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Scottish Budget Spending Review 2007

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CHAPTER 6: A SAFER AND STRONGER SCOTLAND

Help local communities to flourish, becoming stronger, safer places to live, offering improved opportunities and a better quality of life.

SUMMARY

We believe that a more successful Scotland will also be a safer and stronger Scotland for our families and communities. We want communities to thrive, becoming better places to live and work. We will achieve this by focusing on improving housing and neighbourhoods, fighting crime, and reducing the fear of crime.

Safer and stronger communities have an important role to play in delivering our overall Purpose. By making our communities safer and stronger we increase the attractiveness of Scotland as a place to live and work, attract high quality businesses and talented migrants, reduce out-migration and secure the productive engagement of an even higher proportion of the population.

To help achieve a safer and stronger Scotland, the Scottish Government will:

  • take targeted action to help regenerate the most disadvantaged communities and ensure that they are fully engaged in the regeneration process, including support of £145 million each year to tackle poverty and deprivation and to help more people overcome barriers and get back into work;
  • invest £430.0m/£507.8m/£533.2m in new and better housing across Scotland, including in our most deprived communities;
  • challenge Scotland's local authorities, developers and builders to increase the rate of new housing supply in Scotland to at least 35,000 a year by the middle of the next decade, as part of our wide-ranging consultation on the future of housing in Scotland;
  • invest £13.5m/£18.0m/£22.5m to make an additional 1,000 police officers available in our communities through increased recruitment, improved retention and redeployment of police officers;
  • tackle organised crime through the newly-created Serious Organised Crime Taskforce;
  • reform the summary justice system to make it more effective and to help reduce re-offending, helping more of us to lead full and productive lives;
  • develop a coherent policy on punishment and prisons, including a shift away from short custodial sentences to tougher community penalties, backed by additional funding of £1.2m/£3.3m/£3.3m;
  • invest significantly in replacing and modernising prison capacity, with extra investment of £12.8m/£21.0m/£29.2m;
  • reduce drugs misuse and help lower-level offenders to break the link between addictions and crime;
  • develop proposals, building on the Gill Review which is due to report in 2009, for the radical modernisation of our civil legal system, making it more efficient and improving access to justice;
  • support young people in making positive choices through increased opportunities and respond quickly and effectively to problems; and
  • as part of our climate change adaptation programme, introduce revised flood prevention and protection legislation to streamline and modernise our approach to protecting communities from flooding.

OUR AMBITION FOR A SAFER AND STRONGER SCOTLAND

Our people - as individuals, in their families and in their communities - want to live in a safer and stronger Scotland. We want safe physical environments with better quality housing and a sense of community. By focusing our efforts on reducing crime and the fear of crime, on improving housing and regenerating disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and on helping local communities to thrive socially and economically, we will help people to live full lives and reach their potential.

By making Scotland safer and stronger we will help to promote Scotland's good quality of life, attracting talented individuals and businesses and retaining the talent which is already based here.

Feeling safe and part of an orderly community whose members look out for one another is important to our welfare, sense of wellbeing, and success in life. It strengthens our capacity to manage our lives well without intervention from public service agencies, and to bring up children in a way that equips us to be successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. It also helps everyone to contribute to a growing economy, lead healthier lives, and live in a more sustainable way that is better for the environment.

Most of Scotland's communities are great places to live and work. However, many of our communities remain blighted by antisocial behaviour and alcohol misuse. Some are plagued by serious crime, with many of our most disadvantaged areas hit hardest.

We know that too many in our communities are affected by violence and domestic abuse. We know also that some children and young people are at greater risk of becoming involved in offending because of the circumstances into which they are born. We will work with our delivery partners to act swiftly in identifying and dealing with risks to children, young people and families in order to prevent these risks from becoming long-term problems, to equip young people with the resilience they need to make good choices in life, and to offer positive alternatives to offending behaviour.

A strong community enjoys more than feeling safe from crime and antisocial behaviour. It is secure and welcoming, with access to high quality services and amenities, and a place where people recognise their responsibilities and their rights. It is also able to act swiftly and effectively when things go wrong, for example through fire, flooding or terrorism. We want to create a Scotland where our laws and practices respect and protect our diverse communities, promote tolerance and mutual respect, and maximise the opportunities for everybody to thrive.

DELIVERING A SAFER AND STRONGER SCOTLAND

Many public services that can influence whether communities become safer and stronger are wholly devolved. These include policing, housing and regeneration, education, the legal system, and social services, including services for children and families. Many are delivered through local authorities - often, in the case of social care services, involving private and voluntary providers as delivery partners - and they rely on substantial funding from the Scottish Government.

Outcome: We live in well-designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need

We are committed to creating successful and sustainable communities across Scotland through a range of economic, physical, social and environmental improvements. We will do this by creating the right environment for public and private investment; taking targeted action in the most disadvantaged communities; and devolving power to the local level so that communities can have more influence and ownership.

Disadvantaged areas with poor quality housing and a lack of decent facilities and services can affect the life chances of the people who live there and the strength and vibrancy of the local community. So we will take joined up action to address the many problems such areas face. As part of this, our regeneration work will support Scotland's Pathfinder Urban Regeneration Companies in the comprehensive regeneration of their areas, backed by funding of £19.0m/£34.0m/£13.0m. These will be safe places where businesses will want to invest. Regeneration helps to improve the attractiveness of Scotland as a place to live and work, whilst good quality housing supply facilitates population retention and growth from in-migration, both of which are fundamental to the achievement of our overall Purpose.

The provision of high quality sustainable housing is not just an issue in our disadvantaged communities. We want to ensure that people across Scotland have the opportunity to live in a secure, warm house that they can afford, and will invest £430.0m/£507.8m/£533.2m in new and better housing across Scotland, including in our most deprived communities.

Our wide-ranging consultation on the future of housing in Scotland will help us to consider how we can free up the supply of housing to rent and buy in order to create sustainable, mixed communities and to provide a fair deal for first-time buyers, tenants and taxpayers. Our newly established Housing Supply Task Force will tackle the obstacles that are preventing the completion of new housing projects currently in the pipeline. We are also pursuing the creation of a Housing Support Fund to generate private finance to support first-time buyers.

We will increase our emphasis on preventing homelessness in the first place, while progressing delivery of homelessness legislation to ensure that homeless people are treated fairly and given the necessary support to secure and maintain a place to live.

Improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of public transport will provide better access to essential services and economic opportunities, including for communities in less accessible or remote parts of Scotland. We continue to support bus services across Scotland through the Bus Service Operators Grant, and will provide an annual subsidy of £57.2 million to the bus industry to support lower fares and encourage bus patronage. We are also providing resources to local government to support local bus services and community-based transport. Encouraging and promoting the use of greener, healthy and active ways of getting around can also improve the quality of the places we live in.

Making Scotland's roads even safer will make an important contribution. We will continue to prioritise road safety, including through funding for Road Safety Scotland, Safety Camera Partnerships and other initiatives. We intend to give more strategic direction to road safety and to make use of a range of organisations involved in improving road safety. We are taking action to develop a ten year Road Safety Strategy for Scotland, drawing on the experience of a number of leading road safety experts through an Advisory Expert Panel.

We are planning to amend the legislation dealing with flooding to encourage a more sustainable approach to flood risk management in Scotland. This will involve natural flood management processes such as wetland creation, alongside the more traditional flood alleviation schemes. We will be consulting widely on our proposals, aimed at delivering long term benefits to communities at risk from flooding. We have transferred the substantial resources for flood protection to local authorities, including the funding associated with schemes which have already been confirmed.

In addition to addressing flood risk, we are also working to address other unavoidable consequences of climate change with the development of Scotland's first climate change adaptation strategy. This strategy will identify priority action to safeguard the smooth functioning of our communities' services and infrastructure. We will also work alongside the UK Government and the other Devolved Administrations to deliver the UK Adaptation Policy Framework which will improve understanding of climate change adaptation across the UK.

Outcome: We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others

Communities that are tolerant, and where people live easily together, are likely to provide safer places to live and a better quality of life for everybody. We will take a range of actions to support the more vulnerable members of society, including action to tackle racism and sectarianism. We will take forward our manifesto commitment to extend hate crime legislation to protect disabled people and people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Our work in this area will also support a strong, fair and inclusive national identity.

Significant progress has been made in tackling sectarianism, including work based around football, marches and parades and education. We will take forward this important work by developing existing partnerships and forming new ones. In particular, we will look at how this agenda can be broadened to ensure that Scotland's people do not have to tolerate any form of religious discrimination.

In partnership with local government in Scotland, we will work to help disabled and vulnerable people to live independently in their communities by, for example, providing housing support services for a wide range of client groups, and by assisting homeowners who need financial support to improve their housing conditions, including through the installation of disability adaptations.

Outcome: We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society

We face a serious challenge in identifying and effectively helping people and households with multiple and complex needs. Often the hardest to reach and hardest to help in society, people with a range of interrelated problems are also often concentrated in a relatively small number of local areas. This presents a significant challenge to public services. Patterns of severe disadvantage often repeat themselves generation after generation, and it is vital that we take effective action now to break the cycle of disadvantage.

We will work with Community Planning Partnerships and our partners in the community and the third sector to ensure that we effectively help these individuals and households address their problems. This will often involve developing systems for intervention early enough to prevent problems escalating. We will also integrate this focus on resolving problems into our policies on tackling poverty, inequality, social exclusion and regeneration.

We are committed to strengthening support for children, young people and families and to securing the best outcomes for all children. The Smarter Scotland chapter sets out how government will work with partners across the public and voluntary sectors to achieve effective support, greater resilience and improved life chances for children, young people and families who are in vulnerable situations.

Strong communities are, in part, founded on an accessible, fair and trusted justice system that protects people's rights and upholds their responsibilities. We will take forward a radical programme to modernise our civil justice system, taking account of Lord Gill's review of the civil courts, due to report in 2009. The modernisation programme will seek to broaden access to justice, use technology to deliver justice more efficiently, and promote new and more accessible ways to resolve disputes.

Outcome: We live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger

A safer Scotland will safeguard society from harm and ensure effective justice for all. The justice system seeks to punish offenders and to deter them from re-offending, whilst protecting the rest of society.

At the moment, people in Scotland have a sense of personal security that is lower than actual levels of crime suggest that it ought to be - and perceptions are important. More visible policing helps to deter and detect crime and increase the public's sense of security. We will deliver an additional 1,000 police officers in our communities through increased recruitment, improved retention and redeployment. As part of that we will invest £13.5m/£18.0m/£22.5m in recruiting an additional 500 police officers by 2011.

Three years have passed since the launch of the Antisocial Behaviour Strategy, which sought to bring about a step change in behaviour and attitudes. We will review this strategy to see where it can be strengthened and improved and to determine how communities can be more usefully involved. We will do this in consultation with key stakeholders and draw on research evidence. The review will include examination of key aspects of the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 and will seek to learn from, and build on, what is working well. We will announce recommendations by the end of 2008.

We will strengthen our response to youth offending through early, multi-agency intervention that nips bad behaviour in the bud. We will build on improvements to the Children's Hearing System to ensure an effective, joined up response to young people who pose a risk to themselves or others. We will strengthen the management of those young people who present the highest risk to themselves and others, for example by investing in a world-class secure estate.

We will also increase our efforts to tackle the mindless violence that blights many parts of Scotland. Taking robust action on knife crime, alcohol-fuelled violence and collective violence, most commonly in gangs, will be a priority, and we will support and work in partnership with the national Violence Reduction Unit to find long-lasting solutions to these problems. We will also continue our work on addressing violence against women and tackling domestic abuse.

We must break the link between alcohol, violence and disorder. Far too many of our town and city centres are blighted by violence and disorder which is often fuelled by the over-consumption of alcohol. We will take steps to end the culture of deep-discounting and irresponsible promotions, and we will consider the feasibility of minimum pricing. These early actions will provide a platform for a long-term alcohol strategy that will seek to change the culture of alcohol consumption in Scotland.

Tackling drug misuse is one of the major social challenges of our time, and it is time to review our approach. We will seek to develop a national consensus on how to tackle drug misuse. Our new strategy will set out clear national outcomes and a programme of action that ensures improved service delivery to promote recovery from drug addiction; early intervention to protect children; drug education that works; effective enforcement; and more appropriate court disposals. We will provide financial support of £29.5m/£32.0m/£32.8m to help tackle drug misuse.

Our clear aim is to prevent and deter crimes. At the same time, those who offend must face the consequences of their actions. We will take action to ensure a swift and effective justice system. We will aim to reduce offending and re-offending by bringing cases to a conclusion in the most appropriate way as quickly as possible. New direct measures will include greater use of fiscal fines and compensation offers, and making changes to legal aid and the scheduling of cases in court to ensure that criminal cases are disposed of at the earliest opportunity.

We will also ensure that communities throughout Scotland can have confidence that those who commit the most serious offences are dealt with swiftly. This will be achieved by focusing on the efficient management of business in the High Court, ensuring that cases that can be resolved without a trial are disposed of at the earliest opportunity, and bringing greater certainty to the proceedings of the High Court for the benefit of victims and witnesses.

We believe that many less serious offenders who currently get short prison sentences should be paying back their debts to society in the community - not adding to society's bill for their bed and board. Tough community punishments will protect the public, help offenders turn their lives around, and involve some pay-back to the communities they have harmed. We will provide additional funding of £1.2m/£3.3m/£3.3m to support this work.

Prison places should be for serious and dangerous offenders - with the public sector operating any future new prisons, including the planned prison in Bishopbriggs and the new prison which will replace prisons in Aberdeen and Peterhead. By our effective management of prisoners while in custody we will seek to reduce their risk of reoffending on release and hence reduce the risk they will pose to others. We will invest an additional £12.8m/£21.0m /£29.2m to support the ongoing development and modernisation of the prison estate.

Organised crime can have a serious detrimental impact on our law-abiding communities, businesses and business growth. That is why we have created a Serious Organised Crime Taskforce to support and help law enforcement agencies build on the good work they are already doing. We want to make life hard for organised criminals, take away their illicit profits, and make sure that they are arrested and prosecuted.

By tackling crime quickly and using a wider range of measures appropriate for specific offences, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, working with the police and other criminal justice partners, will help to reduce crime and the fear of crime, improve the conditions which support economic development and social capital in communities, and enhance the quality of life of all Scottish people.

Contingency planning will help us prepare for the consequences of unexpected events. We will work with a wide range of partners to ensure that Scotland is well prepared to deal with the consequences of any emergency, as responder agencies plan and exercise together effectively; maintain a clear understanding of the risks; understand what capability is available locally and nationally; use resources flexibly and pragmatically; and ensure adequate training, preparation and evaluation.

We will ensure that our modern and efficient Fire and Rescue Service works harmoniously with other stakeholders to reduce the economic and social impact of fire and other emergencies by contributing to a reducing trend in the number of fires and fire-related fatalities, injuries and damage; a reduction in antisocial behaviour (in particular, fire-raising and attacks on firefighters); and effective response to local and national emergencies. This will be aided by our new Firelink communications system, to be funded by our additional spending on the fire service of £33.8m/£9.7m/£7.5m.

All this activity will help create a safer and stronger Scotland and provide an essential sound basis for securing growth. It will deal with the causes and effects of crime, and empower people to create a sustainable, more cohesive society where everyone can take advantage of the opportunities available and enjoy a better quality of life.