Community Safety

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:30 pm, 21st February 2007

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-5608, in the name of Johann Lamont, on community safety.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 2:35 pm, 21st February 2007

Today offers an important opportunity to discuss and debate community safety and the challenge that antisocial behaviour presents to community security and well-being. Four years ago, we pledged to build safer and stronger communities—building on the experience that we had all shared as MSPs in the first session of Parliament—and to put tackling antisocial behaviour at the top of our agenda. We listened to the people of Scotland, who made it clear that improving community safety and tackling antisocial behaviour were what they wanted from us and expected us to deliver on.

I start by putting some things in perspective. Crime in Scotland is falling. Last year, 20,000 fewer crimes were recorded by the police; housebreaking was at around half its 1997 level; and robberies were at their lowest level for 30 years. Scotland is becoming a less violent place. With 1,000 fewer victims of serious violent crime last year, violent crime is at its lowest level since devolution. Homicides are their lowest level for 15 years.

We are seeking to tackle long-standing social problems such as knife carrying, and more than 12,500 weapons were taken off the streets during our first national amnesty. Record numbers of police officers are helping to prevent and detect crime; there are nearly 1,500 more officers now than there were seven years ago. The police and other agencies are using new powers and resources to help people stand up to antisocial behaviour.

We are taking assets seized from criminals and reinvesting them in our communities; £2 million has been invested this year in areas hard hit by serious violent crime. Much-needed reforms in our courts are working for victims, witnesses and jurors. There were fewer adjourned cases; less time was wasted in courts; and more than 16,000 fewer witness appearances were needed for the most serious cases.

It is important to acknowledge such progress as we acknowledge the further challenges that we face. The message from that progress is that we do not need to feel hopelessness in the face of crime in our communities: there are things that we can do, and it is possible to turn things around. The view that problems are with us and we must simply tolerate them is one that can be challenged.

Before moving the Executive's motion this afternoon, I will highlight in more detail the substantial progress that we have made in delivering on our pledges. I will also talk about the future and about what more needs to be done.

Investment in the police service in Scotland is at a record level. Since 2003, we have increased annual funding by £156.5 million to £1.1 billion in 2006-07. Police officer numbers rose to a record level at the end of 2006. Those police officers are making a valuable contribution to making our streets and communities safer.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Sir Willie Rae, who is the secretary of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland and the chief constable of Strathclyde police, spoke at a joint meeting of the Justice 1 Committee and the Justice 2 Committee when we discussed budgets. He made the point that current funding takes into account the fact that a number of policemen are going to retire over the next couple of years. He said that there was no follow-on funding so he expected that police numbers would fall. Is he correct?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Before you respond, minister, I remind members that mobile phones have to be switched off and not just switched to silent.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

An important discussion and debate is to be had with the police about resources and how they are deployed, and about the challenges in the spending review for further resources to be made available to the police. In the work that we have done already, we have been smart in liberating the police from some duties that they did not need to do, so that they could tackle the really critical issues in local communities.

Resources are increasingly targeted at the areas in communities that need them the most. We are achieving results. Initiatives such as safe city centres are returning our streets to our law-abiding citizens.

We backed our antisocial behaviour legislation and wider work to promote community safety with funding of £130 million over four years for community safety partnerships to enable a wide range of local services, including community wardens, antisocial behaviour investigation teams, mediation and witness and victim support. We provided additional money for noise teams and youth justice, and £1 million was made available for additional closed-circuit television projects, to help combat and detect crime.

By the end of 2004, every council area in Scotland had at least one community warden team working with local people in hard-pressed neighbourhoods, to prevent and tackle antisocial behaviour and to improve the local environment. More than 550 wardens are now patrolling our streets to help make them safer.

We know that local agencies are increasingly making use of the powers available to them under the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, which I have to say was passed in the face of overblown and rather desperate opposition at the time. By the end of last September, there had been 13 dispersal orders, 21 closure orders, 1,908 noise warnings, 118 fixed-penalty notices for noise, 170 vehicle seizures and 1,900 vehicle warnings. It is clear that we are taking firm action to tackle antisocial behaviour and, critically, responding to people who, in the past, would have been told that nothing could be done.

Following a successful 12-month pilot in Tayside, when more than 3,000 fines were issued, we announced last week that police throughout Scotland will have new powers to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor incidents of antisocial behaviour, saving them time and reducing the burden on the courts. Fixed-penalty notices are immediate and visible justice for victims and keep officers out on the beat longer. Indeed, the Tayside pilot showed that it was possible to have 1,300 extra hours of police time, with officers out doing what we want the police to do, yet the Tories have taken a dismissive approach to a process that has been welcomed by local communities.

We are taking unprecedented steps to tackle the mindlessly violent acts that blight too many of our communities. We know that real change will take time, but we have made significant progress over the past year. The first national knife amnesty, intelligence-led police enforcement campaigns and the steps that we have taken to strengthen the law are some examples of our direct action to tackle the problems head on.

We acknowledge that drugs and drug misusers have a serious impact on our communities.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Did I hear the minister say "the first national knife amnesty"? Does she not recall Peter Fraser introducing one back in the mid-1990s?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I can go back and check the comparison that Phil Gallie is making. Perhaps the Tory years were so troubling to me that I have tried to wipe them out.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

It would be nice to have accuracy.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I am quite happy to be corrected on that point. However, while the Tories were introducing an amnesty, they were creating such terrible mayhem in our communities without addressing the issue of crime that it has taken devolution and the measures that we have introduced, in terms of both investment and police powers, to address the challenges for our communities.

I realise that I have entirely run out of time, but I want to flag up issues around drugs and my recognition of the challenges posed by those issues. I commend the drug dealers don't care campaign and Crimestoppers. The campaign empowers communities by allowing people anonymity in reporting problems with drug dealers. We must recognise the critical work that it has done in communities. We have listened again to the challenges that people face when they are frightened by the crime that goes on around them. We must recognise how those communities are liberated when people are able to give information anonymously.

We know that people want to see crime fall, offenders punished and individuals take responsibility for their own actions. We have listened to those concerns and are delivering reforms and results that demonstrate that we are on people's side. We are doing practical things as a consequence of our commitment. We know and understand the challenges. We talk and work with people in communities who tell us how those challenges are experienced locally. We know that more action is required and we will not hold back until we win back respect at the heart of Scottish communities.

We have agreed that, from the next funding round in 2008, we should amalgamate community safety and antisocial behaviour funding streams and work with community safety partnerships to agree how that funding should be developed and supported for communities. We will continue to listen to what people tell us needs to be changed and to work with people in communities who are determined that safety and security should be our first priority.

I move,

That the Parliament acknowledges the good progress being made towards making our communities safer; notes that crime is falling and violent crime is at its lowest level since devolution; welcomes the record numbers of police officers now helping to prevent and detect crime; notes that antisocial behaviour legislation has made a real difference, with effective use being made by the police and local authorities of new measures contained in the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004; welcomes work by community safety partnerships to focus resources on tackling crime and disorder in response to local community needs, and supports the Scottish Executive's determination to keep working with communities and to make further progress with its partners towards ensuring that decent and law-abiding people can feel safe in their homes and on their streets wherever they live.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 2:43 pm, 21st February 2007

We concur whole-heartedly with a lot of what the minister said. Clearly, a variety of action requires to be taken, whether through legislation or local initiatives. We have supported such initiatives, sometimes through our council representatives and sometimes by assisting organisations—Executive or otherwise—to do their job.

Notwithstanding the fact that the election is beginning to concentrate all our minds, it is important that we get matters in perspective. There is clearly a great problem in Scotland. Occasionally, the debate about antisocial behaviour and crime oscillates between the perception that we reside in Valhalla and the perception that we reside in a living hell, when the truth, as with many things, is that we are somewhere in the middle.

There are problems with serious and organised crime and with violent crime, notwithstanding the statistics that the minister set out. We accept that the statistics show a decline in crime in many areas, but in some areas there has been a greater number of homicides. That clearly needs to be addressed.

That said, we have to recognise that, for the vast majority of people in Scotland, life is actually tolerable and pleasant and that it is only in certain blighted places, as the minister knows from her constituency, that life is made a living hell. It ill serves us to allow ourselves to be portrayed as some version of Beirut, as the recent United Nations report did. We need to ensure that we debate such matters.

One of our major problems is not so much crime as the fear of crime. However, to individuals, perception is reality. There is no point in any of us—regardless of our political hue—saying that the crime statistics are going down if people believe that there is a clear problem. It is fundamental that we address that problem.

This debate is about community safety, which is, perhaps, more to do with antisocial behaviour than serious and violent crime, although the two are related. However, we must recognise that some antisocial behaviour is not criminal. A great deal of it is criminal, of course; we have laws against such behaviour, and we expect them to be enforced by our police and other authorities. However, there are other elements of antisocial behaviour that, while not being unlawful, are unacceptable—in Scottish terminology, we would describe it as downright ignorant behaviour. If someone fails to take their turn cleaning the stair—whether they are in a student flat in Edinburgh or in a council scheme in the west of Scotland—that can make life intolerable for those who have sought to maintain the ethos and the sanctity of an area. We need to strike a balance in that regard.

Some matters need to be dealt with by legislation and the enforcement of laws. For example, children—not just youths—are able to acquire alcohol, which results in bad behaviour. The laws relating to underage drinking need to be enforced.

As I said, some elements of antisocial behaviour are criminal and some are not. In that regard, as the minister said, the important issue is one of respect. I have said previously that I support that agenda. We have also talked about individuals taking responsibility for their own behaviour. People have to realise that actions have consequences and that ordinary people—not just politicians—are tired of excuses for patently bad behaviour. If someone does something, they must face the consequences of their action and understand that, frankly, we will not be satisfied with hearing some excuse about what provoked or caused it.

However, we must recognise that, in Scotland, drink, drugs and deprivation fuel a great deal of those actions. That does not excuse them, but there is a clear and consequent relationship between those factors and bad behaviour and criminality, which we must address. There is no one simple legislative solution. No Administration can bring in a single act that will eradicate those problems; a variety of things must be done across the board. In some areas, legislation will be required; in other areas, such as health, work will have to be done around education and intervention.

We believe that the fundamental requirement in relation to securing trust and promoting responsibility is a visible police presence in our communities. That deters criminals and restores the confidence in the police and the judicial system that many people have lost. We might be able to bandy about claims of record numbers of police officers, but our police have responsibilities that they did not have before, not least in relation to terrorism, sex offenders legislation and a variety of other issues. Further, we have the problem of gapping, which is caused by officers being recruited but not coming on stream. Together, those factors have resulted in our having a less visible police presence than ever before.

That is why the Scottish National Party agrees with many of the comments that were made by the minister. We fully accept and have supported some of the legislation that has been passed and many of the actions that have been taken. However, the fundamental way of bringing about the level of community safety that our people want is to have a visible police presence that will deter crime and reassure our citizens.

I move amendment S2M-5608.1, to leave out from "acknowledges" to end and insert:

"recognises the concern and anxiety in our communities caused by both low-level antisocial behaviour and serious and violent crime; appreciates the increased burden placed on our police forces by new legislation and additional requirements; believes that the best way of tackling both serious crime and antisocial behaviour is a visible police presence to reassure the public and deter criminals, and therefore commits to the recruitment of 1,000 additional police officers for our communities."

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative 2:49 pm, 21st February 2007

Were the motion that is lodged in the Deputy Minister for Justice's name to be taken at face value, one would be forgiven for thinking that real progress had been made and effective measures taken to restore public confidence in the criminal justice system and to ensure that decent, law-abiding people could feel safe in their homes. Sadly, the reality is somewhat different. A less rosy but decidedly accurate picture of the problems facing people in Scotland is contained in the amendment in Annabel Goldie's name. It details the full extent of the problems and outlines the measures that must be pursued to ensure that people have the protection that they deserve and are entitled to expect.

How on earth can the minister possibly believe—and ask the Scottish Parliament to support—the assertion that good progress is being made towards making our communities safer when only one in four crimes are reported to the police? The surgeries of MSPs and other elected members are full of constituents who complain that they have simply given up reporting disorderly and criminal behaviour, either for fear of reprisals from the perpetrators or because they are totally disheartened by and disillusioned with the lack of effective sanctions and the response to their complaints. I can only imagine how delirious those same constituents will be about the coalition's latest policy announcement on fixed-penalty notices, which will now be issued for a wider range of crimes, including: drunken rioting in a pub; breach of the peace—such offences have risen by 26 per cent since the pact came to power in 1999; and vandalism, incidents of which have increased by 57 per cent in the same period.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I regret that I will not have time to take any interventions. If I have time later on, I will come back to the member.

Better still, ministers have reserved the right to add to the list of pay-as-you-go criminals at any time. It is difficult to see how those on-the-spot fines will do anything other than inconvenience the criminals. They will certainly do nothing to make communities safer and merely serve to downgrade offences that the public rightly regards as serious incidents of antisocial behaviour. Such incidents are rife in our local communities. [Interruption.]

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I am sorry, Presiding Officer, but I need to press on.

The pact's past record in addressing more serious crime is no more encouraging. Drug crime is up 5.7 per cent in the last year alone and 46 per cent since the pact came to power—[Interruption.] I have made it clear that I am not taking any interventions. The number of persons recalled to prison from supervision on licence is up a staggering 317 per cent over the same period.

There is no prospect of improvement in the statistics as long as the pact refuses adequately to address automatic early release and drags its feet over its commitment to provide a directory of available drug rehabilitation centres in Scotland. Instead, the minister is content to continue the rhetoric about providing record numbers of police officers to prevent and deter crime. The coalition can never hope to be taken seriously in that regard when it continues to squander precious resources on community wardens rather than full-time police officers. It is utter madness to continue to spend limited funds on employing four community wardens when we could have three full-time police officers for the same price. Laws are meaningless without proper enforcement. Without adequate numbers of police on the beat to detect crime and offending, the antisocial behaviour legislation will remain the proverbial damp squib.

I urge the minister to consider parenting orders: a provision in the antisocial behaviour legislation that she has so far ignored but which could make a real difference. When I last asked her, none had been issued in Scotland. Each incident of youth disorder should be properly recorded and the parents issued with a warning, so that when a pattern emerges, parenting orders are automatically available and used. That would ensure that parents are held properly accountable for the supervision of their children. Crucially, that would not only protect an increasing number of children from the dangers to which they are currently exposed in the community but would stop antisocial, disorderly behaviour deteriorating into serious crime.

I move amendment S2M-5608.2, to leave out from "acknowledges" to end and insert:

"notes, in relation to community safety, that since 1999 crimes and offences are up, that according to the Scottish Crime survey only one in four crimes is reported to the police, that drug crime has increased 5.7% in the last year, that automatic early release of prisoners is not being adequately addressed and that there is a crisis of public confidence in the criminal justice system, and calls on the Scottish Executive to increase police numbers to improve levels of community policing, to bring forward an expansion of drug rehabilitation facilities and to restore clarity and honesty in sentencing in order to improve community safety and rebuild public confidence in our criminal justice system."

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek your guidance. Is it in order for a member taking part in the debate—and, indeed, moving an amendment—not to take interventions when they have more than enough time so to do? Is that not the reverse of debate?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

It is entirely up to the member who is speaking whether they take interventions—perhaps members should remember that.

Photo of Mike Pringle Mike Pringle Liberal Democrat 2:54 pm, 21st February 2007

All residents of Scotland want to live in safety—that is for sure—and to have privacy, free from harassment and nuisance. All parties that are represented in the chamber will recognise that we need to try to achieve that. The question of how we do that, however, is not about who can sound the toughest or who can demonise our young people the most. What we need is a set of policies that invest in young people, reduce reoffending and put more police on the streets to tackle criminal and antisocial behaviour by people of all ages.

Let me answer some of the nonsense that is put about concerning the Liberal Democrats' position on antisocial behaviour. Parties represented in this chamber that produce literature with phrases such as

"soft on thugs, soft on drugs" should, frankly, be ashamed of themselves. I absolutely reject that sort of pathetic name-calling approach to tackling antisocial behaviour. To tackle antisocial behaviour, the police and local communities need politicians who work together in communities, rather than politicians who resort to point scoring.

This Executive, with the Lib Dems at its heart, has delivered a record number of police, with more police officers now than ever before—up 31 per cent since 1999. The Tories cut the number of police to 14,323 in 1995, compared with the 16,175 that we have now. We now have record clear-up rates, up from 31 per cent in 1993 to 46 per cent in 2006. There has been a fall in crime: the total number of crimes recorded by the police decreased by 5 per cent between 2004-05 and 2005-06.

We have taken action to improve the rights of victims by rolling out the victim information and advice service across the courts and introducing the victim notification scheme for victims of serious crime. Annual youth justice funding has been increased from £3.5 million in 2000 to £63 million in 2005. We have increased the criminal justice social work budget: we have increased funding for criminal justice social work services from £44 million in 2000 to £88 million in 2005.

I will highlight two superb examples of community safety partnerships, which the Executive created, working extremely well in my constituency. First, the local partnership funded a police youth action team, which works with young people in the south of the Edinburgh, trying to turn kids away from what is termed antisocial behaviour. The partnership runs a superb games club at Moredun library, which has been hugely successful in reducing the number of reports of antisocial behaviour. I held a surgery in the area yesterday, and quite a number of people mentioned how much quieter the area was since the games club had been set up.

The second example is an excellent bottle-marking initiative. It was started in the Borders, and I persuaded the police to trial it in south Edinburgh. The initiative involves the police working with local shopkeepers to mark with ultraviolet pen drinks that are usually bought by or for young people. The police can confiscate any alcohol that they find and trace it back to the shop. They have discovered that, mainly, it is not the young people who buy the alcohol, but irresponsible adults who buy it for them. Those are the people who we must crack down on.

Turning to the Scottish National Party amendment, I am pleased that the SNP has now adopted one of the five points of the Lib Dem action plan—only days after we announced it—by promising to recruit 1,000 extra police officers. I add that Alex Salmond himself has condemned Executive achievements in increasing police numbers to record levels.

The motion recognises the work that has been done by the Executive in tackling crime and the perception of crime in our communities. We need to go further, however, and as well as having 1,000 extra police, we want tougher community sentences to reduce reoffending, a crackdown on knife crime, with seven-year maximum sentences, and the involvement of young people in local youth panels so that they can change their behaviour and that of their peers.

The former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, has supported our acceptable behaviour contract plans; in Lib Dem-controlled Islington, he said that they were better than antisocial behaviour orders. We need to encourage our young people; we do not need curfew orders for everyone under 15, as is the policy of members of the Labour Party—talk about a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

In our party, we are proud of the role that our young people play in society. Yes, there are problems, and early intervention and working with those young people is crucial. In the end, that is what will make our communities safer.

Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour 2:59 pm, 21st February 2007

I welcome this opportunity to debate community safety. Our approach as a Labour-led Executive has been generally welcomed by my constituents. However, we still have some work to do to meet the needs of all communities.

I conducted surveys in my constituency last summer, and I held a series of meetings during the winter months with people who said that they had issues with antisocial behaviour. That partnership approach resulted in a final meeting last week. I will highlight some of the issues that were raised. I am grateful to Cathy Jamieson for giving her time to attend—in a non-ministerial capacity—the final meeting.

The biggest concern that my constituents expressed was that they never get feedback when they report something to the police or the council. They do not know whether an acceptable behaviour contract, unacceptable behaviour contract or a prosecution has resulted. They, as I do, want to know why we do not keep communities informed about what is being done to pursue the people who affect communities with their antisocial behaviour. I believe that community reparation orders are a way in which we could inform communities. Part of such orders could stipulate delivery by the offender of notices to identified households to inform them of the punishment that had been determined by the court or the children's panel. That delivery should be done in daylight in visible clothing. If that means a dayglo pink jacket, so be it.

Communities could be asked to identify the areas in their neighbourhoods that they want to be improved or restored. That information could be supplied to the courts, which would use it in determining what work should be undertaken. The information would also be included in the community reparation order notification. That would go some way towards rebuilding communities' trust that something is being done and that justice is on their side.

Much has been said about the causes of antisocial behaviour—I believe that the main cause is alcohol. In my constituency, as in any other, issues need to be addressed in respect of the off-sales sector. In my constituency, some off-sales outlets operate the challenge 21 campaign, which involves test purchasing. Some have signed up to the bottle-marking pilot scheme, which was introduced last month by Strathclyde police and East Ayrshire Council—I admit that they nicked the suggestion from Edinburgh—and some use colour-coded carrier bags to identify the shop of purchase. However, a number of outlets continue to do their own thing. We need to take tough action against those who flout the licensing laws. They need to understand the impact that their actions have on residents. It is not rocket science to work out that, if they sell quarter or half bottles of tonic wine or other alcoholic fruit-flavoured wine, the target audience is under-18s.

Our community wardens should have the power to challenge and pursue people who purchase alcohol for under 18s from off-sales outlets. There should also be greater examination of such outlets when they are licensed. We cannot ask police officers alone to undertake the duties—that is not what our communities want or need. We, as the Labour Party, should commit to having community wardens in every community in Scotland. We should extend their powers to include monitoring of off-sales shops and to giving them powers in relation to truancy, speeding and parking, to name but a few. We might even consider renaming them "police community support officers". We should never forget the impact that community wardens have made in communities throughout Scotland and we should celebrate and build on their success.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 3:03 pm, 21st February 2007

There is a great whiff of electioneering, which is a pity in a debate that should be much more consensual.

I will focus on low-level crime and the fear of crime, which my colleague Kenny MacAskill mentioned. We all know the realities of the groups of people on the street who are bevvied up, who batter the wing mirrors off cars, and who are noisy and threatening, and we all know their loci—the streets, and empty store car parks and municipal car parks. We all have in-trays full of constituents' concerns about such matters. Mobile phones allow such groups to be mobile, which wastes police time because the police must chase a moving and ever-dispersing target. Communities are frightened to come out, to speak and to report incidents because they are understandably afraid that they will be victimised or their property damaged.

The SNP supported the introduction of ASBOs. They have their place, and those who issue them mean well. However, we know that for some hoodlums—I will use that word—ASBOs have become a badge of honour and a rite of passage. To an extent, Parliament must draw back from having the highest expectations of ASBOs. They have their place, but for some individuals they are not a cure.

People's perceptions also mean that decent youngsters become stigmatised. The noisy and boisterous group on the corner will probably be considered to be part of the problem and youthful exuberance will become as feared and intimidating as the real McCoy.

I will give a brief map of the problems, the solutions to which are complex. Drinking, which has been referred to, and to a lesser extent drugs, make people lose their inhibitions and increase aggression. Fire-water fires people up. The ringleaders are the real baddies who lead groups. They have lieutenants and camp followers who gain some community recognition for being part of the team. Boredom is ever the cry of the young, and always will be, and disconnection from the community is another factor.

No simple solutions exist. We agree with some solutions that have been offered. Fixed penalties have their place, so why waste police time with drunken louts on a street corner when a fixed penalty can be issued to get that sorted? Money would be spent on penalties rather than on buying more drink. I commend the marking of bottles and whatever else it takes to stop proprietors selling drink to underage purchasers or to adults for people who are underage, as Mr Pringle said. We must have severe penalties for that.

As for education, I have previously mentioned the up to you project in the Borders, which is a mentoring project in which pupils of Peebles high school go to feeder primary schools to discuss issues with primary 7 pupils. That works for the primary pupils and the secondary pupils, who are properly trained. The project is now to be extended to Penicuik.

The minister mentioned CCTV, but that must be used in a discriminating fashion so that it picks out ringleaders and does not catch in the net the innocent or those who have just gone along for the excitement. They should be separated out and the penalties should be different. I suggest simple measures such as better lighting in some areas, so that people cannot move about in the dark.

As for boredom, the selling-off of playing fields and community centres must stop. Young people must be engaged so that their energies are properly used.

The disconnection from the community is part of life: it is part of being an adolescent. People grow apart from their communities as they grow apart from their parents and they return as they mature. Sullen teenagehood will always exist, but it must not be destructive teenagehood. In that regard, the comments that my colleague Kenny MacAskill made about deprivation need to be addressed properly.

As I said, no party-political solution exists. If the debate becomes just a tub-thumping exercise or a bidding war, we will do communities no service whatever.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 3:08 pm, 21st February 2007

Christine Grahame referred to consensus. I identified with that last week, but I will not identify too much with it this week. However, I identify with Margaret Jamieson's comments about dayglo clothing and I welcome her aboard—Michael Forsyth made such proposals in 1996, when she and her colleagues ridiculed them.

I am a bit disappointed by Johann Lamont's motion. I remember her vigorous words back in 1999 and afterwards about many issues and I do not believe that we have reached the rosy state that she suggests that we are in.

I have listened to the woes of constituents from the Minister for Justice's constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, from Girvan in the south-west to Muirkirk in the north-east.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Does Phil Gallie accept that constituents who approach me and who have community wardens think that wardens do an excellent job of dealing with the problems of antisocial behaviour? Will he dissociate himself from the comments of Margaret Mitchell, who seeks to put 500 people throughout Scotland out of their jobs?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I regret that not one of the minister's constituents who have come to see me has mentioned community wardens. They have referred to matters such as bail legislation, which the minister and her colleagues passed, under which people who have committed serious crimes are back on the street within minutes of being charged. That is the kind of thing that people care about.

I have been to schools in the minister's constituency and I have found that the pupils are extremely concerned about antisocial behaviour. Indeed, the minister and I have shared platforms with pupils who have talked about their concerns, but community wardens were not mentioned once. Pensioner groups express concerns to which Johann Lamont's motion does not refer—we must address those concerns.

Margaret Mitchell was right to say that only one in four crimes is reported to the police. What about all the crimes that are not reported? Such things matter.

Members have talked about people purchasing alcohol for youngsters. Complaints about people doing so have been made time and again in the past 10 years, but we have not advanced one bit towards addressing that problem, although it is well worth addressing.

Members would be shocked and dismayed if I did not refer somewhere along the line to the effect on our justice system of the European convention on human rights. Our system was once well respected throughout the world, but it has recently been turned on its head. I accept that the Tories were at fault in introducing a halfway term for prison sentences, but we recognised our misdemeanour and tried to address it in 1997. However, the Labour Party in Government and the Scottish Parliament have failed to address that misdemeanour.

The Scottish National Party's amendment hits on one or two useful issues. For example, it is right to address the burdens that the Scottish Parliament has imposed on the police. However, I say to SNP members that the police have usually gone along with Parliament's placing additional burdens on them, and that they have added to those burdens. Perhaps the SNP's amendment is not quite what it seems.

Annabel Goldie's amendment, which outlines the realities of the justice situation and antisocial behaviour in Scotland, is worthy of members' support.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 3:12 pm, 21st February 2007

Perhaps this debate is generating more heat than light not only because we are so close to an election. It is understandable that debates on the prevalence of crime and antisocial behaviour and the resources that are available for policing always result in the kind of arguments among the main parties that we have heard.

Whatever our policy differences, we should all accept the part that social and environmental changes play when we consider the prevalence of crime and antisocial behaviour in society. We should consider not only the party politics of the current Government or previous Governments. All Governments will find such problems difficult to solve. When it came to power in 1997, the Labour Party recognised in its early rhetoric the difficulty of solving those problems when it used the slogan, "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime." However, more action has been taken to be tough on crime than on being tough on the causes of crime.

In the past four years, there have been times when I have felt that Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey Appleby are still with us. The arguments that have been used have boiled down to the old chestnut: "Something must be done. This is something, therefore we must do it." I say to the minister that politicians of all parties too often give in to their instinct for a knee-jerk authoritarian response, which may be good for headlines but will not be tough on the causes of crime. Many of the new measures fail to address those causes. Indeed, the tools that can successfully address the causes of antisocial behaviour and low-level crime were already available before the new legislation, although more resources were needed.

What was principally needed was not new enforcement. For example, the Executive's target to reduce the number of persistent young offenders has not been met; indeed, we have seen an increase. We need to recognise the impact not just of legislation, but of the social and environmental factors that prevent success.

Kenny MacAskill mentioned poverty and deprivation. Like him, I argue that although those factors should not be seen as excuses for bad behaviour, there are clear connections. I refer members to the words of Kathleen Marshall, the commissioner for children and young people in Scotland, in talking about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the convention, children and young people have a right to

"a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development."

Social exclusion by reason of poverty militates against that. If our society does not provide free or affordable facilities for the development of children and young people, we will pay more in the end financially and socially. We should all recognise that.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Does Patrick Harvie accept that those who argued most strongly for the Parliament to take action on enforcement were the deprived communities in which people were under the cosh—communities that were being destroyed because the police were not prioritising their demands and interests? It is in response to their needs that many of the measures on antisocial behaviour have come about.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I appreciate that argument from the minister, which I have heard several times. However, I argue that, although police priority for the issue was needed, new enforcement measures were not required for that to happen.

I move on to the environmental aspects, in respect of which the same authoritarian actions often take place. The urban built environment can have a profound impact on people's behaviour. We commonly hear politicians calling for more use of closed-circuit television in problem areas, despite the fact that the United Kingdom as a whole uses more CCTV in public areas than any other country on Earth. Changing the built environment through, for example, better public lighting can have a far better impact on people's behaviour.

I will close with another comment from Kathleen Marshall. In looking at play, structured activity and all the other activities that should be available, she said that

"there should be some time and legitimate space for unstructured fun; for 'hanging around' with friends and potential friends."

That is something that young people have a right to—it is wrong to label it all as antisocial behaviour.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour 3:17 pm, 21st February 2007

The trademark of this Labour-led Executive is that it has been willing to show leadership on the problem of antisocial behaviour. Far too many people have been on the sidelines of the argument concerning the various legal remedies that we have provided; for example, the SNP on the issue of dispersal orders. Its attitude has been, "Let's look and see how dispersal orders turn out, and then we'll decide whether we support them." We were willing to show leadership and say that we support the possibility of enforcement through dispersal orders. The Tories opposed the dispersal orders that have been successful throughout the country. We have been willing to use enforcement where necessary and to stand up and be counted on behalf of our communities in ensuring that various remedies are available to our constituents in the many areas concerned.

Through the debate on antisocial behaviour, and the dispersal orders that have been successful in the Dennistoun area of my constituency, I have learned about the challenges that we face with persistent offenders and the lack of disposals that are available to deal with those individuals. That is not something that members will have heard me debate as often as maybe I should have in the chamber. I have been enthusiastic about debating the enforcements that should be available, but I have been less enthusiastic about looking at how to deal with the perpetrators. However, that is the next phase of the process. We must ensure that the despair that is felt among the various authorities that deal with young people, especially young males, is dealt with, and we must be more creative in the disposals that are available.

I raise one potential controversial possibility in the belief that we must show leadership in at least debating the issue. I call on the minister to consider using the armed forces to provide some kind of structure for those young people. Christine Grahame might say, "Oh dear" but those young people are facing spending the rest of their lives in Barlinnie. I am not saying that the armed forces should necessarily be a long-term solution, but we should at least debate giving those young people the option as a short-term solution. There is a debate to be had in communities throughout Scotland on how we deal with those young people.

I feel despair for young people because I do not think that we have spent enough time talking about how we can intervene in their lives, which lack structure and positive solutions. I ask for that debate to be had today; it is a serious issue and we have to debate it throughout Scotland.

Many people who went through the antisocial behaviour debate will have to eat humble pie. I looked at the Official Report of stage 3 of the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill. Douglas Keil, I think of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, was quoted as saying that police officers will not use dispersal orders and that they would not be very helpful to the police. He also said that the police have enough legal remedies available to them at the moment. That is not representative of the views of every single community police officer whom I have met during my 13 years as an elected representative. Police officers have now moved on and they recognise that a menu of options is available to them to deal with the challenges that face our communities. Now is the time for the authorities to deliver those enforcement options and to ensure that we give the majority of good, hard-working young men and women in our communities a future that they can look forward to.

I welcome today's debate and the leadership that has been shown by the Labour-led Executive.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SG 3:22 pm, 21st February 2007

First, I apologise to the minister for not being present in the chamber for the start of her speech. I was being lobbied by a group and was delayed.

I will refer to leadership, on which Paul Martin finished his speech. If Paul Martin was referring to some form of conscription, I would argue that any conscription in this country should be into—

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

I will confirm my point. I am talking about persistent offenders who have no future, and about the armed forces making available some sort of structure that could ensure that we give those offenders some kind of future and some structure in their lives. That would be better than Barlinnie.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SG

I thank Mr Martin for whatever clarification that offered. I argue that the only conscription that we should be considering for our country is conscription into full-time education so that we can give as many young people as possible the chance to realise the potential that every single one of them has. That means good employment potential—apprenticeships as well as education.

I want to touch on one aspect of antisocial behaviour in my limited time and I want to ask for the leadership from the minister that Mr Martin asked for. In 79 per cent of the acts of vandalism that were recorded in 2005-06, air-guns were used. In the same year, in 57 per cent of offences of minor assault, air-guns were used and in 75 per cent of offences of serious assault, air-guns were used. Since 1999, there have been 1,154 air-gun injuries and, tragically, three fatalities—two in Glasgow and one in Bathgate. A growing proportion of all offences involving firearms is related to air-guns. In 2004-5, 43 per cent of all firearms offences were related to air-guns and in 2005-06 that percentage rose to 58 per cent.

It is quite clear to me and, I argue, to the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland that the problem of air-guns has to be tackled in the context of our overall approach to antisocial behaviour. A couple of years ago many promises were made that the issue would be tackled, but unfortunately those promises have not been fulfilled.

Three weeks ago, System 3 published the results of an independent opinion poll of more than 1,000 Scots. The poll asked the people of Scotland whether they support or oppose a ban on the sale of air-guns in Scotland. Eighty-two per cent of Scottish people said that they support a ban. Only 8 per cent opposed it; the remainder were "don't knows". Significantly, in cities such as Glasgow, 93 per cent of people support a ban on air-guns. In the youngest and oldest age groups—18 to 25-year olds and over-65s—the proportion of people who support a ban is 85 per cent. Among the working class—the so-called D and E group—86 per cent support a ban.

I plead with the minister to be prepared to show leadership on the question and to say loud and clear that Parliament supports a ban on air-guns and that, if Westminster is not prepared to act, the Scottish Parliament will pass legislation banning their sale.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 3:26 pm, 21st February 2007

I have managed to agree with part of all the speeches that members have made—although it is stretching things a wee bit for me to say that about the two Conservative speeches. I also disagree with some comments, but it is encouraging that all members spoke honestly and had constructive things to say.

I am happy to support the motion. It is right that ministers should take pleasure and pride in elements of their policy that are working. All members will agree that the situation is patchy. In some areas the local authority, the police, the voluntary sector and so on are dealing well with disorder, but in other areas we are not doing so well. However, the ministers can take due credit for what they have done. They have set out the coalition position.

Members may have noticed that an election is looming and the parties in the coalition have recently been doing more to set out the policies on which they will fight the election. The Liberal Democrats have stressed that there should be more community police to prevent crime and disorder and to deal with it when it happens. There should be more police on the street to work with and to sort out young people. Instead of sending people to jail for short periods—which is a complete waste of everyone's time and energy—we should have serious community disposals for them. I do not mind whether people who serve community sentences wear bright clothing, but such sentences must be seriously monitored and policed and must involve real work to improve things for the community; they must not be a soft option. That is a better approach that would release within the prison system time and energy to sort out longer-term prisoners, so that there was a chance of rehabilitating them.

We want to involve young people more in helping to deal with the problems of other young people. We should learn from systems that seem to work in other places, where young people act as a court or as assistants in judging how young people who are misbehaving should be dealt with. We should listen more to what young people have to say about their communities. As a nation, we are not good at listening to young people. Many of them are really on the ball; they are much more streetwise than I am and know what is wanted in their areas. If we work with them, we can provide them with much better chances for employment, recreation and so on. We need to take a positive attitude towards young people. Obviously, we need to deal with the minority who misbehave, but the majority of young people would strengthen our arm—they do not want to treat the misbehavers softly.

One way of creating a society in which there are fewer problems is to involve young people and another is to deal with the people who create the problem, as the motion suggests. We have to pull both aspects together. I hope that there will be consensus on the subject in whatever Parliament emerges after the election and that we get stuck into the problem even more than we have done so far.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 3:30 pm, 21st February 2007

The Deputy Minister for Justice started her speech with the good news that crime is falling, and it is, under certain headings. However, when there is a 5.7 per cent increase in drug offences and a massive increase in the number of sexual assaults, no one can relax.

The minister claims—correctly—that witness appearances are well down, but prosecutions are well down, too. The message seems clear: police funding has increased, but there are still serious problems when we require the police, as I found out a couple of weeks ago when it took the police 16 minutes to answer a 999 call in the course of a violent incident.

There is not a lot of joy around. What has the Executive done about it? It introduced antisocial behaviour orders in the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, which the Conservatives supported. As I recollect, we disputed only one section of the bill—that which allowed the police to move people out of an area.

In 2004-05—the most recent year for which statistics are available—169 ASBOs were issued. Those who were convicted of breach of ASBOs in the sheriff courts that year numbered 158. Fair conclusions can be drawn from that.

There is nothing wrong with the principle of ASBOs—far from it—but I recollect that it was recently reported that an ASBO was issued only after 33 incidents were reported at a house in Blairgowrie. Serious questions need to be asked when somebody is not locked up long before that amount of trouble occurs. Although ASBOs have a role, where people misbehave themselves consistently, the full rigour of the law should be brought to bear on them instead of the halfway house that is the ASBO.

I am frequently astonished by some of the contributions that are made in debates. I listened to Margaret Jamieson, who said that people who are doing community service should be made visible by wearing dayglo outfits. As Phil Gallie said correctly, when Michael Forsyth made the same suggestion about 12 years ago he was howled down in derision by the people on the Labour benches.

Paul Martin's suggestion of enlisting the help of the Army has some merit. Although we should consider it, I do not know whether it is practical or politically acceptable. However, I know this: had I suggested that idea a year or so ago, I would have been called all the fascist swine of the day. It is amazing how times change.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

No, I do not have time; I am in my last minute.

Paul Martin raised another interesting point about the disposals that are available for younger people. We have to examine the operation of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 and the way in which the children's hearings system can deal with people under the age of 16. I know that the minister probably feels a sense of déjà vu, but there are sound arguments for increasing the menu of disposals, as Paul Martin said, to deal with the under 16s. We have to be more realistic and imaginative at the same time.

Fixed-penalty notices might have a role, but our fear is that they represent a devaluation of crime. For example, someone can receive a fixed penalty for parking their car on a double yellow line. Indeed, some of the cases that previously might have been prosecuted have, for some time, been dealt with through warning notices, conditional offers or a cheeky letter from the procurator fiscal. We must ensure that there is not just another soft option.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 3:35 pm, 21st February 2007

Once again, we have had a debate in which there have been points of agreement, the most fundamental of which has to be that a problem exists and it must be solved. I will hang the debate on that hook and examine how members' speeches have taken us forward.

I suspect that members across the chamber will agree with the reference in Mr MacAskill's amendment to

"the concern and anxiety in our communities caused by both low-level antisocial behaviour and serious and violent crime".

If we disagree—as we do on a number of issues—our disagreement is about tactics, not objectives. We should bear that in mind as this short debate draws to its conclusion.

I very much enjoyed my time on the Communities Committee, when the Deputy Minister for Justice was my ever-helpful and ever-supportive convener. Although we disagreed fundamentally about many things, it was always—if eventually—with a degree of good grace.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

On my part, as the minister has just reminded me. Even if I have not always agreed with her, I am pleased to see that her diligent endeavours on this matter have been rewarded with ministerial office. She is of a calibre that at least justifies such an appointment.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Have I really? That would indeed be a novel experience.

In response to Margaret Mitchell's remark about pay-as-you-go justice, many of us feel that, if we could arrange to abstract £50 from the back pocket of a visiting drunk on George Street on a Saturday night to prevent him from becoming even more drunk and violent, it would serve a decent community purpose. Even if it meant that he had to go to the police station on Monday morning to get the change from his fine, it might be okay. That proposal is not yet on the agenda, but—hey ho—it might work. Pay-as-you-go justice might be a good slogan for a policy that serves the public interest.

The now-absent Duncan McNeil described Mike Pringle as

"soft on thugs, soft on drugs".

I do not go that far, but I am glad that Mr Pringle is coming into line with our 2003 manifesto commitment to put an extra 1,000 police officers on the streets. However, as we will need to distance ourselves from the Liberals in some meaningful way, our new manifesto will have to call for an extra 1,001 police officers.

Margaret Jamieson is absolutely correct to say that alcohol is our biggest problem. Drugs are a huge criminal justice problem, but they do not pose the same kind of problem that alcohol poses on so many streets in Scotland's rural and urban areas.

As far as community wardens are concerned, they were adopted early on in my constituency and, as the minister has heard me say before, they have been a good thing. However, I would take the Executive's words on this issue a bit more seriously if they were supported by more long-term funding.

When my colleague Christine Grahame referred to sullen adolescence, Mr Aitken gestured at me as if I should be included in that description. I plead guilty to the charge. I was not a very nice adolescent—and I suspect that I am not the only one in the chamber whose first brush with alcohol came before they turned 18. Indeed, I see a few members nodding. However, the character of juvenile drinking has changed out of all recognition since the tentative experiments of my youth.

As for Phil Gallie, we will miss his passion, even as we rejoice at not hearing some of his arguments.

In relation to Paul Martin's suggestion, it would be unfair to inflict on the Army people who clearly cannot live up to the high professional standards that we now expect of that body. If the Executive had supported a replacement for the Airborne Initiative, which filled precisely the niche we are talking about, we would be more prepared to respect what it had to say.

Legislation is no substitute for resources. It may support action or it may inhibit it. We need more resources and perhaps a little bit of legislation. It has been a useful debate, so let us move on.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 3:40 pm, 21st February 2007

The fact that we have had what could be described as a lively debate shows just how important community safety is to communities throughout Scotland.

I will respond to some of the points that members have made, but first I say that the Executive motion does not, as has been suggested, represent an attempt on our part to paint a rosy picture or to suggest that everything has been resolved. We lodged the motion because we know that there is a huge amount of work still to do. Of course we must recognise how far we have come, because that is one way in which we can empower communities to stand up to the antisocial behaviour that has plagued them for far too long.

As has been outlined, the Executive has empowered communities by giving a lead. I have experienced that for myself on visits throughout Scotland, and it is not just in Ayrshire, which Margaret Jamieson spoke about, that people have welcomed what I have done. They have told me that they know that we cannot solve the problems overnight, but that dispersal orders, antisocial behaviour orders and noise nuisance orders are all beginning to work and are having an impact on their communities. On Monday, I met some people in the east end of Glasgow, in Paul Martin's constituency, whom I had met before to find out what difference dispersal orders had made. Front-line police officers agreed that dispersal orders had made a difference.

I say to Margaret Mitchell, with all due respect, that she was absolutely wrong to use the word "squander" in relation to the spending of resources on the introduction of community wardens. That is a shocking accusation to make about the work of 500 people throughout Scotland who are the eyes and ears of the communities in which they are based and who—as the police will confirm—are working hand in hand with the police.

Community wardens are not police officers, of course, and we made no attempt to suggest that they were, because they do a different job. I went to a conference of most of Scotland's community wardens and they told me that they could do more on behalf of communities. They said, "Give us more powers and we will use them." That proposal is well worth considering.

I know that people have differing views on Paul Martin's suggestions. This week, I met a young man from the east end of Glasgow who told me that he had been involved in antisocial behaviour. He put his hands up and told me that he had got in with the gangs and had been involved in a range of activities. The people from Glasgow City Council's antisocial behaviour team worked with him and got him involved in the Army cadets for a short time. That helped to shape his views and get him back on the right track.

Of course it is right that we should deal with the causes of crime.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I say to Patrick Harvie that it is not fair to suggest that the Executive has not examined the causes of crime, as the work of the violence reduction unit and the activities of the antisocial behaviour teams throughout Scotland demonstrate. As well as dealing with enforcement measures, they are considering how to get to the root of the problems and to carry out preventive work.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I hope that the minister acknowledges that my case was that insufficient—as opposed to zero—attention has been paid to the causes.

In relation to the minister's previous point, is it not possible that the young man whom she described would have had a less successful outcome if engagement with the antisocial behaviour team had been compulsory rather than something that he chose?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I thank Patrick Harvie for his clarification.

Sometimes there are circumstances in which we have to compel young people to undertake programmes or to do other things to change their behaviour. Of course it is right and proper that we try to get young people to turn their lives around voluntarily. However, we do those young people no favours if we simply allow them to cross the line time and time again and cause damage in communities without putting something in place—whether we are talking about antisocial behaviour orders or conditions in supervision orders—to make them realise that there are consequences to their actions. Of course we need to tackle the causes of antisocial behaviour, but for the good of the individuals who are involved in such behaviour and the wider community we must also tackle the aspects of people's behaviour that cause problems.

I think that Scotland's commissioner for children and young people circulated to MSPs a paper that suggests an approach that supports pro-social behaviour as opposed to one that deals with antisocial behaviour. Throughout Scotland, important work is going on—often supported by community wardens and police officers—to provide diversionary activities for young people. Over the weekend, I met young people who are involved in the twilight basketball initiative, which is funded by money that has been seized from the proceeds of crime and returned to the areas that have been hardest hit by drug dealing and violent crime. During an exciting final between a team of young people from Govan and a team of young people from Easterhouse, I had a chance to chat to parents from Springburn, who have seen the initiative provide a positive activity for young people in the community. They said, "It's not money and resources we want from you. Just give us local parents a bit of support to continue the initiative and give young people some hope." Such initiatives are part of our approach to antisocial behaviour. There is no single, isolated strand to our approach, as some people have tried to suggest; we have taken a comprehensive approach to dealing with problems.

Finally, I sound a cautionary note, because I heard comments during the debate that were not particularly helpful. Members seemed to be starting a bidding war around the number of extra police officers who are needed—whether it is 1,000 or 1,001. The issues that our communities face are too serious to permit us to get into a bidding war about numbers. There are issues about police visibility and about reassuring people and getting the police to do things in neighbourhoods. However, the issue is not simply the numbers; it is about how we free up police officers—

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

A member said, "Speak to the police," from a sedentary position. I speak to the police as often as other members do—if not more often. The police say that we could relieve them of certain burdens and get other people to take on the work. That will not be a soft option or policing on the cheap.

I hope that members accept that, in the areas where community wardens are operating, people think that they are doing a good job, and that in areas where there are no community wardens, people want them. I want the funding to continue, so that there are more wardens throughout Scotland.