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Liz Truss should turn to Nicola Sturgeon’s crime example

The overall crime rate in 2020/21 for Scotland was 45.1 per 1000 population compared to 77.6 per 1000 for England and Wales.

A fall in England and Wales, of 89.8 per 1,000, was the first fall after seven years of climbing figures and could be a one-year hit, due to pandemic factors. The crime rate in Scotland has fallen steadily from 82.6 per 1000 in 2002/03.

These are remarkable figures suggesting that something very different is happening in Scotland after more than a decade of SNP rule here and Tory rule in England. While trends in reported crime cannot be simply explained by a single factor, policing must certainly be important and is clearly an issue that a government can do something about.

Richard Lewis, chief constable of Dyfed-Powys and performance manager for the National Council of Chief Constables, expressed serious concern in The Guardian last week over comments by new Prime Minister Liz Truss.

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Lewis criticized the comments as “headline-grabbing” and “lacking in substance”. He is particularly concerned about the notion of imposed targets such as reducing homicides by 20%. Lewis is also deeply concerned about claims of an ‘increase’ of 20,000 new officers when in reality this will only restore staffing levels to 2010 when the Tories came to power. These callous and ill-informed comments by Truss remind us of the loss of tens of thousands of officers and support staff under then Home Secretary Theresa May and her hostile and confrontational suggestion that the Police Federation was “crying wolf” about the likely impact of these cuts.

The subsequent rise in crime tells the real story, and it seems Truss didn’t learn from it.

Scotland’s consistent and continued reductions to a level well below that of its otherwise quite similar neighbor tells the story of a very different approach to the Scottish government’s dealings with its police force.

Before exploring this relationship further, there is the simple question of staffing, so important in the fight against crime. In 2019, Scotland had 316 officers per 100,000 people while England and Wales had just 207. So with 33% less crime, Scotland had 50% police officers. more per capita. In addition, numbers in England and Wales fell from 251 to 207 per 100,000 in 2010, while in Scotland they had only fallen from 328 to 316 over the same period. While the above differences in resource differences matter, psychological factors also matter and, in particular, can affect morale at all levels.

Two are noticeable in Scotland.

First, there are expressions of satisfaction by political leaders in the performance of the police. In 2020, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised Police Scotland for their “swift and decisive actions” to contain a major incident in Glasgow city centre. In October 2021, she hailed Police Scotland’s campaign to reduce sexual violence as “powerful and important”.

Second, and equally important, is the absence of top-down targets imposed without consultation on their feasibility. We all want crime levels down, but there’s nothing to be gained by telling the police that it’s a fair target for them.

The Scottish Government trusts its police force to do what it can and provides it with the resources it can afford, but as all the research shows crime will go down if you create a better, fairer society. and more egalitarian.

To this end, within the constraints of the devolution settlement, the Scottish Government is working to reduce crime while working to reduce inequality through a wide range of initiatives such as its additional payments for children, more affordable housing, free school meals for all and reducing the number of rough sleepers to half the UK rate.

Allan Dorans, the MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, is a former senior Metropolitan Police officer and is the SNP’s policing spokesman

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