Domestic Abuse

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:12 pm on 28th November 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:12 pm, 28th November 2002

I invite members who are leaving to do so as quickly as they can. We are late going into the next debate and are already time pressured.

The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3648, in the name of Margaret Curran, on domestic abuse, and one amendment to the motion. Although there is perhaps a degree of hubbub in the background, I know that the minister will rise to the occasion.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 3:34 pm, 28th November 2002

I am delighted to move the motion on behalf of the Scottish Executive this afternoon. It is two years since Parliament last had the opportunity to debate the issue and much has happened in that time. Last Monday was international day for the elimination of violence against women, so this is an opportune time for us to take stock of what we have achieved and think about where we are going.

From the start, the Scottish Executive has made it clear that it regards the protection of women from all forms of violence as one of its highest priorities. We have committed ourselves to taking the necessary action to inform ourselves about the nature and scale of the problem so that we can form our policies and direct our resources, and to raise awareness so that no one in Scotland can turn a blind eye.

We are determined to create a climate in which violence against women will be abhorred and those who perpetrate it will be shunned by society. Everyone has the right to live and go about their daily business without fear of violence or abuse. Further, we are committed to ensuring that appropriate legal protection is in place to safeguard victims from attack or harassment. We will also ensure that there is adequate provision of appropriate support services.

In November 2000, my predecessor, Jackie Baillie, presented to Parliament the report of the Scottish partnership on domestic abuse. The partnership also developed a national strategy to address domestic abuse in Scotland and since then we worked hard to fulfil our commitment to implement that strategy.

I chair a national group consisting of experts in their field, representing the police, health, education, the justice system, racial equality, local authorities and the voluntary sector. It was set up in June 2001 and has established four working groups. Two groups that are particularly relevant to the debate have made significant progress.

The working group that examines legislative provision in relation to domestic abuse has submitted a package of recommendations. The Executive is considering those recommendations and will move speedily on them and make announcements in due course.

The working group on prevention has developed a national prevention strategy, which has been widely circulated for consultation. Responses have been requested by the end of the year. We will take on board those responses and issue a revised strategy early next year.

The working group on training has identified a need for specific training for staff in a number of sectors—social work, education, health, police, housing, the criminal justice system, the civil court system, the voluntary sector and the private sector—as well as a need for multi-agency training for all. A draft national training strategy has been approved by the national group and will be issued for consultation.

Finally, the working group on refuge provision has been useful already in helping to decide how we should proceed with the next round of our refuge development programme and will submit its full report in January.

As promised in November 2000, we have put £10 million into the budget for Communities Scotland to address the shortage and inadequacy of refuge provision. We are all aware of the sterling work that is done by the 39 affiliated and seven unaffiliated Scottish Women's Aid groups throughout Scotland in providing a safe refuge and practical and emotional support to women and their children who wish to leave their abusive partners. We know that there are not enough refuge places available for all those who want them. Women's Aid will be among the first to admit that some of the refuges are old, overcrowded and inadequate by today's standards. Therefore, the aim of our three-year programme is to increase the amount of refuge provision and to upgrade and improve the standard of provision currently available.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Although rightly condemning domestic abuse against women, children and young people as unacceptable, the motion does not even recognise the problem of domestic abuse against men. I know that £10 million has gone into refuges for women, but so far, I cannot identify any money to help men.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

This is a long-running debate between Mike Rumbles and me and I am sure that it will continue. He knows that we commissioned research last year or at the beginning of this year into domestic abuse against men, as we were properly committed to doing by Parliament.

That research indicated clearly that the level of abuse against men was not comparable with the level of abuse against women and that our resources were appropriately targeted. The research demonstrated further that violence against men was less intense and less sustained. We have worked with victims' organisations that have concluded that we have achieved the right balance in the strategy. I have written to all the relevant organisations, including all the key services to ensure that, where appropriate, services are targeted towards men. It is vital to understand that Women's Aid refuges are refuges for women. If one were to widen the strategy, those women would not be safe and that is why we keep to the current strategy, which is endorsed widely throughout Scottish society.

While we are on the topic, I note that research carried out by the working group on refuge provision shows that the clear preference of most women is for refuges that consist of a cluster of self-contained flats with communal areas and children's playrooms. That model satisfies the need for privacy and security while maintaining a critical aspect of the provision: the opportunity for mutual support and help. However, we recognise that we have to develop that model, as it is not appropriate for all circumstances.

In the first year of the programme, we approved projects in Angus, Dumfries, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire and Stirling. The projects include replacing an existing old hostel with seven self-contained flats in Stirling, providing the first refuge in East Renfrewshire, building a three-bedroom bungalow in Dumfries to barrier-free standards for women or children with disabilities and upgrading and extending a refuge in North Ayrshire to include four self-contained flats. That recognises the diversity of our strategy, which aims to support the variety of needs that exists.

The domestic abuse service development fund was introduced in April 2000 to encourage local authorities to work with their local partners to improve provision in their areas, and that work is still continuing. We are currently supporting 57 local projects, which include outreach work, multi-agency development, work with children, training, work in rural areas, preventive work through schools, support work in refuges and partner support. A total of £12 million has been made available through Executive and matched funding to enable that work to be carried out.

The Executive's domestic abuse campaign continued during 2001-02 using television adverts, print adverts, an eight-page supplement distributed with the Daily Record, adverts on outdoor sites and in female washrooms and a number of other means. The domestic abuse website was also improved and relaunched. The first phase of the campaign was launched on 6 December 2001 by the First Minister, and I would like to highlight the significant support that we have had from him in the campaign. It is distressing that recent press comments about the work of the Executive and the Parliament focus on personalities and not on the substantial projects that are developed or on the contribution made by the First Minister and the Executive to tackling domestic abuse.

We have further entrenched the development of our work. The national domestic abuse helpline, set up in June 2000, has extended its hours during 2002 and now provides a service all day every day of the year. In addition, a textphone service was introduced for people with hearing impairments and is available for significant periods through the day. The helpline number has been included in all advertising materials, and has therefore been promoted extensively throughout Scotland. In addition, the helpline number was highlighted in a campaign in Lanarkshire run by the local radio station, Clan FM. Information about the helpline was distributed to all police forces, local authorities and national health service boards.

A pilot of an educational package, "Respect", produced by the Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust, was carried out from January to June 2001. "Respect" aims to challenge attitudes that condone violence against women and to promote relationships based on equality and mutual respect. The materials include primary, secondary and youth group curriculum materials, teacher training materials, posters, a CD-ROM and a screensaver. That package has been evaluated very positively and we are developing a package with further funding to amend the materials in the light of recent work by the education services. That package will be delivered on 31 March 2003.

Since 1 April 1999, all police forces in Scotland have collected and collated statistics of domestic abuse incidents according to an agreed definition. Our third report of those statistics, covering the period January to December 2001, was published in October 2002. The statistics show that 35,800 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by the police during that period, which is an increase of 5 per cent over the previous year.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I am sorry, but I have quite a lot to say. I hope that Mr Rumbles will forgive me. I shall try to pick up on his concerns later in the debate.

The increase in reporting is encouraging because it demonstrates both that our awareness raising is working and that women now have increased confidence that the police will take the matter seriously. However, it also shows that domestic abuse remains a widespread and serious problem and that we must not allow ourselves to slacken in our efforts to tackle it.

As we all know, it is not only women who suffer when they experience domestic abuse. Their children witness the abuse and may also be abused themselves. Our decisions on the type of refuges that we wanted to establish under the refuge development programme were influenced by the fact that children have specific accommodation needs. We also recognise that they need special help in dealing with the trauma of domestic abuse and that that is an area that is currently under-resourced. I have therefore allocated £237,000, to March 2004, to fund part-time workers in the seven affiliated and four unaffiliated Women's Aid groups that do not currently have that provision. That will at least ensure that all children in refuges will have access to support while longer-term solutions are explored.

The work that I have described relates to domestic abuse. So far, we have concentrated on such violence against women, as it was identified as a priority and is a specific problem that needs specific action. However, the national strategy recognises the need to establish clear links to the wider issue of violence against women. The national group has therefore decided that now is the time to do just that and will become the national group to address violence against women in Scotland from now on.

We will adopt and address the United Nations General Assembly's definition of violence against women, which is:

"Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."

I could discuss much other work that has been undertaken, but I realise that I am fast running out of time. Would you bear with me, Presiding Officer?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

You have fast run out of time.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I have reached my conclusion. You see how obedient I am.

Members will realise that we have not let up or wavered in our determination to tackle domestic abuse in Scotland and we will not let up until we have achieved a society in Scotland in which every woman and child can live their lives and fulfil their potential without the fear of abuse or violence. A key achievement of the Executive—supported properly by the Parliament—has been the priority that we have accorded to domestic abuse and the resources that we have given to that area. We are working in partnership with key organisations such as Women's Aid and other women's groups, the judicial and health systems and education and social work services. In partnership, we are taking decisive action to reform Scotland's legal process, develop services and further that work. We are dealing with the symptoms of the problem.

Finally, I announce that we will relaunch our domestic abuse campaign this Christmas.

I move,

That the Parliament approves the considerable progress made in increasing the protection of, and provision of services to, women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse; further approves work aimed at reducing the intolerably high incidence of domestic abuse in Scotland, and welcomes the work of the National Group to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland in tackling this unacceptable behaviour.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I did not break into the minister's speech after 10 minutes, as she was making announcements, but I ask members to keep to the time limits from now on. I invite Roseanna Cunningham to speak to and move amendment S1M-3648.2.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 3:47 pm, 28th November 2002

The SNP does not hesitate to support the wording of the Executive's motion, but our amendment makes it clear that we believe that there are issues that require serious attention. The minister probably does not disagree with us.

I want to digress briefly to defend—uncharacteristically—Mike Rumbles. A man who had been a victim of domestic violence visited my surgery. He had suffered clear physical and psychological distress. If that distress were quantified across Scotland, it would not approach the distress suffered by women, but it was equally devastating for that person. Perhaps we ought to recognise that.

We all know that the incidence of domestic violence against women is high. I am never sure about using the word "domestic"—it worries me slightly, as it makes matters a bit too cosy. I do not want to get into the complicated argument about statistics. There might or might not have been exaggeration on the Executive's part, but that argument is not worth getting into today. However, we know that, as with rape, the majority of offences go unreported and that most women take their problem to others—much less to the police or anyone else in authority—only after they have been victimised on a number of occasions. The longer that situation continues, the more disempowered the woman will become. Equally, the longer it continues, the more likely it is that any children of the relationship will become abused. Indeed, often the eventual violence against children rather than violence directed against women triggers their motivation to deal with the problem.

I welcome the money that the Executive has pledged to deal with the issue and the money for refuge spaces in particular. However, it is not enough to say no more than that no amount would probably be enough. Today, I am not concerned with the amount; instead, I want to address some of the issues raised by how the money is being disbursed.

First, the requirement of matching by local authority funding reinforces the patchiness of service provision that arises out of different policy priorities being chosen by different local authorities. Secondly, I understand that a significant proportion of new money available under the development fund must now be spent on capital funding because of the requirement to sustain a larger work force, which is, of course, the corollary of increasing the number of refuge places in the first place.

Thirdly, there is a question that is specifically related to the funding for the "Respect" scheme. The pilot cost £50,000 and I have been advised that the Executive believed that it would cost only another £50,000 to roll out the scheme nationally. That would certainly be supported by the SNP. However, there seems to be a question about the sufficiency of the money available for roll-out. There might be specific reasons as to why the pilot and the roll-out would cost the same. If that is the case, I hope that I can hear from the minister on that.

Fourthly, on a much more specific issue, last year, Shakti Women's Aid, which deals with black and ethnic minority women, helped a total of 167 women, 23 of whom had no recourse to public funds. That means that helping them is very difficult indeed. For one reason or another, those women are prohibited from accessing social welfare benefits and so find themselves in effect trapped in abusive relationships. They represent a very high level of unmet need within a specific community. There are other gaps in that area of provision and I hope that the minister will be able to say something today that will give Shakti some confidence that the extra funding that it feels that it needs will be forthcoming.

I will discuss the impact of domestic violence on children. An estimated 100,000 children and young people have had experience of domestic violence. A huge percentage of them go on to be assaulted themselves, but it seems that only 10 out of 32 local authorities are to receive funding for workers dealing specifically with children's issues. That statistic appears to come from local authorities themselves.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Perhaps Roseanna Cunningham has not had a full briefing on recent announcements, because the situation to which she referred is exactly what we are trying to develop. We accept the need for children's workers in refuges and are attempting to address that. I will address some of her other points later, if that is okay.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I hope that what the Executive is doing deals specifically with the situation that we were advised of, which is that local authorities believe—on the basis of recent announcements, I think—that only 10 local authorities would get funding for children's workers. Perhaps there is an on-going argument about that issue.

That shortage of children's workers mirrors the shortage of social workers across Scotland and so is part of a much bigger issue. The shortage of social workers affects many areas of our justice system, including the domestic violence area. There are significant and increasing numbers of vacancies in key social work sectors. I am aware of the Executive's campaign to promote recruitment into the caring professions, but it is a little difficult for me to understand whether the responsibility for that lies with the Minister for Social Justice or the Minister for Education and Young People. I wonder whether the minister can advise members of the likely outcome of the campaign. Indeed, could she indicate what would be a measure of its success, so that we can establish whether it is successful?

The president of the Association of Directors of Social Work has gone on record with the view that the increasingly pressured work load of social work services is a function of the "enormous range of initiatives" that have been introduced by the Executive. I do not want to criticise the Executive for those initiatives, but perhaps it could be criticised if it has failed to ensure that the affected services have sufficient resources to deal with the increase in pressure and work load.

There has been discussion of domestic violence courts. I look forward to the Minister for Justice, as the minister responsible for our court system, initiating a debate on the specific proposals so that we can see how domestic violence courts are expected to work. The SNP is broadly supportive of the idea that a different way has to be found to deal with domestic violence within the criminal justice system. We agree with Lord Carloway that

"Domestic cases ... are usually very complex, sometimes involving children ... and at times the judicial process is not flexible enough to deal with all the possibilities that might arise."

It is precisely for those reasons that we now feel that a more radical approach needs to be considered: setting up family courts to deal with all the aspects of civil and criminal law that can be defined as being within the ambit of the family. That would cover domestic violence, divorce, custody and access disputes and would perhaps even be extended to include the 16 and 17-year-olds who have given rise to such controversy in another policy remit.

Those sitting in a family court build up specialist expertise in the way that the sheriffs in the drugs courts have done. That would enable them to deal far more effectively with domestic violence cases and to deal in a more unified fashion with the consequences of domestic violence. That would be beneficial to everyone concerned, particularly the women who are victims.

I move amendment S1M-3468.2, to insert at end:

"but nevertheless calls on the Scottish Executive to ensure that funding of services dealing with domestic violence is equalised across Scotland, to recognise and meet the needs of children affected by domestic violence, to address, as a matter of urgency, the recruitment crisis in social work services and to reform the justice system so as to allow the development of family courts which would include inter alia powers to deal with domestic violence."

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative 3:54 pm, 28th November 2002

I am delighted to be opening the debate for the Scottish Conservatives. Indeed, I have been keen to take part in every parliamentary debate on domestic abuse. We have rightly put the issue of domestic abuse, its effects on women—sometimes on men—children and young people front and centre, to use a phrase from "The West Wing".

I have not always agreed with everything that the minister and her predecessors have done, but my party and I have always supported the intent behind their efforts to tackle domestic abuse. We decline the opportunity to exploit an unfortunate error with figures, which is the right thing to do because the issue is not about party politics. We were warmly enthusiastic about the "Behind Closed Doors" campaign; my only regret is that it was necessary.

My support does not preclude me from raising with the minister a number of points that should give all members cause for concern. I do not want to be a spoilsport, but I cannot take encouragement or comfort from the fact that there has been a 5 per cent increase in the incidence of domestic abuse—the total for 2001 was 35,827.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Does the member think that that figure reflects an increase in the number of incidents, or an increase in the willingness to report incidents?

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

I will come to that issue. I am greatly disappointed that almost 60 per cent of incidents did not result in a report or a recorded crime or offence, but the figure that really affects my happiness—and which I sounded off about when it was produced—is the one that shows that the same people suffer time after time. People might be more confident about reporting incidents, which is good, but as long as there are repeat crimes and repeat victims, there is nothing to be complacent about.

Colleagues will know that it is not in my nature to be sour. The motion seeks our approval of the progress made and asks us to welcome the work of the national group to address domestic abuse in Scotland. I happily do so on my party's behalf. We express our gratitude to all the individuals and organisations, particularly Scottish Women's Aid, that add to the knowledge and develop the services and support that too many people must rely on.

In the "104 Pairs of Shoes" exhibition, which is currently in Edinburgh and which will move to Glasgow and Elgin in the near future, each shoe represents a woman's life lost in the United Kingdom through domestic violence by a current or former partner. The exhibition is organised by the Young Women's Christian Association Scotland and I am sure that members from throughout the chamber, particularly those who, like me, donated a pair of shoes, wish that organisation well in its endeavours.

For at least one member, today is an historic day. I wish Mr McNulty well. Perhaps in his response, the new Deputy Minister for Social Justice might, in the spirit of consensus, like to record support and approval for the campaign to tackle domestic violence that was launched yesterday by my Westminster colleague Caroline Spelman. Our campaign aims to distribute 10,000 posters throughout the country during the festive period, when it is as traditional as turkey and stuffing for levels of domestic violence to peak. The posters will be in places such as hairdressers, beauty salons and doctors' surgeries where women can write down the helpline numbers discreetly. I am confident that members will agree that that campaign is worth while.

I remind members that 98 incidents of domestic abuse are reported every day. In the time that we dedicate to this debate, there will be six reports of domestic abuse, which does not include those who are too scared to come forward.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 3:58 pm, 28th November 2002

I express my trepidation at following in the footsteps of the three formidable women speakers who made the opening speeches for the other parties.

I welcome the minister's announcements and her personal commitment to the issue that we are discussing, which includes improving refuges, increasing the number of refuge places and increasing support for Scottish Women's Aid. However, we must be careful to fit family or domestic issues into their wider context. Although many people who suffer from domestic violence go to Women's Aid refuges, we must see the whole picture and take into account the new law on homelessness that is being developed. We should also recognise that some of the domestic violence issues that occur in families, marriages and relationships result from issues in the background, such as alcohol and drug abuse. Although the individual measures to deal with the consequences of those problems are important, it remains important—as Lyndsay McIntosh said—that we concern ourselves with education and awareness raising, which the minister also dealt with.

When I was a young lawyer, people used to approach me and say that they had a particular wheeze for getting off the hook if they were stopped by the police for drunk driving. The whole thing was a bit of a joke. However, the television campaign against drunk driving had the result that my children do not find it amusing and would be highly critical of people driving their motor cars under the influence of alcohol. Many of the same comments and possibilities apply in this debate.

For many years, I practised matrimonial law professionally, handling divorces, custody and access cases—as they were then called—financial disputes, home disputes, and so on. I heard many horror stories and met many decent people whose lives had come apart as a result of a family break-up. A threat to someone's lifestyle, combined with the loss of face that comes with experiencing failure in such a central and personal aspect of their life, can bring out the worst in them and lies, exaggerations, unfounded allegations and a total inability to see the other point of view are the common currency of such situations.

Some domestic disputes thrust themselves into the public arena, but many occur in private, without witnesses other than the young children in the family. They arise across all strata of society and frequently involve an element of violence, abuse or control. It might be worth sharing with members a couple of points from my personal experience. The first point is that violence in such cases is mostly violence against women and, more rarely, against children. I was frequently struck by the fact that, despite a catalogue of the most awful incidents—black eyes, bloodied noses, bloody mouths and sore backs from being flung across a room—many women stopped their divorce actions some months down the line after separation to try to make another go of it with their husbands. For what it is worth, my observation is that very few of those reconciliations worked out, and we often did not bother closing the legal file on the matter.

The second point is that people seem prepared to forgive the most terrible assaults, drunken escapades, verbal tirades and other sorts of cruel behaviour, but the entry into the fray of a third party—children, for example—changes the story altogether and can raise the temperature. That illustrates how difficult and complex the relationships are that we are dealing with.

There have been a number of welcome changes, such as the change in the role of the police. The police were often unwilling to intervene in domestic disputes at one time, sometimes for valid reasons—because of the triviality of the issue, because the complainer did not want to bring charges or because reconciliation had taken place. However, the excuse that the law should not intervene in domestic disputes is rightly no longer accepted.

As Lyndsay McIntosh said, the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse rose by 5 per cent in 2001. I want the number of reported incidents to rise even further and the actual number of incidents to decrease. The fact is that only half the incidents are reported to anyone. Research also suggests that women who are victims of crime tend to be assaulted 10 or 20 times before they contact the police.

The Liberal Democrats are strongly in support of the considerable efforts that the Executive and the Parliament have made to provide help in this area. However, we are dealing with an extremely complex and personal situation that is often not black and white. One clear message that has gone out repeatedly from the Parliament and should go out today is that physical violence by a party to a relationship is not excused by the fact that it takes place in private; is no less serious than violence in other situations; and is not mitigated or exempted by the plea of alcohol intoxication or by the suggestion that "she deserved it". Domestic violence will not be tolerated in modern Scotland. I support the motion.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I will try to call all members who have asked to speak, but I will be able to do so only if members stick tightly to their times.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour 4:04 pm, 28th November 2002

Domestic abuse—be it physical, psychological, sexual or emotional—can never be condoned. That is the position of the Scottish Labour party and I believe that it is the position of every member of the Parliament. As the minister said in her opening speech, it is apt that we are debating the issue this week, as Monday 25 November was the international day for the elimination of violence against women. That heralded the start of a fortnight of events to publicise the problem, which will conclude on 10 December with a celebration of international human rights day.

As the minister said—and Mr Rumbles should realise this—there is overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women. That is why our strategy is correct.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

No. I do not have time.

We cannot talk of living in a civilised society when a British Medical Association report from 1998 shows that 25 per cent of women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives and police statistics for 2001 reveal that there were 35,000 reported cases of domestic abuse in Scotland. Those figures are the unpalatable, unacceptable reality. The situation is unwholesome but it is the inevitable consequence of deep-seated attitudes that we must all work to change.

Recent research has shown that nearly 25 per cent of Scots still think that violence in the family is a private matter and that no outsider or outside agency should become involved. However, such sentiments have no place in a civilised Scotland, not only because of the terrible impact that domestic violence has on the women who are its victims but because of its baleful influence on the children who witness such scenes. Scottish Women's Aid believes that 90 per cent of children whose mothers are attacked are present or in the next room during those attacks. Such statistics shame Scotland.

I am content to support the Executive's motion because it refers to action taken and services provided to deal with the scourge of domestic abuse and support its victims. It does not pretend that what has been done so far has produced an instant and comprehensive solution, which is palpably not the case, but it acknowledges that a good deal of progress has been made and rightly congratulates the national group to address domestic abuse in Scotland on the work that it has done. I believe that the honesty in the motion and its measured tone are appropriate. It is neither pious nor complacent.

With its three objectives of prevention, protection and provision, the national strategy to combat domestic abuse takes the right approach. I place on record my welcome—which I believe that I share with members in general—for the substantial and practical work that is being done to deal with domestic abuse, such as the domestic abuse service development fund, which provides money for outreach work, training and information, services, support workers and refuge workers, work in rural areas and preventive work in schools. I also want to mention the passing of the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001, which allows a power of arrest to be attached to any interdict granted by a court to prevent abuse.

Those good initiatives are worthy of support. They form the beginning of a strategy to tackle the problem of domestic abuse. Along with the actions referred to by the minister and other members, they will go some way towards curing a social ill that debases its victims and diminishes us all. I commend the motion to the chamber.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party 4:08 pm, 28th November 2002

While I welcome the work that has been carried out by the national group, I believe that more needs to be done. The national strategy on domestic abuse is meant to be part of an overall strategy to address all forms of violence against women. However, there is little sign of that, given that recent studies have shown that three in four victims of domestic sexual assaults had histories of domestic violence. It also shows that a range of violent acts can be carried out by one individual. There is an urgent need for the Executive to make links between domestic violence and other forms of violence that are experienced by women and the wider community.

The national strategy is based on the three p's: prevention; protection; and provision. However, while there has been an increase in resources targeted at the provision of refuge accommodation, prevention projects in schools and advertising on television, little appears to have been done to offer increased protection to those who have suffered from domestic violence. Therefore, I will focus my remarks on what we can do to increase the protection that is available to victims of domestic violence.

We need to take more action to protect victims of domestic abuse. At present, only a quarter of the incidents that are reported to the police result in an offence being reported to the fiscal. No action was taken on almost 21,000 of the 35,000 incidents of domestic violence that were recorded by the police last year. It is depressing to note that, if those were parking offences, urgent action and resources would have been brought to bear.

Recent Home Office research has shown that, when offences are left unchallenged, there is a greater risk of the violence escalating and of more serious offences being carried out. That means that effective early intervention is vital if men are to stop their violence and women are to be protected. Few men stop of their own volition, and violence usually increases in frequency and severity over time.

The Executive should consider a number of measures to ensure that victims of domestic violence receive the protection and support that they need from our criminal justice system. At present, too many are let down. Such measures would include the introduction of specialist family courts, which Roseanna Cunningham mentioned. The Executive could also consider making domestic abuse an aggravated offence. It is difficult to trace what happens to those who have been charged with an offence resulting from domestic violence and there is nothing that signifies that on their records.

The Executive also needs to consider whether the police should implement pro-arrest policies and whether the prosecution service should implement a pro-prosecution policy regardless of whether the victim wants to go ahead with the prosecution, as long as other evidence is available. That policy is followed in certain American states and in Canada. We need an evaluation of that policy to see whether it would make any difference in Scotland.

The measures that are laid out in "Vital Voices: Helping Vulnerable Witnesses Give Evidence" would make a huge difference to the experience that victims of domestic violence have of our court system. I look forward to the Executive's response to that consultation.

Perhaps more important, the system needs to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. In Glasgow, the police ask for bail conditions that mean that the perpetrator is not allowed in the victim's home, whether or not they share a home. Why should women and children have to have their lives disrupted by fleeing from their homes, friends, neighbours and family? It is time that we reversed the rules to one that says, "If you hit, you're out." The criminal justice system needs to take action to make it clear that domestic violence is unacceptable.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:13 pm, 28th November 2002

I declare an interest: I am a director of Ross-shire Women's Aid and have been part of that organisation since it was founded 22 years ago. In all those years, Women's Aid has tried, sometimes as the sole voice, to win more resources to help abused women, to provide them with refuge and to help them settle, perhaps in a new home away from an abusive ex-partner. Women's Aid has supported their children, who are invariably traumatised. It has supported women in their dealings with housing authorities, social work and the Benefits Agency. It supports them when they have to go to court as witnesses. It supports them through emotional and financial crises. It supports them whether they are in a refuge or at the other end of a phone. It has campaigned for fairer legislation to protect women. It has trained police and other agencies. It has tried to change society's attitudes through the media, by going into schools when it was allowed to and by talking to any organisation that would listen.

However, for most of the past 22 years, that work was done on a shoestring and often in the face of hostility from agencies and the public. Refuges were crowded, with a family to a room. If we were lucky, there was support from local authorities, but that depended on the attitude of the local housing officer or social work director. There was little recognition from national Government, the law was dismissive and the police were uninterested. Society did not want to know what went on behind closed doors in rural areas and urban areas, irrespective of class. We knew that we were just scratching the surface. There was so much more to do, but both the resources and the public will were lacking However, because of the Executive's commitment—which has gained cross-party support from the Parliament—we are now addressing the issues of prevention, protection and provision in a meaningful way. The Executive's money could have been spent on something much more popular—domestic abuse is not a popular issue, because people do not want to think about it.

I am proud that we made that commitment; I am proud of what we have achieved so far. The Executive has put substantial funding into television advertising campaigns and national helplines. It has channelled money to local authorities so that new refuges can be built and development workers can be employed to create services where none existed before.

Let me describe what difference that has made in the north of Scotland. There is a new refuge in Dingwall. Families are no longer crowded into one room; each family has its own flat. One flat has been totally adapted for wheelchair use, whether the wheelchair user is a mother or a child. The Women's Aid workers, who struggled to cope with the inadequate accommodation, were almost in tears of joy when they saw their new premises—not for themselves, but because it signalled that, at last, abused women were no longer treated as second-class citizens. Because we were given funding for outreach work, we now have Women's Aid groups in Skye and Caithness. We are making contact with women in Sutherland, and an affiliated group has been set up in Orkney. However, there are still many rural areas to which we cannot reach out.

Partnership work is taking place across the board, involving Highland Council, Northern constabulary, Highland NHS Board, procurators fiscal and others. Of course, that is still not enough—I wonder whether it will ever be enough. There are many women whom we have not yet reached.

We have to support Scottish Women's Aid and the training work that those involved in it do. They are the experts in the field, and have been for 25 years. We must not sideline them. Every time a Women's Aid worker goes into a school or a police station to conduct a training session, that takes time away from her main job, which is supporting abused women. I would like the Executive to consider that point.

I thank Margaret Curran, the Minister for Social Justice, for her support. Her commitment goes back not just over the past year or two but over many years. That can also be said about other women in the chamber. I support the motion and thank the minister and the Parliament for the work that has been done on tackling domestic abuse.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat 4:17 pm, 28th November 2002

I am pleased that the chamber has decided to debate this issue, as it is quite appropriate that we do so at this time.

What do we know or understand about the condition or practice that we loosely classify as domestic abuse? It is almost invariably claimed by the perpetrator of the abuse or violence to be normal, or accepted, conduct. However, for the victim or the family, life becomes difficult, if not impossible, and often ends in tragedy. Abuse is veiled in many different guises. It can be physical, sexual, psychological or verbal, and is a cruel and destructive element in 21st century society.

Violent abuse is not always the preserve of the male partner in a relationship. The female of the species can be just as guilty of violent domestic abuse towards their partner. That fact is not always evidenced by the national statistics. The problem lies in the fact that many male victims are reluctant to report their circumstances to the relevant authorities because they may be ashamed and intimidated and may have a constant fear of further attacks.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

There was a time when women were afraid to go to the police because of the response that they would get. Women organised themselves, got support and set up local organisations to meet their need. Is there evidence of male organisations in local communities addressing the circumstances that John Farquhar Munro described? That would indicate just how much of a problem exists.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat

While I do not decry the efforts of our female partners in trying to address those problems, there is ample evidence to suggest that the problem is just as prevalent on the male side of the argument.

The causes of violence are varied and complex. Many studies show a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse among those who abuse their partners. However, there is no evidence to support a cause-and-effect relationship between the problems. It is clear that incidents of abuse that are coupled with alcohol abuse may be more severe and result in greater injury. The problems are linked in that they are often generational and involve denial and isolation. Violence is an acquired behaviour—a learned response to stress, frustration and anger. It results from an unequal power struggle between the sexes.

I welcome the Scottish Executive's advertising campaign on domestic violence. A television campaign is one of the most effective ways of getting the message across to victims and abusers throughout Scotland, and of making it clear that domestic violence is unacceptable. However, future advertising should reflect the true spectrum of abuse—physical, mental and perpetrated by both men and women.

With intervention and appropriate counselling, violent domestic abusers can take responsibility for their behaviour and learn to take control of themselves. Their behaviour is not acceptable in the 21st century and can and should be changed.

I regret that I am not encouraged to support the motion as worded. I would find it much more acceptable and appropriate if the word "women" were replaced by the word "adults", which would reflect the true situation.

Photo of Irene McGugan Irene McGugan Scottish National Party 4:21 pm, 28th November 2002

I will deal with one specific aspect of this issue—the protection of children.

For some time it has been known that children are often present or nearby when a woman is abused. According to Bill Butler, that is the case in perhaps 90 per cent of situations. We know that one third of children intervene to protect their mothers and that children whose mothers are abused are themselves at great risk of physical assault. The latest figures suggest that between 40 and 60 per cent of such children have been assaulted. That means that an estimated 100,000 children and young people in Scotland have experience of domestic abuse.

One of the service standards of the national strategy is that

"specific support will be provided to meet children's needs".

However, there is a chronic shortage of support workers for children who experience domestic abuse. Two weeks ago, a 14-year-old former victim gave evidence to the Public Petitions Committee and made a powerful plea for greater funding to provide more children's workers to protect young victims. Surely we want to ensure that the needs and wishes of those young victims are heard and acted on.

As Scottish Women's Aid makes clear, although there have been significant moves towards recognising the effects of domestic abuse on children and the links between domestic abuse and child abuse, there has not been the will to prioritise children's and young people's services. No mechanism has been developed for doing that. Can the minister confirm that only eight of the 39 Scottish Women's Aid groups have received funding for such services?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

If we had done nothing, I would understand the tenor of Irene McGugan's speech. I accept that an Opposition party will never endorse everything that the Executive does, but is it too much to ask the member to give a cursory welcome to the £237,000 that has been allocated today?

Photo of Irene McGugan Irene McGugan Scottish National Party

I did not intend my tone or remarks to be critical.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Is the member saying that there has been no improvement?

Photo of Irene McGugan Irene McGugan Scottish National Party

No—I am happy to accept that there has been improvement. However, if only eight out of 39 groups have received funding for children's services, we must accept that those services are not yet a priority in the national strategy. Two weeks ago, a young person appeared before the Public Petitions Committee to plead for children's services to be provided. I am merely reflecting that evidence back to the minister and saying that a little more needs to be done.

Photo of Irene McGugan Irene McGugan Scottish National Party

I hope so.

We can accept or not accept the situation as it stands. The voluntary sector has difficulty resourcing children's services. The statutory sector also has difficulty doing so, not least because of the situation facing social work departments, which have struggled for a long time to deal with big increases in referrals and have experienced considerable recruitment and retention problems.

Social work departments have anticipated that some vulnerable children will fall through the net. The figures point to that. There has been an increase in the number of referrals to the reporter on care and protection grounds; there has been an increase in the number of children on the child protection register; and 10 per cent of places in the children's services work force are unfilled. It is difficult to provide a service with that kind of vacancy rate.

There is no doubt that the social work crisis has a serious impact and is an obstacle to helping victims of domestic abuse, especially children. I hope that the minister will listen louder, will ensure that there is a minimum standard of service for every child, wherever they live, and will do everything that she can to protect children who are in circumstances that make them most vulnerable.

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent 4:25 pm, 28th November 2002

I thank and commend the minister for her work on this subject. I have absolutely no doubt of her sincerity over the years and she is well aware that more needs to be done.

Usually, I could listen to John Farquhar Munro for half the afternoon because of his accent and his normal good common sense. I am sorry, but today is an aberration. To infer that the levels of abuse against females and males are pretty similar is stupendously and spectacularly wrong.

Granted, there are females bullies and I have met them. Some go into politics in fact. [MEMBERS: "Name names."] Oh, they exist, but some of us resist them just as much as we resist male bullies.

There is absolutely no way that the incidence of violence against females and males is in any way comparable. I have met men who have been abused by a minority of vicious women, but I have met many more women whose injuries are so appalling that their state is virtually that of war victims.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

The Executive's report, "Domestic Abuse Against Men in Scotland" states:

"domestic abuse against men can take life-threatening forms and can have lasting effects."

I certainly accept that the number of men who suffer abuse is not as great, but the issues are as serious.

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent

Yes, but how many are affected? Several years ago, a man came to see me in my surgery. His wife had chucked a bucket of cold water over the electric blanket, which she knew was faulty, and he had just escaped and no more. However, I could tell the member about dozens more cases involving women. The physical damage to the woman is infinitely worse. Thousands of women suffer. Glasgow Women's Aid dealt with 11,497 requests for information, support and refuge accommodation last year alone.

Recently, at the Public Petitions Committee, we heard evidence from a child petitioner who had lived in an atmosphere in which her mother was being abused. That child told us movingly what that was like. She said that the best thing that had happened was that she was assigned a support worker. The minister announced a separate fund today of £237,000 for support work, which is excellent. The minister is probably aware that about 100,000 children a year are affected by domestic abuse, so that works out at about £2 each. However, that is a cheap jibe and I do not want to make those today, because the minister has made a start and should be given full credit for it.

Organisations such as Glasgow Women's Aid need secure funding; we are not just talking about funding. Glasgow Women's Aid has never had secure funding in the 30 years of its existence and Glasgow is one of the areas in which there is most need.

On accommodation shortages, I am delighted to hear about improvements in the north of Scotland. It is tremendous that new groups are emerging in places such as Skye and Caithness. We must get more funding and we must continue down the proper route, which all parties in the Parliament have taken.

I say to my fellow parliamentarians to remember this one cheering note: had we still been tied entirely to Westminster, the debate would never have taken place. We would have had to wait three or four years for one debate on the subject. Although we are moving forward far too slowly, at least we are moving to tamp down the appalling nature of abuse that destroys thousands of households and the lives of children.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 4:30 pm, 28th November 2002

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate, which has been a little more honest than some of the debates that we have had on the subject. We have sometimes settled for feeling sorry for victims of domestic abuse, instead of focusing on the harder issues that we must confront in relation to domestic abuse and the broader context of violence against women and children.

Although we always look to do more, we should recognise that acknowledging the problem is a good place to start. We should reflect on the fact that it was not always thus. At one stage, people would not even have acknowledged that there was a problem. Women who went to the police for help would have been turned away.

Before we can challenge the problem, we must understand exactly what it is. Domestic abuse is about more than people not being pleasant to each other in their houses. There are significant patterns to domestic abuse, which we must understand if we are to confront them.

This week, I met with the police in part of my constituency. I was told that, in one month, the police attend, on average, 36 incidents of domestic abuse. That represents an average of more than one such incident a day in one part of my constituency. When I asked the chief inspector whether any of those incidents involved men being abused by their female partners, he not only said no, but looked stunned that I would even ask such a question. I find it remarkable that the police, who are not regarded as the most radical force in Scottish society, have an understanding of the reality of domestic abuse that seems to be lacking among Liberal Democrat members.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, domestic abuse is perpetrated on women by male partners or ex-partners. In anyone's language, that constitutes a pattern. The actions and attitudes that shape that pattern must be addressed if the pattern is ever to be broken. I want my children to understand the pattern, so that they can challenge the attitudes in society on which it is based. A softening in that respect will never effect the change that has been suggested.

We must reflect on the meaning of incidents of domestic abuse for the women concerned, for their children, for our health services and for schools and housing. Above all, we should consider what such abuse means to those who experience it. We should be mindful of the social exclusion that results from their being terrorised and isolated by the man with whom they live, while that man continues to go about his daily business unchecked.

We must welcome Scottish Women's Aid's listen louder campaign and the statement on working with children. Whether they are teachers or health visitors, workers must be sensitive in whatever context they work with children. They must be sensitive enough to ask the right question at the right time, so that women and children can seek the help that they need. Our children are often silenced in school because no one draws the right conclusions or asks why they do not come to school. If that question was asked, families could receive the support that they need.

I am interested in the issues relating to domestic courts and so on, about which there is much debate. I am concerned that the simplicity of what is happening in homes is lost. A man is being violent to a woman. That is a straightforward criminal action, which should be addressed as such. I would be anxious about anything that implied that there are complexities that we do not understand and that would divert those men from the punishment that they could expect if they did the same thing in the pub. I am not suggesting that that is what has been said, but it is a concern that could arise. The consequences of domestic violence might be complex, but the reality of the action is often fairly straightforward.

A division that is occasionally unstated underpins the debate—although there is a willingness to discuss the what of domestic abuse, there is a reluctance to reflect on the why. That must be dealt with. Much of the Scottish Executive's action is important, as is campaigning by groups to get appropriate support for victims of domestic abuse. However, we must challenge the why and the overwhelming pattern of male violence against women.

Some would have us believe that domestic abuse is a figment of the imagination of some mad feminist; the reality is very different. Discussing domestic abuse is not an indulgence of politics; it represents an effort to address what happens in the real world. Scottish Women's Aid and Scottish Rape Crisis did not come about because local government officials or Scottish Executive officials thought that they were a good thing. They came about because there was a need in communities that had to be addressed. Women went about organising to meet that need and it is to their credit that we are in the position that we are in now. I hope that those organisations will be put at the centre of shaping future strategy to deal with a serious problem in our communities.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

It would help if Sandra White could keep her speech to three minutes.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party 4:34 pm, 28th November 2002

I will do my best, Presiding Officer.

I congratulate Women's Aid on 25 years of listening and on its excellent presentation this afternoon. Like the minister, I have been a long- term supporter of Women's Aid. I welcome the minister's announcement of £237,000 for training, but as she would expect, I do not think that that is enough. I look forward to more announcements of long-term funding for training and for workers.

We have made progress on some domestic abuse issues. Like Roseanna Cunningham, I do not like the use of the word "domestic". Abuse is violence, whatever form it takes. Some of the bills that are being considered and that have been passed are excellent and will help to push forward the legislation on the powers of arrestment, which have been mentioned. I would like the minister to pick up on that, because I do not know whether that will be in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

Legal aid payments that are made in instalments will help some domestic abuse victims, particularly if they do not have money right away and need help immediately. The implications of the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001 for the power of arrest, which have been mentioned, will be excellent, too.

Those are positive moves in the right direction, but they cannot stand alone. I think that every member would agree on that. Initiatives must be supported by other projects and especially by long-term funding for training and staffing.

I would like the minister to deal with the involvement of Women's Aid groups in multi-agency partnerships, which is important. Various women's groups have approached me about that. The expertise that women have gained through working with women who suffer domestic violence is essential and cannot be lost because those groups do not have enough money for training, to which Maureen Macmillan referred. An emphasis must be placed on their working in multi-agency partnerships. I ask the minister to look into that.

We all agree that violence or abuse—whatever label we give it—is a crime that cannot and must not be tolerated.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

We are on the button time-wise, so I ask closing speakers to keep to their set times.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 4:37 pm, 28th November 2002

The motion asks us to approve the

"progress made in increasing the protection of, and provision of services to, women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse".

I would like to support the Executive in the vote in a few minutes' time, but I will not. I am acutely aware that if I supported such a well-intentioned motion, I would contribute to the outrage and neglect that are felt by many victims of domestic abuse who have been excluded from the Executive's concerns.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No. I have spoken for only 29 seconds.

I do not understand why Executive ministers and particularly Margaret Curran continue to exclude victims of abuse because of their gender. I believed that we had an all-inclusive Parliament. The Parliament is an equal opportunities organisation, but despite rule 6.9.2 of standing orders, members are not required to act in a non-discriminatory manner in such motions. The motion is right to condemn domestic abuse of women, children and young people as completely unacceptable, but it fails even to acknowledge the problem of domestic abuse against men.

I am full of praise for Jackie Baillie who, when she was the Minister for Social Justice, commissioned the first real research that has been undertaken in this country into domestic abuse of men. The Executive published the report from Keele University on 4 September this year. The report's aims were simple: to estimate the prevalence of domestic abuse of men in Scotland; to gauge the nature, frequency and seriousness of the abuse; to document and examine the perspectives of men who have been abused; and to assess the adequacy of service provision for men who have experienced domestic abuse.

The report did a good job. Contrary to the minister's assertion in her opening speech, it showed that

"domestic abuse against men can take life-threatening forms and can have lasting effects."

I was heartened by Roseanna Cunningham's comments—she at least acknowledged the issue. Using statistics that the Scottish police service recorded, the report found that, throughout 2000, more than 2,500 domestic abuse incidents took place in which men were the victims and women were the perpetrators.

The report goes on to set out that that is not the whole picture. The Scottish crime survey 2000 shows that the vast majority of domestic abuse incidents are not reported to the police. We have heard that recurring throughout the afternoon.

Part of the problem was identified by Johann Lamont when she said that the police do not recognise the issue of violence against men.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I am not trying to pretend that the incidence of domestic abuse in which the male is the victim is as common as that in which the victim is female—far from it, as more than 90 per cent of victims are women—but neither am I trying to pretend that male victims do not matter. That is the nub of my objection to the motion. I am angry about the matter.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No. I will not take an intervention.

Because of time constraints, I cannot go into the detail of the report, but I would like to examine its conclusions. I know of people in my constituency, as does Roseanna Cunningham, who have suffered as a result of domestic abuse, but they are not getting the attention that the Executive should give them.

Incongruously, the report sets out that there does not appear to be a need for a specific agency to support male victims, nor does there currently appear to be a need for refuges for abused men. Well, that is jolly well all right then.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

Why will the member not sit down and listen to some sense?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

The report goes on to set out:

"Men who are trying to separate from abusive partners may benefit from the provision of alternative accommodation and better legal and financial support."

Does not that mean refuges?

The report continues:

"abused men are not making full use of the pre-existing support services available to them."

So, it is their own fault, is it?

The report concludes:

"perhaps some service providers need to publicise their remit more widely."

Well, you can say that again.

People who look at the Scottish Executive's advertising and read the minister's press release today would suspect that there is no problem in respect of the issues that I have raised. How much of the £10 million that the minister has allocated to the Communities Scotland budget addresses those issues?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Okay.

What is the Executive doing about the problem?

Not much, which is why I will vote against the Executive motion at decision time.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Mike Rumbles was summing up on behalf of the Liberal Democrat group and I seek clarification of whether his position is the position of the Liberal Democrat group on the motion.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

That is a political matter for the Liberal Democrat group. If the group wishes to make its position clear, it is up to the group to do so. That is not a matter for the chair.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 4:42 pm, 28th November 2002

I wish Des McNulty good fortune in his new role. Also, I say to the minister that we much appreciate the commitment to further expenditure that she made this afternoon. We also welcome what she said about a national strategy, although I will return to that point in a moment.

One of the substantial achievements of the Scottish Parliament was the enactment of the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001. The act was passed as a result of issues that were raised by Maureen Macmillan, which resulted in the Parliament's first committee bill. The legislation was of particular significance as the House of Commons has no facility for committee bills and few other Parliaments have that form of legislative capacity.

Today's debate has not been particularly contentious, as there is a general consensus that the most sensible arrangements must be put in place to prevent domestic abuse. I want to mention three points to the minister, as I think that they are relevant to the debate.

First, Scottish Women's Aid has called for a national strategy. I believe that the minister has taken that proposal on board. Scottish Women's Aid specifically asked for the provision of education and in-service training, and for support for involving support groups and specialist organisations—such as Women's Aid—in training wherever that is appropriate. Scottish Women's Aid also recommends the involvement of specialist organisations in training in schools and the development of preventative work with young men and women.

Secondly, the practical implementation of prevention is essential because, unfortunately, the number of repeat attacks on victims has risen. We know that nearly half of the recorded cases that were reported in 2001 involved repeat victimisation. In other words, more than 17,000 persons were abused for at least a second time, if not more times. The number of those repeated attacks is up substantially on the year before. That is a cause for serious concern.

Thirdly, persons living in Scotland should be able to live their lives in freedom under the rule of law. They should be able to live in a world that is free from the threat of physical violence and abuse. At a time when massive extra responsibilities have been piled on the police, we need far more police officers to be visible within neighbourhoods and communities. That will inspire confidence, in the sense that abused persons would have a ready and direct access to the police. All the best technology in the world—closed circuit television, DNA, fingerprinting and so on—is to no avail if there are always insufficient police officers visible on the streets and in Scotland's communities.

Mike Rumbles mentioned the abuse of men. From my own experience as an advocate, when I had to deal with divorce cruelties, the overwhelming majority of abuse related to men physically attacking and assaulting their wives or partners. Although a number of men suffered, they tended to be few, but we should remember that fact.

I stress that much crime is opportunistic, and the case for greater numbers of police is overwhelming. I end by recommending that Lyndsay McIntosh's exhortation should be acted on. Over the festive period, the British Conservative party will put up more than 10,000 posters across the country in places such as hairdressers and doctors' surgeries to enable women discreetly to contact special helpline numbers. I hope that the minister will welcome that initiative along with her own campaign as an effort to provide a better and happier situation for the women, youngsters and men—although I repeat that I think that they are the exception—who are subjected to such abuse.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 4:46 pm, 28th November 2002

There were two things that threw me today. The first was finding out that Des McNulty is going to be my opposition number from now on: I welcome the dynamic duo. The other thing that threw me was that Roseanna Cunningham led the debate today rather than Kenny Gibson, and it is a different experience to sit through a debate with Roseanna.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Do you think so?

Roseanna Cunningham stated at the outset the SNP's support for the motion, as did Lyndsay McIntosh for her party. I do not believe that anyone in the chamber would argue that we should not do all that we can to combat domestic abuse or any form of violence in our society. All that I would say to the Liberal Democrats is that I am surprised at the strength of their argument, considering that they have not lodged an amendment against the motion.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

So Mr Rumbles's position is the Lib Dem position. Johann Lamont's point of order is answered.

We may disagree about the methods of trying to eradicate domestic abuse from our society, but it is great that we are debating it at all. Dorothy-Grace Elder referred to that, and we have debated the subject a few times. I would like to take this opportunity to mention that in 1976, Deputy Presiding Officer George Reid tabled a domestic violence bill for Scotland at Westminster. Sadly, it died due to a lack of time and was not passed.

Having said that, I invite the minister to seriously consider accepting the SNP amendment. There is surely nothing in it that she would disagree with. It is about the equalisation of funding across the country to ensure that no one is left without protection, and I make a plea for groups who deal with domestic violence but are not affiliated to Scottish Women's Aid. We should make sure that they come into the equation as well, so will the minister comment on that?

We must recognise and meet the needs of children affected by domestic violence. Irene McGugan mentioned that, as the minister will remember, and it is such an important issue because SWA reminds us that one third of all protection cases have domestic abuse as a factor. I ask the minister also to give us an assurance that the announced increase in funding for child protection will go towards addressing the lack of support workers, rather than merely propping up the current statutory provision. The national strategy clearly states that it is the Executive's responsibility to ensure adequate resourcing for the prevention strategy. It worries me that the Executive expects local authorities to pick up half of that tab. While targeting capital works expenditure on modernising refuges is right, I worry that that will take money away from revenue funding.

Irene McGugan also mentioned the resource implications of the recruitment crisis in social work services, and I want to hear the minister say what the Executive intends to do about that.

Roseanna Cunningham also proposed reform of the justice system, which is very much a part of the SNP amendment. Indeed, domestic violence requires urgent reform, and Robert Brown reminded us of the wider issues that are related to domestic violence. I contend that the development of family courts would have a number of beneficial effects, chief of which would be the introduction of real powers to deal effectively with domestic abuse.

Gil Paterson mentioned that we should take on board innovative thinking from other countries. At that point, Roseanna Cunningham reminded me that a police authority in England is now taking video cameras along when investigating reports of domestic violence or abuse. That video footage is admissible evidence. I would like to hear the minister's view on whether that might be one way forward.

We should not pretend that this is a simple matter. All MSPs have to work together to ensure that we come up with the possible solutions, because we have to wipe the scourge of domestic abuse from Scotland's face and establish that our nation is truly socially just. I have faith that Margaret Curran believes in what the SNP is saying in its amendment. As a result, I urge her to accept it and tell the Deputy Minister for Justice to get on with it.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 4:51 pm, 28th November 2002

I think that Linda Fabiani is trying to sow discord between Labour and the Liberal Democrats again.

It would be proper for me to begin by welcoming Des McNulty as my partner—professional partner, that is—this afternoon. I am very pleased that Des has this brief. I am also pleased that he has allowed me to take the closing slot this afternoon. I have missed it, and I promise to be better behaved than I was before, mainly because of the subject of the debate. I will explain my sensitivity when I reach the very specific point that Irene McGugan raised—I am genuinely trying not to be precious about this matter. However, I acknowledge the tone of the debate. In explaining some points of disagreement with the SNP's amendment, I should make it clear that I do not intend to be party-politicking. I will also do my best to address the many points that have been raised, although I might not get through them all. If members want to raise any specific points with me, I will be more than happy to address them.

However, I want first to address a few major points in order to explain the Executive's position. One of the reasons why I am uncomfortable about the amendment is that it mentions only social workers. As far as the national strategy and the Executive are concerned, this work requires the key involvement of many staff, not just social workers. I am not sure whether the SNP is making that particular point, but I would resist any analysis that concludes that only the role of social workers is important in relation to children. Our training strategy is moving in the right direction by stressing the engagement of all key agencies in developing a multi-agency approach to domestic abuse, simply because so many agencies have a role to play.

I dare say that there is not a great deal of difference between the Executive and the SNP on that point. We understand the role that police officers can play. Furthermore, our recent guidance for health care workers will be significant in developing services and, as other members have pointed out, teachers are also important. It is in such a spirit that we are taking this broader approach. Cathy Jamieson will lead more on the recruitment campaign for social workers, but I am more than happy to ensure that Cathy addresses the points that have been raised about the significance of social workers in dealing with such serious issues.

Members raised many points about the criminal justice system. We are progressing the matter through the legislation sub-group that was set up by the national group to address domestic abuse in Scotland. The sub-group has worked very well in taking evidence from a wide range of people and has examined many of the issues that Roseanna Cunningham and Gil Paterson raised. We are considering different proposals and options. Perhaps that is not quite what those members have suggested, but I think that we can address some of the points that have been raised.

In response to Sandra White's specific point, I should point out that the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001 gives powers of arrest, and that the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill proposes the introduction of powers of arrest for non-harassment orders.

We will give the Zero Tolerance Trust £50,000 to amend the "Respect" pilot and print free packs, and that money will also allow each local authority to hold seminars in order to promote those materials. I am not quite sure whether this is on the same point, but we decided that central Government should not fund packs for every school because the rates for doing so would have been too expensive. Instead, we have been looking at different ways in which that might be done.

On the principle of match funding, we see ourselves as working in partnership with other stakeholders throughout Scotland, in particular with local authorities, which can commit substantial resources to services that are relevant to this debate. That relationship can exist through match funding.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Is the minister confident that all local authorities in Scotland share her ethos about combating the issue? I have found that local authority councillors across the country can hold very different views.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

It would be easy and tempting to say that Labour authorities throughout Scotland share our ethos. As I would not get away with saying that, I will not make such a cheap point. The situation is not at all acceptable. We need to do much more to roll out services and move towards a much more even provision throughout Scotland. We will work to do that using whatever levers we can. Nonetheless, it would not always be appropriate for central Government to provide all the resources needed to address all the different issues.

I want to make it clear that the Scottish Executive is not complacent about the level of service and the level of activity. My sensitivity to the point that Irene McGugan made is not because I think that we are doing such a good job that everyone should stand up and welcome us all the time—much though it might feel like that at times. I recognise the scale of the challenge that we face in developing work with children on these issues. However, I suppose that there is a bit of me that asks that recognition be given for the fact that we are now doing what has been asked of us. We have publicly stated that we are developing a strategic approach to funding children's issues. Not only have we allocated £237,000 today, we are determined to take a much more strategic approach. More than anything else, I simply wanted to make that point.

We have had some debate about who are the victims and who are the perpetrators of domestic abuse. On behalf of the Executive, I want to make it clear that we will not be complacent about any victim of abuse, whatever their gender. That is why we have commissioned research and that is why I have written to all the service providers, because we need to understand what services are appropriate. I nonetheless want to make it clear that any male victim of domestic abuse has a proper claim on services. It would be inappropriate to get that out of kilter and not to divert resources to where they are most needed. Nobody has disputed where the balance of the problem lies.

I want to pick up the significant point that Gil Paterson made. Men must change the way in which they behave towards women and children. It is predominantly men who use violence and abuse. They are the ones who need to change, as Gil Paterson said. It is not up to women and children to try to stop men being violent. The women and children are not responsible for what is done to them and they are not to blame. I believe that men have an important role to play in tackling violence against women. The role for men who do not use violence and abuse should be to challenge those who do. They must say clearly and unequivocally that there is never an excuse and that no one is responsible apart from the perpetrator.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Order. There is too much gossiping. Please, we need a bit of quiet.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I want to draw members' attention to a significant quote on domestic abuse:

"If it were between countries, we'd call it a war. If it were a disease, we'd call it an epidemic. If it were an oil spill, we'd call it a disaster. But it is happening to women, and it's just an everyday affair. It is violence against women. It is sexual harassment at work and sexual abuse of the young. It is the beating or the blow that millions of women suffer each and every day. It is rape at home or on a date. It is murder."

Those are the words of a man, Michael Kaufman, who is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign in Canada.

Violence against women is an issue not only for women, but for all who care about what kind of place Scotland is and what kind of society we want. Make no mistake about it: we want a Scotland where no one lives in fear of violence or abuse of any kind, where relationships are based on equality and respect rather than on power and control, and where women and children are free to live their lives without the shadow of fear. We must do everything that we can to make that happen. Scotland deserves nothing less.