Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:17 pm on 21st February 2007.

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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.