The 2021-22 justice portfolio budget will be more than £3 billion. It includes a £60 million increase for the Scottish Police Authority that will eliminate the police budget deficit and allow Police Scotland to deliver a sustainable budget position, while protecting the police workforce. We continue to be grateful to police officers and staff who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public and keep communities safe, particularly during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
I note that David Crichton, the interim chair of the Scottish Police Authority, said that the budget represented a strong vote of confidence in the authority and Police Scotland, and that it particularly recognises the outstanding performance of the police service in protecting the country’s safety and wellbeing during the pandemic. What further actions is the Scottish Government taking to keep crime at its second lowest level since 1974?
David Crichton was absolutely right in characterising that as a huge vote of confidence in the work that Police Scotland is doing. Both the staff and the police officers have done an incredible job in keeping us safe during the pandemic. We will continue to invest in the Scottish violence reduction unit, which has been recognised worldwide for the good work that it has done—the navigators programme, the mentors on violence prevention and the no knives, better lives programme.
Additional funding will be used to expand those programmes and to enable further support within our communities, schools and hospitals to prevent or tackle violence and knife crime. We will continue to support our national and local community safety partners to share resources and provide services to inform and reassure the public, giving them trusted and consistent information and advice on how to keep themselves and their communities safe from crime. We have provided annual grant funding to neighbourhood watch and Crimestoppers since 2014 to help support the prevention and reporting of crime.
In the draft budget, the Scottish National Party intends to cut the capital budget for victims and witnesses support by £2 million while increasing the total budget for offender services by £2.3 million. Does the cabinet secretary agree with me that prioritising offenders at the expense of victims is surely the wrong way around and that victims will not feel safe or supported with that increasingly soft-touch approach to justice?
I could not disagree more with that characterisation from Liam Kerr. Capital costs would have been for one-off projects, of course, but that binary approach of spending on offenders versus spending on victims is the wrong way to look at things. When we invest in offenders, that is with the hope and intention of ensuring that they do not go on to reoffend. If they do not reoffend, there are fewer victims of crime and everybody in society wins. Instead of looking at the issue through a paradigm of hard justice versus soft justice, I urge my colleague Liam Kerr to do what the Scottish Government does, which is to follow the evidence that will lead to a smart justice approach.