Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:59 pm on 21st February 2007.

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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.