Police, Fire and Rescue Services: Funding Reductions — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:11 am on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 10:11 am, 20th February 2019

It is my pleasure and privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie.

I congratulate Grahame Morris on bringing the debate to the Floor in the Westminster Hall Chamber. I share his tributes to the police, the fire services and the emergency services of all the nations of these islands. I also take the opportunity to commend him for his comments on the dangers of making the fire service a scapegoat for the Grenfell fire. The thrust of what he was saying was that if we want to know who was responsible for the Grenfell fire, we should follow the money—see who benefited from the cheap cladding and the poor upkeep of the building—rather than blaming the men and women who risked their lives to save lives that night.

We have heard a number of interesting and diverse contributions, from the hon. Members for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss. My hon. Friend raised in particular the role that the fire services play in Scotland, with their proactive preventive measures, such as offering to go into people’s homes to assess their anti-fire readiness. That proactive strategy is reflected in the way the Scottish police force, the Crown Office and some Scottish social services have approached the problem of knife crime in Scotland, treating it as a public health emergency. My hon. Friend has spoken about that eloquently on a number of occasions.

This debate is really about funding. The hon. Member for Easington painted a concerning picture of the effect of the reductions in police and fire and rescue services across England and Wales. Those concerns are clearly widely held. As the Scottish National party spokesperson for justice and home affairs, I want to contribute constructively to the debate by offering an overview of the somewhat different position in Scotland. In an era of severe funding cuts to police and fire services across England and Wales, the UK Government would do well to look to the example of the Scottish Government, who have managed to protect such vital public services from the worst excesses of the UK Government’s failed austerity project.

Let us look at the stats on crime in Scotland, from the Scottish crime and justice survey. Since 2008-09, crime has fallen by 32%. The vast majority of people in Scotland—87%—say that they experience no crime. That is not to diminish the severe experiences of the 13% who do but, again, the Scottish Government have leading legislation for the victims of crime and for vulnerable witnesses. Since 2006-07, recorded crime in Scotland has fallen by 42%, and non-sexual violent crime is at one of its lowest levels since 1974, and represents a 49% fall since 2006-07. That is largely due to the public health approach to the problem of knife crime in Scotland, in which the police and emergency services collaborate with other healthcare and social services professionals to reduce violent crime at a time when it is sadly on the rise in England and Wales.