We are committed to tackling antisocial behaviour wherever it occurs. Agencies were given new powers to deal with antisocial behaviour in the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004. Local authorities and police are required to prepare strategies to deal with problems throughout the local authority area, including antisocial behaviour in private housing. We have given funding to local authorities to improve services across all tenures. New measures in the 2004 act to tackle irresponsible private landlords will come into force in November 2005.
Does the minister share my concern that access to professional witnesses, which is often required to gain access to legal remedies, is often difficult and that, so far, councils do not seem to be willing—at least in my area—to allow community wardens to fulfil that role to give the independent corroboration of the difficulty that is often needed? Will the minister please encourage councils to use community wardens in that positive way?
We have provided the legal framework for tackling antisocial behaviour and the financial resources to allow local authorities to implement the legislation and to respond to antisocial behaviour. It then becomes a matter for local decision makers to determine exactly how they should best respond in their areas.
I hope that local authorities will be imaginative in their use of the extra resources that we have provided. I cannot speak specifically for Brian Adam's area, but I tell him that in imaginative local authorities in Scotland, members of staff already act as witnesses. I encourage Brian Adam's local authority to contact my local authority, Renfrewshire Council, which has had a scheme for some time that enables staff to assist as witnesses where required. I believe that the scheme is by no means unique.