the culture in all our public organisations. Some of the attitudes of the legal system towards questions of domestic violence have caused me concern recently. One of the key things that this Parliament has to do is to get a clear message through to the legal profession—to the judiciary, to sheriffs—that domestic violence is unacceptable. We have to do that through debates such as this one and, in due course, through legislation.

We have only a short time today, so, in conclusion, I very much welcome the co-ordinated approach that Jackie outlined between the various public agencies, involving organisations such as Women's Aid. I know from my area that strong partnerships have already developed. I am sure that they will soon be ready to bring forward proposals to call on the resources that have been announced today.

Domestic violence and domestic abuse are not unique to Scotland. However, today we can start to help to lead towards one of the greatest achievements that this Parliament could deliver to the people of Scotland—the elimination of domestic abuse in our communities.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 4:37 pm, 27th October 1999

I come to this debate as a lawyer with 12 years' experience, predominantly as a family lawyer, who has obtained interdicts—sometimes with powers of arrest, sometimes without—for spouses, all of whom were women, and who has also defended, sometimes successfully, male clients against them. Unfortunately, I am therefore well experienced in all the unhappiness that the breakdown of a relationship entails. From the work plan of the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse, under the heading of "Definition" on page 5, I recognise a range of clients who have crossed my path and who have suffered the physical abuse of battering through to the psychological abuse of threats, which is equally bad.

I know that children of all ages can be witnesses to abuse in most domestic situations, though a cunning partner can perpetrate abuse out of sight of not only neighbours but family. It occurs in all social groups. The worst case of physical abuse I came across was that of a quiet and refined professional woman who had been beaten up by her highly paid executive husband and had hidden the bruises and his hand marks round her throat under a copious sweater. She did not cry in my office, as most women did, and that made her plight all the more awful and compelling, because she was beyond tears. Women therefore come with low morale and no self-esteem, and are fearful. Many cannot cope with detaching themselves from their relationship, especially when faced with the financial and housing implications of separation.

Against what I hope is therefore an informed professional background, and from the evidence obtained by the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, I would like to make the following comments. The first concerns the support services. Some women in these circumstances have a good lawyer, a good general practitioner, a good health visitor, and perhaps personnel assistance at work. If a woman is working, abuse can lead to the loss of her employment. I therefore welcome the intention to ensure that there will be more equitable and less random access to various agencies.

I draw the attention of Parliament to the role of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, which is not mentioned as a support service, but which has everything to do with access to justice. It has failings that often let women down when they most need immediate help. The rules by which solicitors have access to legal aid for a client are by no means simple, and the access is by no means swift. While emergency legal aid is available to obtain interdicts and powers of arrest, once those applications are made, a rigorous timetable to complete a full legal aid application form kicks in. Obtaining interdicts is a time-consuming business. The solicitor might have to drop everything else to obtain documents such as medical reports, corroborative statements that will form the basis of affidavits and police precognitions. All that work is quite apart from appearing in court to make representations.

Furthermore, the solicitor must often provide emotional support to a very distressed client. I have given out my home phone number only to clients in interdict proceedings. In the middle of such a traumatic situation, the distressed client must complete lengthy forms, including financial forms, for submission to the board. Clients' finances are often in flux, which makes things difficult; or because of their income—which need not be very high—they are denied legal aid from the outset and so cannot fund court proceedings. In addition, the remuneration for civil legal aid work is disgracefully low and many solicitors cannot take on this time-consuming work—though they would wish to do so—because the rest of the firm will not subsidise it.

It is plain that the Legal Aid Board rules on domestic violence require review. However, I note that the work plan does not mention the Scottish Legal Aid Board among the organisations involved in domestic abuse issues. The organisation is at the core of access to justice for many abused women and provides the structure by which such women can restructure their lives. I ask the minister to address that particular omission in the work plan.

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

I must apologise to no fewer than 12 members who wished to speak in the debate but have not been called. I call Phil Gallie to wind up for the Conservatives.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 4:42 pm, 27th October 1999

I congratulate the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse which, to its credit, produced its report on time, and welcome the work that the organisation has put into the document.

Christine Grahame made a strong point about the legal aid aspects of this issue, which the partnership and the minister should take on board. In particular, the partnership must have sufficient expertise to deal with the important issues that she raised.

Although Mike Rumbles's speech did not go down too well in the chamber, he was brave to make his comments. Irrespective of popular feeling in the chamber, the issue of male abuse can be relevant. We should not forget the males who stay in the family home to protect their children—perhaps the text of the report puts that issue a little into the background. I accept that such males are very much a minority. Furthermore, I accept Johann Lamont's comments about female abuse, which perhaps touches more on male physical strength and the seriousness of male violence, as opposed to the lesser effects of the incidents that Mike Rumbles mentioned. Nonetheless, his comments were important.

As the minister said, this is our second debate on domestic violence in a short period and I believe that the issue will be raised again in the not-too-distant future, as the report is on-going.

The report has benefited from a full range of expertise from the various bodies involved with the issue and from the presence of the police, the courts and the Prison Service. The whole value of the report is its emphasis on co-operation between a range of organisations that deal daily with domestic violence issues.

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent

Will Mr Gallie accept an interruption?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Well, no other member has been interrupted yet, but I will give way.

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent

Although we do not want to be caught in a rather sticky blancmange of endless congratulations, we should welcome this report. However, we should be mindful that only £3 million is pledged directly and that we are dealing with 155,000 suffering human beings a year, including 100,000 children.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I accept those points—it was my intention to address funding. I have reservations about funding, because a week or two ago Mr McConnell told us that additional money would be put into the drugs enforcement agency, but last week it was announced that that money was perhaps being diverted from the Prison Service. I am talking about a co-operative approach to this issue—the police, the Prison Service and individuals are all involved.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I apologise; I cannot give way again.

The minister said that £3 million was available. The report has not yet been costed. Obviously, the minister will address funding again when the report comes back, but I have concerns about looking to local authorities for match funding. In the past, match funding for the police service has not always come to fruition. I would like to know what contact the minister has had with local authorities and what assurances she has had that they will match the promised funding. If she can tell us that today, I feel sure that all members will be happy.

We are certainly happy with the minister's comments on refuges. I am pleased to say that, in the old days, a Tory-controlled council—Kyle and Carrick District Council—thought that the provision of a women's refuge in Ayr was important. That refuge has gone from strength to strength. It has problems at times, but it is important for those who deal with the problems of domestic violence. As the minister said, there are never enough places, but that was a start, which she said will be built on. I welcome the contact that has been made with Scottish Homes on that.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I support the motion and the amendment. Let us make sure that the good work that has been done is continued to a fruitful end.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 4:47 pm, 27th October 1999

I, too, welcome the debate, the partnership work plan, and the announcement of the much-needed and long-awaited funding. We are in danger of being overcome with consensus. I seem regularly to find myself counting the number of SNP manifesto commitments that pop up as Executive announcements, but I am glad that the doubling of women's refuge places is one of them. As someone who has in this chamber raised the question of refuge places, and who walked with Women's Aid in the march along Princes Street, I am pleased to hear that announcement.

This afternoon, we are feeling the power and the breadth of what this Parliament can do to influence the Executive. I am certain that the attendance at, participation in and passion of previous debates in this chamber persuaded those who hold the purse-strings to release the money that was announced today.

I want to talk about the amendment and the need to emphasise the Parliament's national role, as this is our first opportunity to vote on this issue. By adopting the amendment, the Parliament can acknowledge its national responsibility and role, and can acknowledge that the partnership, which was set up before the opening of the Parliament, has done some excellent work.

We will always need to push this debate further, however great the personal commitment of the ministers. I have some serious concerns about the announcement. The amount of new money that was declared was £8 million. If £2 million of that will come from Scottish Homes in capital funding and £3 million from the Executive, the £3 million match funding must be new money, otherwise the total of £8 million does not add up. The minister should give us an assurance about that. The Scottish Homes money for refuges is capital expenditure; I am concerned about where the staffing resource will come from.

In Glasgow, 80 per cent of the funding for refuges comes from housing benefit. Will the minister make representations on Scotland's needs in the current reform of housing benefit? That issue puts into perspective the Parliament's role in the national strategy and debate.

In public education and prevention, the word that must be used is respect. Johann Lamont was right to talk about power and relationships between men and women. As parents, men and women have a responsibility—as the mother of a young son, I am very conscious of how he is brought up to think about relationships.

The point about women with disabilities was extremely well made by George Reid, as was the point Roseanna Cunningham made about probation schemes.

We talk about shelter and support services; I remind the Parliament that there is a shortage of council housing. One of the problems that we will face is how we ensure that refuges are not filled with women who cannot go anywhere else because there is no decent council housing in an area where they have family support.

One of the tensions in the debate has been about the role of law enforcement. I congratulate the Justice and Home Affairs Committee on making progress on that and I hope that the Parliament will find the time and space to allow the measure that the committee is considering to come before it.

As Maureen Macmillan said, we have to recognise the role of teachers. Their social inclusion role is a hot, topical debate. We talk about 100,000 children and young people living with domestic violence, but if we want the front-line workers to be able to support those children, they have to be properly resourced and supported.

The reaction to today's announcement should not be celebratory, as that could risk giving rise to complacency. We should say thank you for the resources, but we cannot be complacent in the face of such a problem. Resources will never be enough until we know that the social changes that are needed nationally match the support that is given locally. That is why we are moving the amendment; we must do everything to create a national social climate in which there is no excuse for domestic abuse.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour 4:52 pm, 27th October 1999

I will use my summation to reflect on some of the larger themes that members, including Fiona Hyslop, have raised. What we are doing today is historic. In Scotland's new Parliament, almost 40 per cent of our number are women. We are a Parliament that looks like Scotland and is now acting in Scotland's interests. This is a new politics for a new Scotland—a politics of action rather than of protest and a politics of liberation rather than of brutality.

I want to dedicate the action that we take today to the generations of Scottish women who have gone before us. I dedicate our action to Scotland's first recorded rape victim, St Thenew, one of Scotland's few Scottish-born pre-reformation female saints. She was a battered woman and the unmarried mother of St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow. I dedicate our action today to the countless Scottish women who perished in the witch hunts of the 16th century—with more than 4,000 Scottish women killed, it was a war against women that generated no war memorials.

In this place, where we often recall the post-war covenant with a million signatures calling for a Scottish Parliament, let us also recall the 2 million signatures collected in Scotland in less than a decade between 1867 and 1876 calling for votes for women. It was a fight for education, for medical training and for suffrage, in that order.

Let us also recall medical pioneers like Elsie Inglis who took up the cause of violence against Scottish women more than a century ago. In her work she saw the effect of laws that meant that in Scotland no married woman could have an operation without her husband's consent. As Elsie said, Scottish women were left to a lingering suffering, from which only death could release them. Elsie would have been proud of what we are doing today, as would Keir Hardie and the men and women whose founding aim—above all others—in creating the Scottish Labour party in 1888 was the achievement of universal suffrage.

Sisters and brothers, we live with our history; it shapes us and we follow in our mothers' footsteps, living up to their hopes and building a better Scotland. Today, let us not only be shamed by the domestic violence that has scarred our past and still too often scars our present, but celebrate what this Parliament's creation has given us the opportunity to do. In every previous generation, where women failed they gave their daughters the determination to succeed.

We fulfil those hopes today as we launch the first national funding package to tackle domestic violence in Scotland. We are matching our words to our actions, with support for hundreds more refuge places. However, because bed spaces are not enough, there is extra support for move-on accommodation, to help women who have the courage to leave to build a new life for themselves and their children.

However, as we have heard echoing around the chamber today, accommodation is the tip of the iceberg. We need to offer the full range of professional and self-help services. This morning, Jackie Baillie and I visited Women's Aid in Morrison Street. It is always humbling to see what Lesley Irving and her team do. I spoke to a support worker who works with black women in Scotland. She talked about the experience of black women who walk away from a marriage—when they do, they frequently walk away from a whole life. Too often, the victim's family has a stake in the marriage, which generates enormous pressure to stay. Often, there are no visible means of support; there are language difficulties born of isolation in the home, there is fear of immigration consequences and there is a need to have access to specialist food shops and religious observance. That is a complex web of problems that refuge places alone cannot solve.

Even if we have more refuge places, more move-on accommodation and more support workers, none of that will be enough. As speaker after speaker made clear, if we simply treat the symptoms, we betray the generations that went before. Their vision, like ours, is for a different Scotland—a Scotland that abhors not just the symptoms of domestic violence, but its causes. In tackling the power relationships that lie at the heart of much domestic violence in Scotland today, we face challenges that earlier generations did not face.

We live in a media age. The ways of our neighbours, villages and communities no longer shape what is acceptable in society. Our planned support package for every secondary school in Scotland will not be enough. Today, our images, values and behaviours are fundamentally shaped by the media.

If, in this generation, we are to change the mindset of those who see nothing wrong in resorting to violence, abuse, and psychological tactics to control their partners, we need the whole-hearted support of the media in achieving universal condemnation of all forms of domestic abuse. I appeal to the Scottish media to work with us to drive home the message that there is no excuse for domestic abuse. I ask them to listen to the voices in the Parliament today. This is the real debate of the day—the debate that has the potential to touch the lives of thousands of vulnerable Scottish women—not what happened in some committee room this morning. I say to the media that the Parliament, local government, Scottish Homes and the voluntary sector have signed up to change. Will they play their part? I appeal to the media not to let us down.

Today's debate has been full of eloquence and passion—I cannot do that justice. We were all moved by what we heard today from Lyndsay McIntosh, George Reid, Margaret Curran, Johann Lamont and many others. I cannot pick up all the points that were raised, but I want to reaffirm one or two things.

The £8 million is being delivered in a way that will give us co-operation on the ground. That is why the matching money is part of the package—to get the local commitment and the buy-in. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is happy to offer the guarantees that people are looking for.

I invite George Reid to come to the Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse and to outline in depth the very real issues on disability that he raised today. The new £8 million starts to address the needs that he has identified.

I want to reassure Roseanna Cunningham that the money is available to all voluntary organisations, not just to a few operating in this field. She made a point about time scales. We want early action and I can assure the chamber that, by Christmas, the partnership will move forward in identifying immediate priorities and service changes, immediate service standards and the need for new support and training.

On the legislative issues that Christine Grahame and others raised, I assure Parliament that by the end of the year we will announce our intentions for the reform of Scottish family law and the associated policy issues.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

I am moving towards a conclusion.

We are determined to drive the agenda forward, but it is right and proper that this chamber should hold Jackie Baillie, the partnership and me to account.

I want to conclude by reflecting on where we have reached. Today's debate demonstrates that our Parliament has the strength of commitment to work together to achieve our ambitions for a level of service provision that is consistent with the needs of all women and children who are suffering at the brutal hands of the perpetrators of domestic abuse.

I finish with one observation. Today was another first—it was the first day that we had time for reflection in this place. As I listened, the minister read from a psalm:

"Let us build a house where prophets speak

And . . .

Where all God's children dare to speak".

We went on to pray:

"let a hunger and thirst for justice be the passion of this place . . . a place of listening and of healing and of hope."

Today we have together lived up to that hope. We stand in solidarity with women and men of good will across Scotland. This is a proud day for this Parliament. I commend to members the motion and the amendment.