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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 30 January 2019

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Education (Presumption to Mainstream), Tackling Antisocial Behaviour, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Equally Safe at Work


Contents


Tackling Antisocial Behaviour

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-15615, in the name of Liam Kerr, on tackling antisocial behaviour.

15:51  

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

We rightly spend a great deal of time in the chamber discussing high-profile crimes, but we rarely discuss something that is lower level, but can be nonetheless devastating in its own way and have a major impact on the quality of peoples’ lives, the cohesion of their communities and the amenity of the space in which they live. I am talking about antisocial behaviour.

We have all experienced antisocial behaviour at one level or another—people coming into the garden or the stair and relieving themselves or smoking; the guy shouting at kids, so drunk that he cannot stand; the neighbours blasting out music that shakes the floor; the window of the community centre being panned in yet again; the local corner shop being tagged with spray paint; or coming out in the morning to find that every car in the row has been keyed.

I have witnessed all those in recent months in Aberdeen. That is not surprising because Scottish Government statistics show that there are around 41 antisocial behaviour incidents every day in Aberdeen. In fact, throughout Scotland, there are nearly such 1,000 incidents every day—and those are just the ones that are reported to police. That equates to more than 340,000 antisocial behaviour incidents last year, and the numbers are increasing. The overall number of incidents is up by 5 per cent, disturbances are up by 9 per cent, noise incidents are up by 5 per cent, and vandalism is up by 5 per cent.

Those are not the big-ticket issues: they do not make the evening news, but make no mistake—such incidents, on a repeated and escalating basis, are inconvenient for some people, aggravating for others and debilitating and terrifying for many. People lie each night knowing that the music will probably come on at some point, so even if it does not, they cannot relax, or they listen at night to the muted conversations on the corner outside their window, punctuated by the sound of smashing glass.

We also know from the Scottish crime and justice survey that deprived communities still suffer most from vandalism, littering and property crimes. If we allow that to continue unchecked, we are telling communities that they do not deserve to live free of such low-level intimidation and disruption; that they are not worthy of having a safe and stress-free environment; and that we will continue to allow their community cohesion to suffer, while sending the signal that more serious criminal activity will, similarly, go unchecked.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Will Liam Kerr join me in commending programmes such as streetsport, which is run by the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen? That programme, in conjunction with the police, goes into areas where people are experiencing the kind of antisocial behaviour that he describes.

Liam Kerr

I commend that programme. I am familiar with the work that it does in Aberdeen, and I have no doubt that there are many such organisations throughout Scotland that are also worthy of merit.

However, we need to try something new to address the fact that antisocial behaviour is rising. If we do not, we are telling elderly people, parents with young children and night-shift workers who are trying to sleep during the day that the impact of antisocial behaviour on them, their communities and their health is not important enough to be dealt with.

The Conservatives do not think that the issue is being taken seriously enough. I hope that the other parties will show that they agree by backing our motion.

Under the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, police officers have the power to impose a fixed-penalty notice on people aged 16 and over who are behaving antisocially. There are three key advantages to an on-the-spot fine: it is a swift and effective punishment for low-level antisocial and nuisance offending, it is a highly visible deterrent to others, and it frees up police officers on our streets to spend more time dealing with more serious crimes. The fine is £50, payable within 28 days, failing which it goes up to £75 and becomes a court debt. Once it is paid, the matter is over. It is a short, sharp shock with no criminal record attached.

Just last week, Ash Denham, the Minister for Community Safety, said:

“Fixed penalty notices are an important tool, forming part of a wide range of powers which enable the police and local authorities to exercise judgement when tackling antisocial behaviour.”—[Written Answers, 23 January 2019; S5O-02807.]

I agree, but antisocial behaviour is rising and the use of fixed-penalty notices has declined by 75 per cent. About 55,000 were issued in 2013-14, and about 11,000 were issued last year. There seems to be a disconnect, to which the motion in my name seeks to provide a solution.

In England and Wales, there is a similar scheme, but there is a crucial difference: penalty offences are divided into lower-tier and upper-tier offences, depending on their seriousness, and attract penalties of £60 and £90 respectively. In Northern Ireland there is also a two-tier system, with fines of £45 and £85, depending on the severity of the offence.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Liam Kerr is making good points, but does he acknowledge that there is no simple cost benefit, and that an increase in fines might disproportionately impact on people who can least afford to pay?

Liam Kerr

I do not know that an increase in fines would automatically disproportionately impact such people, but Daniel Johnson has raised an important point. I note the amendment that he lodged, which has merit. I will listen to the debate, but the points that I think he will make are, in principle, supportable by the Scottish Conservatives.

In Scotland, a review of fixed-penalty notices concluded that police officers think that having the power to issue them provides greater opportunities to deal with antisocial behaviour, but the existing fines are insufficient for dealing with more serious behaviour.

Therefore, in my motion I make a simple proposition that could remind communities that are blighted by antisocial behaviour that Parliament has not abandoned them. The motion simply asks Parliament to support the principle of an increased penalty for more serious antisocial behaviour incidents.

When we look at the English model, we see that the behaviour that would be covered might include possession and throwing of fireworks or breaching a fireworks curfew. I know that the minister is concerned about that issue, so I offer a solution. It might include criminal damage of less than £300, minor shoplifting on a first offence, or selling alcohol to someone under 18. Daniel Johnson is rightly concerned about shop workers: I offer a solution.

The approach would ensure that more crime can be punished. It would deliver direct and swift justice to low-level offenders, and would ensure a direct link between the offence and the punishment. Crucially, it would be a more effective deterrent than we currently have.

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham)

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Liam Kerr

I really cannot. I am in my final minute.

For the purposes of debate, I suggest that we retain the £50 baseline and fix the penalty for more serious antisocial behaviour at £100. I have based that on what happens in the rest of the UK and on what I believe would have genuine deterrent value, although I will be interested to hear members’ views on whether those are the appropriate levels.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe community, free from the menace of vandalism, noise and disruptive drunken behaviour. A higher fixed penalty for more serious antisocial behaviour would require a straightforward piece of secondary legislation. It would give constables on the ground the tools that they need, it would deliver instant justice for victims and communities, which would counter the feeling that low-level offending is ignored, and it would ensure a strong immediate link between the behaviour and the punishment.

Perhaps most important, given that it is often the most vulnerable people, including the elderly, who are most intimidated by antisocial behaviour, it would send a signal that we will protect those people from the behaviour that blights their communities.

Presiding Officer, we should increase the fixed-penalty notice for the worst antisocial behaviour. It is time to make the fine fit the crime.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is all very well, Mr Kerr, but will you move the motion? [Laughter.]

Liam Kerr

I move,

That the Parliament supports a higher level of fixed penalty notice for more serious antisocial behaviour.

15:59  

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham)

The Scotland that I want to see is one in which everyone, regardless of their background, is able to live in peace, feeling safe in their home and their community, and in which people are able to raise their families in secure environments, free from the threat of abuse and the fear of harassment or intimidation.

I do not want to see anybody caught up in any form of antisocial behaviour and, as a citizen, I do not want my family or my community to be subjected to it either. None of us wants that, and that is why the Scottish Government and its partner organisations are keen to continue to deliver effective ways of tackling antisocial behaviour and its causes.

Effectively tackling antisocial behaviour requires a partnership approach, with Police Scotland, local authorities and the court services all playing a central role in delivering positive outcomes in communities across Scotland. There is much truth in the old adage that prevention is better than cure. That is why we must never lose sight of the fact that prevention activities, including early interventions, must work hand in hand with robust criminal justice legislation.

We have seen evidence of a long-term sustained reduction in experiences and perceptions of antisocial behaviour in communities across Scotland. That is reflected in the Scottish crime and justice survey, which shows that the percentage of adults who think that people behave in an antisocial manner in their local area has fallen from 46 per cent in 2008-9 to just 29 per cent in 2016-17.

The estimated percentage of adults who have actually experienced vandalism has almost halved between 2008-9 and 2016-17

Liam Kerr

That is about perceptions. The minister must go out into communities and find out what is really happening on the ground. Frankly, people are still experiencing such behaviour. Does the minister not agree?

Ash Denham

All the evidence suggests that there has been a long-term sustained reduction in all crime in Scotland, including antisocial behaviour. The member would be wise to look at the data, in which he would see that for himself.

However, we are not complacent and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that our justice partners have the powers to further reduce antisocial behaviour. It is vital that we continue to build on the diversionary and preventative work that has been undertaken over the last decade to develop the skills and resilience of our young people and help them to make better and positive life choices.

Since 2008, we have committed £92 million to cashback for communities and other community initiatives that deliver nearly 2 million activities and opportunities for young people across all 32 local authorities in Scotland. From 2017 to 2020, £70 million has been committed from cashback for communities, with a focus on tackling inequalities and providing opportunities to raise the attainment, ambition and aspiration of young people from areas of deprivation across Scotland. We have also invested over £3.4 million since 2009 for delivery of the no knives, better lives campaign and programme, which is informed by and complements wider youth diversionary interventions and activities that aim to prevent antisocial behaviour and offending from occurring in the first place.

The mentors in violence prevention programme, which is being developed in 140 schools across 22 local authorities, helps to lead young people to more positive destinations. Where young people are involved in or at risk of offending, we remain committed to an integrated whole-system approach to tackle deeds while also taking account of wider needs. That approach is driving improvements.

To support our continued commitment to early intervention to prevent offending, cut reoffending and keep young people out of formal systems, as far as is possible, we have committed £1.6 million over two years for all local authorities in Scotland to support, renew and extend the whole-system approach, to allow for continued partnership working and to strengthen links between youth justice, community justice, education, the third sector and children’s services. Where possible, that approach will be extended to young people aged 21 and, for care-experienced young people, up to the age of 26. That funding is making a real difference in communities.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I hear everything that the minister is saying, but I have not heard a single reason why she does not support the concept of a higher penalty for more serious offences. Will the minister furnish us with some detail on why she does not support the motion?

Ash Denham

First, fixed-penalty notices are only one part of an integrated approach in our justice system and there is no evidence at the moment to suggest that a higher level of fixed-penalty notice would have the effect that Conservative members are seeking.

We keep the matter under review. We are always listening to our justice partners, and we will ask them—they are the experts—about the matter. At the moment, we have no plans to raise the level, but we will keep that under review.

In Fife, a social work assistant is being employed to make connections with schools, strengthening the operational links between those schools and Fife’s diversion group. In South Ayrshire, the money will be used to extend the garden project, which is targeted at young people aged 15 to 18, and up to the age of 26 for care-experienced young people, who are at risk of offending or who have been engaged in low-level offending. Those young people are learning new and transferable skills, such as how to communicate better in a group and how to work together in a team, which will support them as they move to positive adulthood.

Although fixed-penalty notices are an important tool in our response to antisocial behaviour, they form only a part of the wide range of powers that already exist to tackle antisocial and criminal behaviour. Our approach is robust and holistic. We will continue to build on it, to deliver the Scotland that we all want to see.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Yet again! That is all very well, but would you like to move your amendment?

Ash Denham

I move amendment S5M-15615.2, to leave out from “supports” to end and insert:

“recognises that fixed penalty notices play an important role in tackling antisocial behaviour when used as part of a comprehensive package of penalties and interventions, which include diversionary, early intervention and preventative activities that are aimed at steering individuals away from antisocial behaviour whenever possible, and calls on the Scottish Government to keep all of these approaches under review by working with Police Scotland, local authorities and the court services to ensure that appropriate and proportionate penalties and/or interventions are applied to deliver the best outcomes for victims and wider society.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Daniel Johnson to speak to amendment S5M-15615.3. Third time lucky.

16:06  

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

This is an important debate, very much for the reasons that Liam Kerr set out in his speech. When we talk in the Parliament about crime, it is mostly about the big crimes, but very often the lowest-level activities have the biggest impacts in our communities, and it is right that we examine the measures that we have to tackle those activities.

I very much agree with the sentiments that were expressed by Ash Denham. She is absolutely right that we must focus on prevention because, ultimately, that is how we will reduce crime. That is the approach that Labour took during its time in government. Indeed, antisocial behaviour orders were established by the last Labour Government, and I argue that they are a key component—there are many other reasons and multiple factors beyond them—of the long-term decrease in crime that has been observed. However, we cannot be complacent, so we have to look at the issue.

Although we support the motion’s broad thrust, we have reservations about it, which I will detail later. Antisocial behaviour is problematic behaviour. It ranges from behaviours that we might characterise as neighbours from hell, through to littering, youth nuisance, being drunk and disorderly and vandalism. Such behaviours can have real impacts on our communities, and Claire Baker will set out the issues that she faces in her region. Those behaviours are low level and below the threshold of criminality, but the disruption that they cause is much wider. More important, they can lead to wider criminality: they can provide the context for and be precursors of criminality.

We need to equip our police with the tools that they need in order to make early interventions, so that they can intervene on problematic behaviours before they reach the threshold of criminality. We must have a robust approach to crime; we must also have a robust approach to tackling its underlying issues. To quote a certain Labour former shadow Home Secretary, we must be

“tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.”

That approach often focuses overly on the first element of that phrase. We must look at the causes of crime in relation to the social impacts—I will go into that in a moment—and the evidence. The evidence is an important aspect.

The orders are widely used—indeed, 50 per cent of police disposals are for antisocial behaviour—and, as far as we can tell, they are effective. However, we lack clear and detailed evidence on their impact and we have seen a recent decline in their use. I urge the Government to have a more in-depth look at why the numbers have been declining and whether they can be improved on.

The most recent study that we have is the Scottish Government’s review of fixed-penalty notices in 2009, in which the police reported that such notices were useful and proportionate. Indeed, 83 per cent of police responses said that they saved time. From that perspective, such notices clearly have a role and are effective, but I think that we need further evidence.

That brings me to the Scottish Conservatives’ motion. As I suggested, I believe that it has merit. However, its wording is narrow and focuses overly on one measure. As the minister pointed out, and I agree, if we are to tackle such behaviours—and do so early—we need to look at a broad range of measures. However, we must also look at the context. It is hard to escape the conclusion that poverty has a clear and direct impact on many of the behaviours that we are looking at. There is a danger of compounding those if we simply increase the set penalties without any reference to the wider context.

There is no evidence that crime simply comes from a cost benefit calculation that is made by criminals. That is a very dangerous assumption. We have to look at other measures and at causes. That is why Labour’s amendment acknowledges the role of such measures but also looks to the wider context and to considering such matters in the round.

In particular, I want to highlight the diversionary tactics and policies that can be used by the police. The Dundee families and Shelter inclusion projects are very good examples that centre on housing, in which the police use their powers to divert families towards appropriate services. There is good practice in England and Wales—for example, in Avon and Somerset and in the Thames Valley, where people are directed towards drug counselling and other services to divert them away from drug use. Other such strategies centre on social services.

Likewise, the Scottish Government’s amendment has many merits—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Come to a close, please.

Daniel Johnson

I will conclude. Given that the Government amendment would pre-empt mine, Scottish Labour will not support it. However, if it should be agreed to at decision time, we will support the amended motion.

While we must give police the right tools, we must also acknowledge the causes and contexts within which antisocial behaviours take place.

I move amendment S5M-15615.3, to insert at end

“to be considered as part of a wider set of proposals to eliminate the causes of antisocial behaviour, and diversionary policies to identify and tackle behaviour before it reaches the criminal threshold”.

16:11  

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

The debate is a timely one. Antisocial behaviour blights all our communities and I certainly understand the impact that it can have on a number of people. There is a role for all of us to play in tackling it. The primary function of the police is to guard, watch and patrol, so as to prevent crime. Therefore, a visible police presence and active citizens supporting the police are important.

I wonder what my Conservative colleague Liam Kerr is trying to achieve with his motion, and what the gauge of success would be. If he will let me build on that, I will perhaps explain what I mean by it.

In front of me I have a fixed-penalty notice. It is one of a range that I could have called upon. [Laughter.]

Daniel Johnson

What was it for?

John Finnie

It does not actually have my name at the top.

I want to pull a couple of important phrases from its wording. It says that acceptance of the notice

“allows the matter to be concluded by payment of a fixed penalty”

and goes on to say that

“any liability for conviction of the offence is discharged”—

which people will understand—and

“no discussion or review of the facts of this case can thereafter take place”.

That contrasts with the situation if the matter were to be reported.

Of course there is a role for antisocial behaviour orders. Liam Kerr talked about repeated offences, and if someone refuses to desist from committing an offence, the appropriate action is for a police officer to arrest them, as he will understand. If someone commits escalating offences, there is another opportunity for intervention. I picked up some such methods from Mr Kerr’s contribution, in which he talked about deprived communities suffering the most. I also align myself with Daniel Johnson’s comments on that.

However, that is a wee bit askew from the notion of community cohesion, which requires us all to work closely together. Mr Kerr talked about trying something new, but there was nothing new in what he had to say. From members representing a couple of the parties I heard a rehash of old phrases from past campaigns. There is nothing new in trying to deal with issues of drunkenness or addiction. The very notion that we should try to reason with someone who is in a drunken state, hand them a bit of paper and expect them to have some regard to the penalty that comes from it is not realistic.

Liam Kerr

I hear the point that John Finnie makes, and I understand it. However, such an approach would be new to Scotland. In the rest of the United Kingdom, we have a two-tier system, but we do not have that here. Does the member not agree that it is definitely worth trying? After all, only secondary legislation would be involved.

John Finnie

No, I do not agree. Had the debate been about looking at how we could uprate the option, as we could with the scale of fees for fines, that might have been something, but the reality is that someone who is under the influence of drink or drugs will not be influenced by whether there are two figures or three figures with a pound sign written on a note. We have to deal with things differently.

Something has changed tremendously from my days in the police. Rather than trying to resolve something there and then—by taking the offender out in a domestic abuse incident, for example—a problem-solving approach is adopted. That does not involve going to someone with a piece of paper that says that the matter is concluded, because often there are connected, underlying reasons, which may well be to do with addictions or the pressures of poverty, as we have heard.

I do not think that what has been proposed is the way to go. The minister suggested routes such as some of the great community campaigns, and Mr Kerr acknowledged that those have a role to play. That is the direction of travel.

We lodged an amendment along the lines of Daniel Johnson’s amendment, but it was not selected. However, it is important that addressing the issues and the schemes are properly resourced.

We will support the Government amendment, but not the Conservative motion.

16:16  

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I, too, thank Liam Kerr for bringing forward this helpful debate—and not least for allowing John Finnie to come clean about his history of fixed-penalty notices. I very much agree with much of what John Finnie had to say. We all agree, I think, that where antisocial behaviour burdens or, indeed, blights communities, our justice system needs to be equipped to handle it appropriately.

I am grateful for the opportunity to reiterate for the record my thanks to the police, local authority staff and the many organisations throughout the country for the work that they do to combat antisocial behaviour. Every day, officers are confronted with complex judgment calls that draw on their training, experience and discretion. Fixed-penalty notices are part of their toolkit. Indeed, until recently, fixed-penalty notices were so significant that they were far and away the most widely utilised police disposal. The rationale for their popularity was clear. The police and the prosecution services could save valuable time and scarce resources by administering an on-the-spot fine. Five years after fixed-penalty notices were created, officers described the time savings as

“the most apparent and significant benefit of FPNs”.

Diverting people from our courts does not only free up time, of course. Daniel Johnson and other members have referred to that, and the amendments that have been accepted suggest that. They recognise the value of early intervention, preventative and diversionary measures and raising the age of criminal responsibility. Where possible, keeping people away from court in the first place is the best way to avoid their descending into repeat offending behaviour. Therefore, the rationale and the evidence for fixed-penalty notices are clear.

Other members have spoken about the context and that bears repeating. Reports of many of the offences that are covered by fixed-penalty notices have decreased. Data that was published just yesterday show that recordings of breach of the peace have reduced by 43 per cent in the past 10 years and recordings of drunkenness and other disorderly conduct have fallen by 72 per cent. Other figures follow suit.

Liam Kerr

If the member accepts the principle of fixed-penalty notices, does he accept the principle that we should have two tiers of fines and put them up?

Liam McArthur

I will come to the point about increasing the fines for fixed-penalty notices. I share the uncertainty that a number of colleagues have expressed about where precisely the Conservatives want to go with the motion.

Officers appear to be moving towards more lenient disposals: fixed-penalty notices have reduced and recorded police warnings have been introduced. Police Scotland described that option as

“the first step in a three-tiered disposal process”.

Therefore, that tiering already exists.

There are important considerations in the debate. That is not to say that we should not keep matters under review, but I am unclear about what precisely the Conservative motion calls for. Is the proposal to apply a higher penalty in every case to reflect the fact that some of them are “more serious”, or does the motion propose a two-tier system with a range of fine levels? If so, where would the line be drawn for malicious behaviour, breaking alcohol bye-laws or persisting in singing? There would need to be transparency and predictability. At what point does a low-level antisocial offence become a serious low-level antisocial offence?

The purpose of fixed-penalty notices is to impose on-the-spot fines for minor offences. If behaviour falls into a new, more serious grouping, then police officers already have the discretion and power to escalate matters—for example, by referring someone to the procurator fiscal. As I said earlier, there is value in review and reflection, and I am not opposed to a higher level of fines for fixed-penalty notices—certainly, they should be enabled to keep pace with the rate of inflation. However, if there is an argument for increases, it will be borne out through consultation and discussion with the professionals on the front line. At this point, it seems that more evidence is required before Parliament commits itself to what the Conservatives propose.

16:20  

Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

I welcome our party’s debate today and I support Liam Kerr’s motion.

Antisocial behaviour is a worrying and rising problem in Scotland and we must recognise its impact on our communities, for that is how we work out the best solutions. With my role in community safety, I am keenly aware of the challenges of antisocial behaviour. Incidents of harassment, abuse, bullying and vandalism are far from uncommon and are everyday occurrences. We are seeing a rise in neighbour disputes, noise complaints and disturbances. We cannot underestimate how that makes people feel. If such offences are on-going, we can imagine the impact on people’s mental health.

Antisocial behaviour creates victims out of ordinary people who have not asked for trouble. Although such behaviour can start in a small way, it can quickly escalate into more serious and offensive behaviour. At its worst, it threatens the sense of community. For the elderly especially, it can make them feel more vulnerable and isolated; and for those in deprived areas, antisocial disturbances can seem just a fact of life.

In my own area, I have seen the frustration and fear that the problem can cause. In West Dunbartonshire, over 7,000 antisocial behaviour incidents were reported in 2017-18. That means that, on average, there were 20 incidents a day in that area alone. However, in the same time frame, a total of just three antisocial behaviour orders were issued. Further, the local council, controlled by the Scottish National Party, has not updated its strategy since 2009. How can that be acceptable? A strategy would respond to the offences with a relevant and powerful approach. For me, the incidents themselves are not the sole problem; the lack of a strong and robust response to the antisocial behaviour can often worsen the situation and is another problem in itself.

To make our communities truly safer, we need a greater police presence. However, we cannot deny that our police force is stretched. The pressure that it faces as police numbers dwindle is surely a warning sign. Without the resources, antisocial behaviour cannot be tackled to the extent that it could be. Nuisance offenders can escape through the cracks. I know that that frustrates our police officers as much as it does our communities. It is disappointing to see that the number of special constables has halved in the past five years, since the beginning of Police Scotland under the SNP.

Ash Denham

The facts of the matter are that in the past 10 years, police numbers have gone up by 5.6 per cent in Scotland; but in England, under the Conservatives, police numbers are down 13.8 per cent.

Maurice Corry

The numbers might be up in Scotland, but the fact is that far too many police are in administrative roles and not out on operations.

I know that the special constable pathway can be of great benefit to veterans and to local areas as a whole. The visibility and presence that such officers provide, in the heart of our communities, is invaluable and our police force is stronger with their assistance. For our constituents, a greater police presence would go a long way towards making them feel safer and more secure. With antisocial behaviour on the rise, surely increasing that police presence is an obvious move.

Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

Will the member tell us how much more money the Conservatives would spend on Police Scotland, where that money would come from and whether it would lead to the Conservatives cancelling their proposed tax cuts?

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Mr Corry, you have only half a minute left.

Maurice Corry

Obviously, we will see what comes forward at the budget debate tomorrow and what is said on the member’s side of the chamber about the case that we put forward. However, we are saying that the money should be put where it matters, which is on the street: in other words, into increasing the police presence.

To equip those police officers, we need an increase in the fixed-penalty notice fines. As we have heard, the number of fixed-penalty notices being issued is at an all-time low, but such fines seem to be the best way to stop offenders in their tracks. They allow police officers to take swift action against more serious behaviour. They mean that justice can be delivered on the streets and they are a clear and quick deterrent that matches the crime.

Of course, early intervention would be ideal to prevent antisocial behaviour from happening in the first place, but we are talking here about how to deal with it once the harm has already been done. For the victims of such crime, it is important that they get the fair justice that they deserve. For their sake, I hope that the Government will encourage the proposed move to an increase in the amount for a fixed-penalty notice.

The problem of antisocial behaviour goes further than being a nuisance. It is simply not right that our communities can feel less safe and not listened to. It is an injustice if offences go unchecked. I believe that having the most up-to-date strategy in place and linking that to fines that tackle the crime, on the spot, is the best way forward. That is how we can make our communities safer and better places to be.

16:25  

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

At the start of my speech, I will say something that I believe will achieve consensus across the chamber: Police Scotland does a fantastic job of keeping us safe and fighting crime, and we owe the police a huge debt of thanks.

The Conservative motion asks Parliament to support

“a higher level of fixed penalty notice for more serious antisocial behaviour.”

However, like John Finnie and Liam McArthur, I am a little puzzled as to the detail of the motion and where the evidence is that a higher level of fixed penalty notice would reduce offending or reoffending.

Liam Kerr advocated doubling the on-the-spot fine from £50 to £100 for more serious offences that are not deemed serious enough to go to court. My questions are: who defines how serious the offences are, and how, if they are not going to court? Is that judgment simply down to the police who are dealing with the incident, and, if so, who would monitor that? Is it not just imposing another responsibility on our hard-working officers?

Of course, I agree that antisocial behaviour is distressing and causes chaos to daily lives and communities. It ranges from neighbours’ disputes to vandalism and everything in between, as Liam Kerr and Daniel Johnson outlined. However, a large proportion of the crimes are committed by young people who may have lost their way or face adversity in deprived communities, and they may not be in a position to pay £50, far less £100. I agree with Daniel Johnson’s comments on that.

Having said that, the figures that were released today by the Howard League Scotland indicate that the number of young people becoming involved in the justice system is reducing, not just in Scotland but globally, which is very welcome news.

I believe that early intervention, starting with education in school, is one way to reduce antisocial behaviour. So, too, is a change to a culture of respect among adults, encouraging them to stop and look at the selfish ways in which they behave and how they upset people. If we attempt to find out why people—adults or children—act in that way, it may help us to reduce instances of antisocial behaviour.

Liam Kerr

Does Rona Mackay think it is acceptable that SNP-run Glasgow City Council’s latest antisocial behaviour strategy is dated 2005-08?

Rona Mackay

The figures must speak for themselves. The initiatives that were outlined by the minister show that we are tackling the causes of antisocial behaviour. I am not sure that the point was entirely relevant.

Fixed-penalty notices are important, but they are just part of a wider range of powers and initiatives to tackle antisocial behaviour. I am pleased to say that, in East Dunbartonshire, in my constituency, unlike in Liam Kerr’s constituency, crime is down right across the board, with the number of reports of antisocial behaviour down 4 per cent from last year. I hope that that trend continues, and I commend the work that is being done by our local officers.

The 2018-19 draft Scottish budget increases funding for police services by around £25 million compared with previous years. That is helped by the change to their VAT status, which means that we are not being unfairly charged. However, back payment of the £175 million would be a considerable boost to the police budget, and we will continue to put pressure on Westminster to return that money to us.

Budgets and statistics are for politicians. I recognise that people are more concerned about the reality of life on the streets. I agree that we should do everything that we can to reduce antisocial behaviour, but I am not convinced that this is the way to do it. We are on the correct trajectory when it comes to dealing with crime in Scotland. It can never be eradicated, but, if we have a dedicated and professional force that is producing encouraging results, we are on the right track.

16:29  

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in today’s debate. Antisocial behaviour is a blight on too many communities and causes significant disruption to people’s lives. The debate offers a welcome opportunity to consider how we can tackle such behaviour in ways that are effective, proportionate and preventative. I will raise an issue that illustrates the challenges that we face in addressing antisocial behaviour.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in the popularity of off-road vehicles such as quad bikes and scramblers, partly because it is easier and cheaper to buy them online and from overseas. I appreciate that riding quad bikes and dirt bikes is exciting, but those who buy them must appreciate that there are restrictions. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is a reserved body, but consideration should be given to the need for such vehicles to be registered and insured, with appropriate consequences, such as destruction or confiscation of the vehicle, if there is a failure to comply.

The influx of such vehicles has coincided with a rise in irresponsible behaviour, and that cannot go unchallenged. In Fife, particularly in the Levenmouth and Kirkcaldy areas, we have seen residents being put at risk in their own streets. There has been the death of a much-loved pet, dangerous riding in parks and woodland walks, which puts the riders and other citizens at risk, and thousands of pounds’ worth of damage to local farmland as riders have trespassed on private property. We cannot let such irresponsible antisocial behaviour continue.

For some time, I have been campaigning for clearer rules and regulations so that those who use off-road bikes understand the risks that they are taking and the laws that they are breaking. I have argued for investment in diversionary activity and for the police to have a full range of powers to tackle the problem.

Many riders are ignorant of the law, but others are involved in criminality. Bike theft is a feature, with, at its height, an average of one vehicle being stolen every eight days in Fife. I have worked closely with the local police, and I highlight the work of Inspector Tom Brown and the team in Levenmouth, who have worked hard alongside the local community to tackle such antisocial behaviour. To date, 32 bikes have been seized in Levenmouth, and, last year, 21 people were charged with the illegal use of off-road bikes in the area.

Nevertheless, the police still face significant challenges. In a recent interview with a local paper, Inspector Brown made it clear that such behaviour on quad bikes and similar vehicles is

“a threat to public safety”,

before raising concerns that

“Somebody will be killed by the illegal use of motorbikes and legislation needs to be changed to reflect that.”

We must not wait until there is a serious or even fatal accident in the area before we take the necessary action.

The current court system of issuing fines and putting points on driving licences is a time-consuming and lengthy process, and it is not always relevant to the culprit. We should be looking to provide the police with more options, including the issuing of fixed-penalty notices to such riders, which would be a more immediate police response that reflected the crime.

I raised the issue with the minister in the chamber just before Christmas, and I appreciate the productive meeting that we had this morning. I will meet the police and other partners in Fife tomorrow, and I hope that we will be able to work together to tackle the issue. Ultimately, safety is the paramount concern—safety for the rider, but also safety for local residents.

As both amendments highlight, fixed-penalty notices and punishment can be only part of the solution. Early intervention must address the root causes and tackle the activity before it becomes criminal. In that context, I highlight the work of Kingdom Off Road Motorcycle Club. Working in Levenmouth, it provides diversionary programmes and offers a safe and professional environment for off-road track users. Its work in the area is vital in raising awareness of responsible riding and preventing antisocial behaviour. It is seeking support and funding to build an indoor track to which riders will have access all year round. It has had support for its diversionary work from the local authority, the police and funding bodies such as the Big Lottery Fund, but funding is always a challenge.

To tackle antisocial behaviour, we must look at innovative solutions to the problems that we face alongside considering changes to legislation. That is why I will support the Labour amendment this afternoon.

16:33  

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

If the Tories really thought that this issue was important, they would have allocated more time for the debate.

I will begin by reflecting on the wider issue, because fixed penalties for antisocial behaviour are part of the wider powers and activity that our police service delivers to keep our communities feeling safe. The SNP Government is utterly committed to that priority and supports that work to build community safety. We see that being recognised time and time again as we reflect on our record. We have one of the lowest crime levels since 1974 and more police on the streets, not fewer, as in England.

In reflecting on the call in the motion, we must recognise that, although fixed-penalty notices are an important tool for tackling antisocial behaviour, they form part of a wider range of powers and initiatives. The police and local authorities already have that range of options available when they are tackling antisocial behaviour, and, importantly, they have the ability to exercise discretion and judgment when using those options.

The Scottish Government supports work to reduce the damage that is caused by antisocial behaviour by tackling the symptoms and investing in prevention. For example, the cashback for communities initiative funds a wide range of projects and facilities throughout Scottish communities, including those that are experiencing antisocial behaviour. Since 2008, the Scottish Government has committed £92 million to cashback for communities. That type of preventative spending on diversionary work is an effective tool in addressing some of the concerns that Conservative members have raised. That said, the Government has stated that there are on-going discussions with Police Scotland and local authorities about providing opportunities for them to explore other options.

We must be careful, because there are unintended consequences of what appears to be a quick fix. For example, people committing low-level antisocial behaviour could be given fines that they cannot afford to pay and could therefore get caught up in the justice system. We do not want that for the people we represent; we need a proportionate and balanced approach. In my opinion, increasing fines is an easy fix. I am afraid to say that it is the usual Conservative headline-grabbing approach. We have a Tory party that wants to reduce income tax but then increase fines. It is a “short, sharp shock”, to use that old Tory saying. I wonder where I have heard that before. Is that the Tories’ new way of raising revenue? I am really interested in hearing about the Conservatives’ wider justice policy. [Interruption.] They should have given us more time to discuss the matter instead of taking the approach that they have taken today. Do they not want to talk about it?

It is not a simple issue. I served as a councillor on North Lanarkshire Council for decades. [Interruption.] The Conservatives are trying to do to me what they did to Mr Blackford at Westminster—and it will not work with me. North Lanarkshire Council was one of the first councils to have a dedicated antisocial taskforce department, and I can tell the chamber that justifying antisocial behaviour orders takes a lot of work. It needs more investigation and the direct involvement of both council staff and police.

We have a headline-grabbing motion—the Tories want to get tougher and introduce more fines in order to grab the right-wing press headlines, but that does not make for a competent approach as far as I am concerned [Interruption.] We, in the SNP, will continue to have dialogue and will work with our partner agencies in a comprehensive approach to tackling not only antisocial behaviour but crime across the board. I am very glad that I have upset the Tory party this afternoon.

16:37  

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

Although antisocial behaviour is often referred to as nuisance crime, it can have deep-seated adverse effects on individuals, families and communities. It can take many forms, ranging from vandalism to drunken behaviour and verbal abuse. Such behaviour is intensified for council tenants and owner-occupiers living in flats, as the following two examples from my casework demonstrate.

The first example concerns an elderly lady who lived alone, peacefully, in her privately owned flat until the flat below was rented to individuals who used the communal garden from morning to night to drink, smoke and swear. When my constituent complained, neither the letting agent nor the landlord took any action, but from then on she was subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation to the extent that she became reluctant to leave her flat.

The police were called and were responsive, but could only ask her to continue to monitor and report the incidents. Eventually, in consultation with her family, she had to put her flat up for sale, with all the stress, upheaval and expense that that entails.

My other example involves a constituent who had lived in her council flat for 20 years. A couple moved into the flat directly opposite hers and, from then on, the lives of my constituent and her other neighbours became a living hell. Despite rules to the contrary, the couple kept 10 pets in their fourth-floor flat. Their antisocial behaviour included shouting abuse at residents, putting litter through their letterboxes and playing unacceptably loud music. Several years on, the abuse continues and my constituent is now suffering from depression, which is affecting her employment.

Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I have every sympathy with the members’ constituents, but I wonder how increasing fixed penalties would help with that. I am genuinely asking the question.

Margaret Mitchell

If the member allows me to develop my argument, I will certainly answer that question.

It is deeply concerning that 1,000 incidents of antisocial behaviour are recorded every day across Scotland. The number of incidents is up by 2 per cent in North Lanarkshire and up by 5 per cent across Scotland.

The Government’s amendment rightly states that measures to tackle antisocial behaviour need to include

“diversionary, early intervention and preventative activities”.

Antisocial behaviour orders were introduced by the Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition as part of the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, which included provision for parenting orders as an intervention to prevent further incidents of youth antisocial behaviour.

In 2009, the Scottish Government published its antisocial behaviour framework, but it is unclear what measures have been put in force as a result of the framework and whether parenting orders can still be used. To answer Elaine Smith directly, I say that, in any case, there needs to be a balance between early intervention, diversionary measures and deterrents. There needs to be a tougher deterrent to tackle the more serious and persistent instances of antisocial behaviour. That is particularly important, given that such behaviour is happening against a background, as the Scottish Police Federation says, of police being “run ragged” and at “breaking point”. They are

“frustrated that they ... cannot respond to incidents due to a lack of resources.”

It is for that reason that the Scottish Conservatives propose a doubling of the fixed penalty for antisocial behaviour from £50 to £100 for the most serious antisocial behaviour crimes. I urge Parliament to support the Conservative motion this evening.

16:41  

Shona Robison (Dundee City East) (SNP)

Antisocial behaviour is, of course, unacceptable. No one in Scotland should have to put up with abuse in any form. The definitions of antisocial behaviour are wide ranging and cover all manner of abusive behaviours. Antisocial behaviour can make people feel threatened, vulnerable, distressed, alarmed, harassed and more. I know all too well from my constituency caseload the impact that such behaviour can have. We all agree that there is a need to tackle antisocial behaviour and its causes to prevent members of the public from experiencing the fallout from such behaviour.

Fixed-penalty notices are one way in which Scotland can deal with antisocial behaviour. The £50 on-the-spot fines for minor offences that are issued by Police Scotland form an important deterrent against offending and discourage repeat offences. The penalties are already raised to £75 if they are not paid within 28 days, and fines are steeper for other offences to reflect their seriousness. To that end, the existing policy approach already adheres to the tiered system that Liam Kerr seeks.

However, fixed-penalty notices are not the only way in which Scotland can tackle antisocial behaviour. For a start, the penalties are issued after an offence has taken place. That could certainly act as a deterrent but, to truly tackle antisocial behaviour, we need to tackle the root causes of it, which is what the Scottish Government is doing.

The cashback for communities programme is a good example of the Government’s approach. Money that has been seized from criminals is reinvested directly into community initiatives for young people in local communities across Scotland. Since 2008, the Scottish Government has provided £92 million of support and has targeted it in areas of deprivation and social exclusion, where there are higher risks of becoming involved in antisocial behaviour from a young age. The funding has delivered almost two million positive opportunities and activities for young people across Scotland.

In Dundee, more than £2 million has been spent on projects that have created about 62,000 activities for young people in local communities. The projects involve sport, diversionary youth work and creative initiatives in partnership with Creative Scotland.

Liam Kerr

I agree with the general thrust of what Shona Robison is saying. However, off the top of my head, I think that there are still 43 incidents of antisocial behaviour in Dundee every day, so does she agree that we should try to do more, such as introduce the two-tier system?

Shona Robison

As many others have said, I am not sure whether there is evidence that that system works, whereas there is evidence that diversionary activities and tackling the causes of offending work. Members of Parliament should follow the evidence, and I do not think that there is strong evidence for introducing a two-tier system.

Of course, as I said at the beginning of my speech, fixed-penalty notices are already one of the tools that can be deployed, but tackling the causes is absolutely key.

Research has shown that more adults feel safer walking home after dark, for example, and according to the Scottish crime and justice survey and the Scottish household survey, the number of adults who believe that antisocial behaviour is an issue in their area has dropped substantially and fewer adults are seeing or experiencing vandalism or violence. That is a good thing, and it goes beyond the simple issuing of fixed-penalty notices. That is not to say—and I have said this already—that they do not play an important role in tackling crime; they do, but the other areas that I have highlighted are critical.

As a number of members have pointed out, we live in an age of austerity. We have seen an increase in the use of food banks, a rise in rent arrears and the roll-out and impact of universal credit mean that, for many in areas of deprivation and poverty and, indeed, those on low incomes who are struggling to make ends meet, it could be very difficult for those who have committed an offence to pay a higher fine. I am sure that Liam Kerr will accept that we want to avoid the situation where individuals become trapped in and unable to escape the justice system.

The Presiding Officer

I ask the member to conclude, please.

Shona Robison

We should also remember that the police issue fixed-penalty notices on a discretionary basis—

The Presiding Officer

If the member could conclude, please.

Shona Robison

We all agree that Scotland’s police should have the powers that they need to do their job effectively and help protect the public.

As many members have said, this is a complex issue that goes beyond the use of fixed-penalty notices, and the debate needs to be seen in that context.

The Presiding Officer

We move to the closing speeches. I call Daniel Johnson to close for Labour.

16:47  

Daniel Johnson

The debate has been interesting and useful, and there have been both agreement and disagreement. Let me start with something that I think we all agree on: the importance of intervening in behaviours early and before they escalate to the point where they become criminal. Likewise, we will all recognise that the vast bulk of what the police actually deal with from day to day probably is not in the sphere of criminality, and it is therefore clearly important that we give them the tools to intervene.

However, the first point of divergence comes with regard to whether the simple proposal that the Conservatives have made this evening is sufficient or evidenced. I do not think that it is evidenced, and I have sought to amend the motion to ensure that we can consider the proposal within a much broader context of other measures. We cannot unequivocally support an increase in fixed penalties. We need to review their use and perhaps the level of the fines, but we cannot do so without evidence.

The number of notices issued have been used by members on various sides of the chamber as evidence of either success or failure. The Conservatives have suggested that the decline in their use is a sign of failure, while others have used the very same numbers to suggest that crime itself is declining. I think that the issue is much more complicated than that. It might well be a sign that the notices are not being used properly, but it might also be a sign that the police simply do not have the time to deal with the issues, because of other higher priorities. I would not like to say definitively what it is, because the issue is complicated and we need evidence.

I thought that members made some good points about whether such an increase would prove to be a deterrent. As John Finnie asked, does doubling the fine alter the behaviour of someone who is being drunk and disorderly? Richard Lyle also put it very well when he asked whether, by doubling the fine and increasing the chances of non-payment and bringing someone into the sphere of the courts and criminality, we would simply make the problem worse. Those are the questions that need to be considered before we can say definitively, one way or the other, that such a proposal should be introduced.

The second point of divergence comes with the logic behind such an approach. As Liam McArthur pointed out, we need to take care here. Is there a need to say that some behaviours are more serious and, in that case, are police powers of escalation sufficient to deal with the issue? That is an open question that needs to be probed.

Likewise, I refer to John Finnie’s comments and to the fact that the penalty notices are summary and do not have any form of appeal or redress. These are useful notices, but they are summary and complex and we need to take care.

Finally, it is impossible to talk about these issues without considering the wider social context in which these behaviours and criminality take place. Poverty is the biggest single contributory factor to crime; if we want to tackle crime, we should focus on disadvantage and inequality.

I urge the representatives of the two parties in this chamber that represent Governments to think very carefully about whether the decisions of their parties are helping or hindering us in tackling those wider issues. For example, do cuts to social security and local services—more than £40 million worth of cuts to local services are being considered in this city—improve the social context and our ability to tackle the issues? I gently urge both parties to think about whether those decisions make it easier or harder to tackle crime.

16:51  

Ash Denham

I have listened to this afternoon’s discussion with great interest and I am pleased that there is so much commitment across the chamber to tackling antisocial behaviour, even though, as Daniel Johnson outlined, there is divergence about the ways in which to do that.

Like others in the chamber, I am not entirely clear about what the Conservatives are suggesting. There was quite a lack of detail in the proposal that they put forward this afternoon. Liam Kerr’s motion suggests a higher level of fixed-penalty notice for “more serious antisocial behaviour”, as he describes it, but many, if not all, of the acts that could be referred to as “more serious antisocial behaviour” are already likely to attract criminal charges, which would be the appropriate police response in those cases.

When considering whether there are benefits to change, we must ensure, as a number of speakers mentioned, that the evidence supports it, that there is demand for such change from the experts who work directly on these issues and that we fully consider the consequences, intended and unintended, before we move forward.

Let us be in no doubt that we need to take a smart justice approach to resolving our social issues. It is wrong to believe that a welfare-based approach means that people are not being held to account for their actions. It actually means that interventions are designed to divert the individual from a path that could lead to a life of crime, so that they can instead make a positive contribution to our country and our future. Of course, fixed-penalty notices have a role to play. However, let us first and foremost be clear that our aim is to apply the intervention that will have the best outcome for society as a whole.

Statistics that were published yesterday on criminal proceedings in Scotland show a further decline in the use of antisocial behaviour fixed-penalty notices. Although operational policing is, of course, a matter for Police Scotland and prosecution policy is a matter for the Crown Office, which works closely with Police Scotland to ensure that effective approaches to enforcing justice are taken, such a decrease may indicate that our justice partners are considering other ways to tackle antisocial behaviour. It is absolutely right that partners consider the effectiveness of different approaches and adjust those when more effective interventions are identified. We do not believe that a one-size-fits-all approach to tackling antisocial behaviour is appropriate.

Liam Kerr

There were 41,500 incidents of antisocial behaviour in Edinburgh last year, which is 2,000 more than the previous year. Does the minister consider that acceptable? If not, should we not at least try a two-tier approach?

Ash Denham

Again, the lack of clarity in the Conservative proposal means that we cannot support it at this point.

I take issue with the statistics that many Conservative members have used this afternoon, because I cannot see that trend in my own statistics [Laughter.] The long-term trend is that antisocial behaviour is down. I hear the Conservatives laughing, but the Conservatives like to use data from police force reports, which showed a slight increase last year, yet the report for the first quarter of this year shows that the number of reports is down again. That is why it is important to look at the overall long-term trend, which is downwards and does not support what the Conservatives have been saying this afternoon.

We recognise that antisocial behaviour does not remain static and that delivery partners need to continuously assess the best approaches that are available to encourage perpetrators to change their behaviour and to secure further reductions in offending through smart justice responses.

Again, I assure members that we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that police and local authorities have the power and resources to further reduce antisocial behaviour, which is why our approach to tackling antisocial behaviour is constantly kept under review. We remain confident that maintaining the focus on prevention and continuing to support delivery of the antisocial behaviour framework through partnership, and the many other initiatives that are being taken forward by our partners in communities across Scotland will provide the best chance of improvement in quality of life for everybody in all our communities.

Let us not forget that all available evidence shows a long-term reduction in violent crime in Scotland. Reconviction rates are at their lowest for 19 years, and recorded crime in Scotland is at its second lowest level since 1974. Those achievements are the result of taking a smart justice approach that is based on evidence, partnership working, and recognising that one size does not fit all and that delivering positive outcomes for communities and society as a whole will deliver the Scotland that we all want to see.

16:55  

Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Con)

My colleague Liam Kerr brought his motion to the chamber today for one simple reason: antisocial behaviour is rising and it is not a victimless crime. Every day across Scotland, people of all ages are experiencing irritation, frustration and, in some cases, fear because individuals feel free to impose their socially unacceptable behaviours on others with impunity.

Margaret Mitchell gave two examples of how antisocial behaviour can destroy lives. Liam McArthur and Rona Mackay said that they did not understand the motion or why it had been brought, and the suggestion appeared to be that there is not really an issue to tackle. Straight after that, however, we heard from Claire Baker, who described the impact of the misuse of off-road bikes. A more significant fixed-penalty notice would be perfect in that case.

Liam Kerr eloquently laid out the need for on-the-spot fines for certain categories of antisocial behaviour, and our motion today is a simple proposition.

Ash Denham

Will the member take an intervention?

Michelle Ballantyne

Not right now.

The single fine is too blunt an instrument to tackle such a complex issue. It does not allow the police to differentiate between low-level antisocial behaviour and the more serious incident that does not require court intervention. We have heard that, in other nations in the UK, there is a two-tier system that gives officers greater discretion to deal with offenders, and that has attracted interest from Police Scotland.

In all the discussion—there is a hell of a lot of discussion going on right now—there seems to be a perception that antisocial behaviour is always to do with offenders who need a great deal of intervention. However, it is often individuals on a drunken night out or people hanging around in town who are not set on a life of crime but whose behaviour on that night causes significant concern to the communities they live in or the people around them. The whole point about fixed-penalty notices is that they send such people a clear message on that day, without any subsequent consequences, that they should not behave like that.

Ash Denham

I would like the member to lay out the evidence so that everyone in the chamber can understand why increasing the penalty in the way that she is suggesting would make any difference to the level of antisocial behaviour.

The Presiding Officer

If members would listen, that would also be helpful.

Michelle Ballantyne

Yes, wouldn’t it just?

From what the minister said earlier, she probably does not have the Police Scotland statistics in front of her. They show that there were 343,570 incidents of antisocial behaviour in the past year. That is 940 incidents a day. Can we really argue that no action is needed?

According to the Scottish crime and justice survey, 63 per cent of all crimes in Scotland go unreported. If that is correct, and I am sorry if the minister does not have that figure in front of her, what we are seeing in the official figures for antisocial behaviour is only the tip of a very large iceberg.

Of course, it is important to remember that antisocial behaviour is closely linked to other factors in our communities. Daniel Johnson talked about that in his contribution, as did the minister in her opening remarks. She also talked about the benefit of early intervention. I was one of the original members of the early and effective intervention team in my local area, so I have no problem with supporting what the Government has done on that. It works and it is a super process for taking people who are on the edge of early crime into a system that will prevent them from going down the crime route. That is not what this motion is about. It is about the one-off antisocial behaviours that people need to understand are not acceptable.

I suspect that I will run out of time, because this has all dragged on somewhat. I will sum up. I understand that people across the chamber have argued that they are a wee bit confused and do not really understand the issue. I will bring it back to a point of clarity. We have an antisocial behaviour problem in Scotland; in fact, most countries do. The issue is about whether we can tackle it effectively. The Government has brought forward good policies, which I support, as do the other Conservative members. This is not a criticism of what the Government has done to date.

The issue is about how the police on the ground can tackle incidents of antisocial behaviour without dragging them into the court system and without making them part of an early and effective intervention system. This is about sending a clear message to those off-road bikers: “You do not come here again. You do not do this again.” With the current level of fine, it is worth it for some people to get an off-road bike out for the day and then happily pay the fine. A higher level of fine would make them weigh it up and say, “Do I really want to pay that amount for coming out on my bike?”

That is the point of the motion. We ask the Government to support having a higher level of fine that is appropriate for antisocial behaviour. It is a simple ask. If the answer is no, the Government is saying that it recognises the problem but is not willing to take the action.

We will support the Labour amendment this evening; I support a lot of what Labour members have said on the wider issues, which have been mentioned by others. We hope that the Government would consider the motion and not just reject it out of hand by talking about its other actions.