Equally Safe

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government how it is meeting the objectives of its equally safe strategy. (S5O-03422)

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

In November 2018, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities published our first equally safe annual report, which highlighted progress made on implementing the strategy and delivery plan. Work is continuing to take forward important measures, including building understanding of consent and healthy relationships, tackling women’s inequality, ensuring early and effective interventions for victims and survivors, and holding perpetrators to account for their actions. We will continue to report on progress annually for the lifetime of the delivery plan.

Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

One of the objectives of the Scottish National Party Government strategy is that men who carry out violence against women and girls are held to account by the justice system. However, the same SNP Government is letting the vast majority of domestic abusers avoid jail, by favouring soft-touch community sentences, which—[

Interruption

.] According to Scottish Women’s Aid, such community sentences put women and children in danger. Why is the SNP refusing to exempt domestic abusers from its plan to abolish jail sentences for up to a year, as Scottish Women’s Aid and others have asked?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

You want a UK ban on short-term sentences.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Mr Yousaf, Ms McKelvie is answering the question.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer—it is all teamwork in our Government.

I emphasise the important relationships that the Government has with Scottish Women’s Aid and other organisations, which it values. Those organisations will continue to hold us to account and encourage us to do more to support victims of domestic abuse and tackle perpetrators. We will continue to work constructively with them, as the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, is currently doing.

I want to make clear our commitment to tackling all forms of violence against women and girls through our equally safe strategy, for which I have responsibility. That includes action to support perpetrators of domestic abuse to change their behaviour. We have committed an additional £2.8 million in the period from 2018 to 2020 to expand the innovative Caledonian system for domestic abuse programme, so that more male perpetrators of domestic violence can receive specific rehabilitation services.

That complements our approach to holding perpetrators to account through the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. I know that our justice system will continue to give such matters serious attention.

I gently remind Annie Wells about the proposal from the UK Government to ban short sentences. I will remind her not so gently that our policy is for a presumption against short sentences, which gives sheriffs the discretion to put away domestic abusers as they see fit.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

For a long time, coercive, controlling behaviour has been a hidden aspect of domestic abuse. Does the minister believe that the first conviction under the new

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 sends a clear signal that domestic abuse in any form will not be tolerated? I hope that it will provide assurance for victims and give them greater confidence to report all forms of abusive behaviour.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

The commencement of the

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 was a great event in the Scottish Parliament and marks a new era in Scotland in tackling domestic abuse. Coercive and controlling behaviour, which has long been a hidden aspect of domestic abuse, is increasingly being brought to the fore and highlighted as absolutely unacceptable.

The first conviction under the 2018 act is a positive start and sends a clear and unequivocal message that domestic abuse, in any and all of its forms, will not be tolerated in Scotland. There is only one person responsible for abusive behaviour: the perpetrator. I hope that the first conviction will provide reassurance to survivors that we take such abuse seriously and will hold perpetrators to account for their abusive behaviour.

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

Earlier this week, I met White Ribbon Scotland, which recently teamed up with bookies across Renfrewshire as part of a campaign that saw scores of men sign the White Ribbon Scotland pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women in any of its forms. Will the minister join me in thanking White Ribbon Scotland and all involved for running that positive campaign? Does she agree that the work of White Ribbon Scotland on changing men’s attitudes makes a vital contribution to our shared goal of ending male violence against women in all its forms?

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

I whole-heartedly join Tom Arthur in extending my thanks. I am extremely grateful for the work of White Ribbon Scotland in highlighting the important role that men and boys have to play in promoting positive role models, changing men’s attitudes and encouraging men and boys to recognise and call out male violence against women and girls in all its forms.

I have taken a keen interest in the initiative, including taking part in its work in my constituency. I look forward to continued engagement with White Ribbon Scotland, which undoubtedly has a vital role to play in our shared goal of preventing and, ultimately, eradicating, that type of violence.