Crime (North Ayrshire)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13 March 2003.

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Photo of Kay Ullrich Kay Ullrich Scottish National Party 2:30, 13 March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive whether adequate resources are being applied to combat crime in North Ayrshire. (S1O-6622)

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

While we could always argue for more resources, in recent years substantial extra investment has been made in North Ayrshire to combat crime.

Photo of Kay Ullrich Kay Ullrich Scottish National Party

I remind the minister that new Labour has been in power since 1997. Can he explain why, since then, the incidence of violent crime in North Ayrshire has risen by 39 per cent, that of housebreaking has risen by 32 per cent and that of fire-raising and vandalism has risen by 50 per cent? Can he also explain why the number of drug offences has increased by a staggering 63 per cent over just three years? Is that what the Executive calls being successful in the fight against crime?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I will quote from a recent article in the Largs and Millport Weekly News . The headline reads "crime rates are falling", and the article says:

"Falling rates of crime in North Ayrshire have been applauded by the local MSP, Allan Wilson ...

Daily crime rates have apparently fallen from an average of thirty per day in 2001-02 down to twenty-four at the end of January this year."

Kay Ullrich asks about the Executive's response, so I will indicate what we are doing. There are record numbers of police and support staff throughout Scotland. In North Ayrshire, we have invested £143,000 in closed-circuit television; £238,000 in a community safety partnership award; a total of £490,000 in youth justice in 2002-03; £6.75 million over three years from the better neighbourhood services fund to tackle such issues as community safety and crime; £1.9 million for additional drug treatment—

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

—the sum of £4.85 million over the next three years for quality-of-life funding.

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

I remind ministers that other members like to ask supplementaries. Ministers might like to keep some of their ammunition for those members.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

Will the minister join me in welcoming the news that resources have been allocated to provide CCTV in Irvine, the contract for which will go out to tender in the next two weeks? Does he commend the local community safety forum for its persistent efforts to secure that money for CCTV? Does he also support that forum in its efforts to tackle the fight against crime in my area? According to figures that the police gave to Allan Wilson and me, there is a reduction in crime there.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I would like to commend the local groups that have been actively involved. I am sure that the introduction of CCTV in those areas will be welcomed. Those cameras will join the six that are already in Irvine town centre, the eight that are in Whitletts, the eight in Saltcoats, Ardrossan and Stevenston, and the three that are in Kilwinning.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Does the minister accept that the figures that Allan Wilson and the local press gave seem to be at odds with the figures that the Government released? Following concerns that the First Minister expressed last week about the weekend culture of violence in Scotland, will the minister comment on the situation in towns such as Irvine, in which that culture is all too often evident? Will he also comment on the lack of holding cells in Irvine and advise me whether the police find it hard to cope with that additional problem?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I believe that a new police station will be opened in the next couple of months. However, operational matters are the responsibility of the chief constable.

Phil Gallie raised the bigger issue of violent crime, which affects not just North Ayrshire but the whole of Scotland. The First Minister has made it clear that that is unacceptable. There are cultural issues that we need to address, and there are resource and legislative issues that we are addressing and will continue to address. Violent behaviour is unacceptable and will be dealt with.