Crime: policy context

Concern about crime in Scotland has led to crime reduction being a key government priority. Since the inception of the new Scottish Parliament and a devolved Scottish government in 1999, efforts to tackle crime have been reflected in many policy documents. The current Scottish Government has five strategic objectives one of which is to create a safer and stronger Scotland 'to help local communities to flourish, becoming stronger, safer places to live, offering improved opportunities and a better quality of life.' It is intended that the Safer and Stronger Scotland agenda will be delivered through all 16 national outcomes, but in particular through the national outcome that 'We live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger'. The government aims to achieve this through: equipping parents and young people to make good choices and offering positive choices to offending; a strong and well-targeted police presence to reduce the fear of crime; reducing the fear of crime and antisocial behaviour and tackling the root causes of crime by addressing the challenges of drink, drugs and deprivation.

There are a broad range of policies aimed at delivering a safer Scotland, not only to prevent and reduce crime, but also to deliver an effective criminal justice system.   Justice in Scotland: Vision and Priorities, published in 2017, sets out the Scottish Government’s priorities for collective efforts to achieve a safe, just and resilient Scotland.  Specific challenges to achieving the vision have been identified, including increasing inequality, the concentration of crime and victimisation in the most deprived communities, the relatively poor physical and mental health and wellbeing of those in the criminal justice system, and the influence of adverse childhood experiences.

Preventing children and young people becoming involved in criminal activity in the first place is a priority for the Scottish Government. The 2015 strategy Preventing Offending: Getting it right for children and young people set out the priorities for 2015-2020. These include adopting a whole system approach to improve the life chances for children and young people and therefore reduce their likelihood of offending. For example, experiences of crime or the criminal justice system in childhood – through violence, substance abuse, or incarceration of a relative – increases a child’s likelihood of future offending and imprisonment. The strategy aims to enable all children and young people to be confident individuals, effective contributors, successful learners and responsible citizens. A Progress Report on the strategy was published in June 2017.

NHS Health Scotland's Reducing Offending, Reducing Inequality (RORI) report recognises that inequalities and offending are interlinked, and that "to reduce offending we must reduce inequalities".  RORI sets out how 'better health, better lives' can be achieved through community justice measures, such as early intervention and prevention, mitigating the impact of offending and sentencing, and building resilience and sustaining change.  

Reducing crime remains a priority and a number of key areas have been highlighted for specific action.  Reducing violent crime is one such area; the Violence Reduction Unit offers expertise in what works to reduce violence and plays a major role in delivering better outcomes for Scotland.  They adopt a public health approach to violence reduction and aim to reduce and prevent violence by working across different sectors, focussing on enforcement and tackling the fundamental causes of violent behaviour. Reducing violence against women also remains a priority in Scotland; Equally Safe sets out Scotland's most recent (2016) strategy to take action on all forms of violence against women and girls. It offers four key areas aimed at early intervention when violence is already a problem, tackling perpetrators effectively and changing attitudes in order to deliver sustained changed and improved outcomes for women and girls in the long term. Other programmes to reduce and prevent violence include Mentors in Violence Prevention, and No Knives Better Lives. More information can be found on the Violence: policy context page along with links to specific areas.