Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:35 pm on 21st February 2007.

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

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.