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Principles and Priorities: The Government's Programme for Scotland

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5 A SAFER AND STRONGER SCOTLAND

We believe that Scottish families and communities can be safer. That is why we are focused as never before on improving housing and neighbourhoods, fighting crime, reducing the fear of crime and on making Scotland's communities safer.

We want to create safe physical environments with better quality housing and cohesive communities that look out for one another. We want communities to be supported by a more visible police presence to help reassure communities and deter criminals. We also want to see a justice system that tackles crime and brings perpetrators to justice quickly and effectively; provides punishments that fit the crime; has mechanisms for reducing re-offending while protecting the rest of society; and properly supports victims and witnesses.

However, having a swift and effective justice system is not enough. We know that children who are born into some of our more deprived areas and into unsupportive families stand a much greater chance of offending in later life.

We must also take responsibility for all our communities and seriously address the issues that are too often the driving force behind, but never a justification for, crime and anti-social behaviour - drink, drugs and deprivation. Our most disadvantaged communities suffer disproportionately the impacts of crime and disorder.

We must work with others, including the voluntary or third sector which plays a vital role in so many areas of Scotland, to reduce poverty and inequality, regenerate communities and encourage opportunities for all.

During our first 100 days in government, we demonstrated progress across a number of these areas. For example:

  • We have initiated negotiations with Westminster on the transfer of responsibilities for firearms legislation to the Scottish Parliament. If agreement is reached, we would introduce legislation this year;
  • We announced plans to make early progress on reforming and revitalising community sentences;
  • We began to review the law to ensure that alcohol is not seen as a mitigating factor in crimes;
  • We began consultation on a new role for communities in the process of applying for anti-social behaviour orders and in reviewing the anti-social behaviour strategy to see where it can be strengthened and improved;
  • We announced our intention to exempt a person's main home from the new court enforcement process of land attachment. This ensures the new measure will not result in an increase in homelessness; and
  • We announced plans for a new publicly-run prison to be built in the Peterhead area to replace existing facilities both there and in Aberdeen. We also announced that we would suspend and then restart the procurement process for the planned replacement prison at Bishopbriggs, so that it would remain within the public sector.

In the year ahead, we will continue to make positive progress by taking forward a number of proposals, combining both legislation and non-legislative approaches, for discussion and debate to make Scotland safer and stronger. For example:

  • We will introduce legislation to improve the justice system by modernising the arrangements for the judiciary, and strengthening their role through greater authority over the Court Service;
  • We will work with police forces to increase policing capacity by the equivalent of 1,000 additional police officers, providing a visible and identifiable presence in Scotland's communities;
  • We will introduce legislation to reform the law on rape and sexual offences in the light of the Scottish Law Commission's review;
  • We will continue building a national consensus around a new drugs strategy. We are committed to extending the most successful elements of drug treatment and testing orders to lower level offenders to help break the link between addictions and crime;
  • We will continue to take forward proposals on a cross-party basis to strengthen controls on sex offenders, including greater protection for communities through implementation of the National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders;
  • We will continue to develop a coherent policy on punishment and prisons. As part of this, we will work in partnership to develop tougher community penalties. Tough and effective community penalties will help to reduce the number of petty criminals in our prisons and help to divert them from getting started on a life of crime. Should primary legislation be required to enact these plans, we will present a Criminal Justice Bill at the appropriate time. We will also be announcing the membership and remit of the recently agreed Prisons Commission to look at the purpose of prison in a modern Scotland;
  • We will consult on proposals to broaden the range of options to resolve disputes, and develop a modern arbitration system in Scotland;
  • We will introduce legislation to reform the current flood prevention laws, which date from 1961. The primary focus on building large-scale flood prevention schemes is no longer flexible enough to address the situations we face in Scotland today. More sustainable measures are now available which can help reduce water flows. The new legislation, on which we will consult widely, will allow for a more modern and sustainable approach that will help to provide longer-term solutions to reduce flooding threats; and
  • We will also continue our efforts to give people a greater say about issues which impact upon them and to give them more responsibility for decisions which affect their local communities.

Later this year, we will publish our Strategic Spending Review which will set out in more detail our plans to achieve a safer and stronger Scotland.

Together this represents a comprehensive series of actions that will enable us to work with communities, those within the justice system and others in Parliament and beyond to improve neighbourhoods, reduce crime and its causes, and to make our communities safer and stronger.