Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:26 pm on 21st February 2007.

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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.