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Scottish National Party 2011

Source: SNP manifesto 2011

A visible police presence
The best way to fight crime and make our neighbourhoods safer
is to have a visible police presence on our street. That is why
over the last four years the SNP has put 1000 more police on
the beat in Scotland.
Thanks in no small part to this increased police presence
Scotland is now a safer place to live. Crime rates have fallen by
a fifth since the SNP came to power and are now at their lowest
level for 32 years. That means there are now 80,000 fewer
crimes recorded by the police each year. Violent crime is also
falling and is now at its lowest level for a quarter of a century.
Every bit as important as these statistics is the fact that studies
show that fear of crime is falling in Scotland, proving that the
increased police presence is making people feel safer.
We must build on this progress over the next five years. That’s
why we are committed to maintaining the 1000 extra police on
the beat delivered in our first four years in power.
And we will ensure that these police officers are where they are
most needed – out and about in our communities, not in the
back office. We will achieve this through improving the way
policing is organised in this country. Scotland currently has eight
police forces, each with their own bureaucracy, PR departments
and management. This is an unsustainable situation in the face
of unprecedented Westminster cuts. In order to maintain the
increased visible police presence we will reduce the number of
police forces in Scotland. However, we will ensure that Scottish
policing remains receptive and accountable to the varied and
diverse communities that they serve.
Effective action that is reducing knife crime
We know that knife crime remains one of the gravest threats to
public safety in Scotland and have acted to get knives off our
streets. Knife crime has fallen by almost one third since the SNP
came to power – that means more than 3000 fewer knife
crimes a year.
Our plans are based on proven police action that works.
We have increased the use of stop and search – there were
250,000 in Strathclyde last year alone. More stop and search
has meant fewer people carrying knives through fear of being
caught. Those who do carry are more likely to be caught and
are going to prison for longer – sentences for knife carrying are
the longest in a decade.
We will extend the tried and tested methods that work in
reducing knife crime. We have doubled funding for the highlysuccessful
‘No Knives, Better Lives’ scheme, a project that has
seen a 35% drop in knife crime through raising awareness of the
dangers of knife crime amongst young people, and will roll it out
across the country.
Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour
The vast majority of young people in Scotland are good citizens
that we can all be proud of, and only a small number are to
blame for much of the anti-social behaviour that harms our
society. So we will help youngsters stay out of trouble while
coming down hard on the persistent offenders.
We will extend and enhance the CashBack for Communities
scheme, which has taken £40 million of the ill-gotten gains
from organised crime and invested it in sport and cultural
projects for young people in exactly those areas that are worst
affected by crime and deprivation. To date, more than 500,000
young people have benefitted from this fund. We will reform
the Proceeds of Crime Act to take even more money off
criminals to re-invest in opportunities for young Scots in
our communities.
Crucial to eradicating anti-social behaviour is tackling the
underlying causes, in particular cheap booze. Cheap and widely
available alcohol fuels a huge amount of anti-social behaviour in
this country and we will, therefore, re-introduce our minimum
pricing plans.
For those who do offend, we will continue to use on-the-spot
fines to make sure that petty offenders cannot escape the
consequences of their actions. In government, the SNP has
increased the use of fixed penalty notices so that anti-social
behaviour does not go unpunished. Last year alone there were
61,000 fixed penalty notices, an increase of 26%, which means
swift justice for low-level offenders who may otherwise have
been lost in the court system.
We will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to football-related
violence and prejudice, including domestic abuse, alcohol
misuse, racism and sectarianism, and we will work with the
police and the wider community to clamp down on such
intolerable behaviour. We will take forward the six-point plan
agreed at the recent summit with Scotland’s football authorities
and Strathclyde police, and progress the work of the task force
which is examining how to implement the six-point agreement.
Domestic Violence
Domestic violence in Scotland is falling but is still far too high.
We are implementing Safer Lives: Changed Lives – a shared
approach to tackling violence against women in conjunction
with our partners in local government. We will also maintain
funding for Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland.
At the end of last year we acted to close a loophole which made
it more difficult to secure prosecutions for domestic violence
incidents that happen in a private place. A new offence of
‘engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour’ has been created
and we will work with the prosecutors and the police to ensure
this welcome new piece of legislation also makes a positive
difference for the women and men who suffer
domestic violence.
We have also taken action on stalking by tightening up the law
to give prosecutors greater scope to convict those who prey on
unsuspecting members of the public. Those who engage in
stalking or harassment via mobile phones or social networking
can also now be brought to justice.
Prison and Sentencing
In government, the SNP has taken action to end the prison
revolving door that sees three-quarters of prisoners re-offend
within just two years of their release. We have replaced
ineffective short-term sentences with tough and effective
community punishments that force petty offenders to repay
their debt to society through hard work in the community that
they have wronged. Last year alone, petty offenders were
forced to carry out 1.4 million hours of work in the community
– from shifting snow to clearing up litter. The evidence shows
that low level criminals who are punished in the community are
far less likely to re-offend, so community punishment makes
our society safer.
Instead of using prisons to give low-level offenders free bed
and board for a few months, we can now use prison for keeping
dangerous criminals off our streets. Under the SNP, those who
commit serious crimes are going to prison for longer.
This is an approach that works. So we will build on it in the
coming years. In the face of huge Tory budget cuts, we will
maintain funding for Community Payback Orders so that
offenders repay their debt to society through hard labour.
We will work to establish the Sentencing Council, already
legislated for, which will increase input from communities
into sentencing.
We will address the explosion in the female prison population,
which has doubled in the last decade despite the number of
females committing offences staying the same. We will
commission a review of female offending, including the rise in
female incarceration.
We will also continue to invest in the prison estate. Despite
unprecedented cuts to the Scottish capital budget by the UK
Government, we will deliver HMP Low Moss and HMP
Grampian as well as the second phase of HMP Shotts.
Organised Crime
Throughout our first term in office we made dealing with
organised criminal gangs a priority. We have taken £40 million
from organised criminals over the last four years to re-invest in
the communities they have damaged. We want to take even
more money off criminals, so we will seek to refine proceeds of
crime legislation, at both Scottish and UK level, to increase the
number of offences that this legislation covers. We will keep the
legislation under constant review so that police are able to react
quickly to developments in the criminal world. Currently, the UK
Government keeps anything above £30 million in one year that
is raised through the Act – we will open negotiations to remove
this limit and allow even more money seized from criminals to
be invested in our communities.
Organised gangs prey on hard-working and law-abiding
businesses, using taxi firms or tanning salons as a front for their
criminal activities. The SNP will not stand by and let legitimate
businesses be infiltrated by thugs and criminals. So we will
introduce new Serious and Organised Crime Prevention Orders
to restrict the activities of those with known criminal
connections, including getting involved in running a business.
Despite the big reductions in Scotland’s capital budget we will
deliver the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh – Scotland’s first
serious organised crime campus. This will greatly enhance police
ability to disrupt and prosecute organised criminals – for
instance through a state-of-the-art forensic lab.
Supporting the Victims of Crime
The most important people in the criminal justice system are
the victims. In government, the SNP has legislated to rebalance
the justice system in favour of victims by giving courts more
flexibility to award compensation against an offender and
update compensation orders so they can reflect changes in the
means of the offender. We have also provided more protection
for vulnerable witnesses, including making it easier for courts to
grant witnesses anonymity.
We are determined to build on this progress and ensure that the
rights of victims are always the priority in our justice system.
That is why we will introduce a Victims’ Rights Bill. This
legislation will enshrine in law a victim’s right to damages and
compensation. It will also give victims input into sentencing
policy and parole decisions, so that those who are most
affected by crime have a say in how criminals are dealt with.
We know from Victim Support Scotland that too many victims
accepting compensation offers or receiving compensation
orders are paid late, and for many victims receiving
compensation is a drawn out and stressful affair. We will look at
that situation and put in place measures to help victims get
their compensation more quickly.
Victims of crime will benefit from the continuation of our
important legal reforms. Early on in our period of office we
reformed the law to allow the Crown the right of appeal and we
have legislated to address double jeopardy. If re-elected we will
seek to introduce a law of evidence of similar fact – commonly
known as a ‘Bad Character’ law. This will mean that, in some of
the most serious cases such as murder or rape, relevant
previous convictions will be permissible as evidence.

Automatic Early Release
Over the last four years, we have made real progress towards
transparency in sentencing. In the courts, the judiciary are
clearer in spelling out the period that applies for custody and
under licence in serious cases. The length of sentence for those
committing the most serious offences has increased, improving
public safety. We have also legislated for a sentencing council to
help deliver more consistent and transparent sentencing.
We will build on the work already done and involve the
sentencing council in further action to address unconditional
early automatic release. We remain committed to ending
automatic early release once the criteria set by the McLeish
Commission are met. Those released on licence must be
appropriately supervised for their risk and harm they pose. With
Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPAs) now
established to coordinate the agencies who manage offenders,
we will continue to work to make our communities safer and
the courts that protect them more transparent.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drug and alcohol abuse is the cause of a great deal of crime in
Scotland. In office, the SNP government took bold action on
both. We introduced a major new drugs strategy that shifted
the emphasis in dealing with drug abusers from managing
addiction to recovery. This means less reliance on methadone
and more funding for treatment services that have a proven
track record of successful recovery. To deliver this, we increased
funding for drug treatment by 20%.
This approach has helped to achieve a fall in drug use in
Scotland of almost a quarter. But far too many lives continue to
be ruined by drugs. That is why we will maintain investment at
2010-11 levels in frontline drug treatment services.
Alcohol abuse is estimated to be the underlying cause of over
300,000 offences in Scotland each year. In office, the SNP has
led the way in addressing the harm that alcohol inflicts on
Scottish society – banning irresponsible promotions in
supermarkets and introducing a social responsibility levy to
ensure those who profit from the sale of alcohol also help pay
for the harm it does. Opposition parties regrettably put party
politics ahead of public safety by voting against minimum
pricing, which was supported by the police. We will re-introduce
this vital policy in the next parliament to eradicate the cheap
booze that fuels so much crime in Scotland.
We will also clamp down on those adults who supply booze to
kids. A legal loophole means that adults can buy alcohol for
someone under the age of 18 if the alcohol is consumed in
public. This encourages outdoor drinking dens of young people,
where those in the group who are over 18 buy alcohol for
younger members. We will close this loophole and give the
police the power they need to disrupt these drinking dens.
Firearms
We are determined to deal with gun crime in Scotland and will
propose to the UK government the creation of a new Ballistics
‘DNA’ Database so each and every firearm in Scotland can be
tracked. All new guns would be test-fired before being sold to
record the unique marks or scratches the gun leaves on the
bullet it fires. This would greatly enhance the ability of the
police to track guns used in criminal activities.
We welcome proposals in the Scotland Bill to devolve
competence for air weapons to the Scottish Parliament which
should be used to create a licensing regime for all airguns so
that only those with a legitimate reason, such as sport or pest
control, will be able to own an airgun. We hope this is a first
step leading to the devolution of responsibility for all firearms
legislation. With complete powers we could replace the current
confusing array of firearm laws with a single all-encompassing
Act to provide clarity for the police and improve public safety.
Civil Justice and Legal Aid
The SNP believes that justice must be available to everyone
irrespective of their wealth.
We are determined to make our civil justice system more
accessible, affordable and quicker. That is why we will take
forward the recommendations of the Gill Review. We will seek
ways to introduce, in certain clearly defined circumstances, a
form of Class Action to enable groups of small claimants to
combine to seek redress through the courts – further lowering
financial obstacles to justice.
In legal aid, we have already more than doubled the upper
disposable income limit for financial assistance for civil legal aid
to £25,000 – making more people potentially eligible for legal
aid. However, in the face of UK Government cuts, providing
legal representation for our most vulnerable will be a challenge.
We will ensure that legal aid is available to those who need it
most, and we will discuss with stakeholders and the wider
public how best to target resources.
The decision of the UK Supreme Court to overrule seven senior
Scottish judges in the Scottish Criminal Appeals Court in the
Cadder case with regard to police detention and questioning has
aftermath of this decision, the SNP government took the swift
action necessary to ensure that our criminal legal practices
complied with ECHR, and we tasked Lord Carloway, a senior
High Court judge, to examine the wider implications for our
justice system.
Going forward, we will demand the same rights for Scots law in
relation to the ECHR as enjoyed by other jurisdictions. And we
will protect the independence of Scots law by continuing our
efforts to ensure that the High Court of Justiciary remains as
the ultimate court of criminal appeal in Scotland – not the UK
Supreme Court.
[. . .]
Sexual Offences
Crimes of a sexual nature are particularly detestable. The low
rate of conviction in rape cases in this country is a matter of
grave concern for us all. That is why the SNP took action in
office to improve the conviction rate through clarifying the law
in relation to consent and toughening up rape and sexual
offences law.
And we will do more to ensure those guilty of rape are brought
to justice. We will legislate so that judges will direct juries not to
take into account any delay in reporting a rape or any apparent
lack of resistance from the victim when reaching their decision.
This will remove two of the largest obstacles to securing
conviction in a rape case.