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Bill Aitken: The drugs culture attacking Scottish life

Speech to Scottish Conservative Spring Conference

As violent crime soars, as youth disorder and vandalism reaches the stage that people are too apathetic to report it and as the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh and indeed some of our small country towns are eloquent testimony to the drugs culture which is attacking every aspect of Scottish life, our policy is quite simple.

We need to return the streets to the people. We need to get back to a situation where it is safe for old people to collect their pension and for young people to go clubbing in the early hours of the morning and just as we must protect our young children from the predatory instincts of paedophiles we must protect the wider society against those young thugs who the Executive persist as dealing with as children.

And how you ask will we do this? We shall adopt a number of methods.

First of all we shall make sure that we give our Police the support that they need. Under Labour and the Liberals, Police numbers fell in Scotland and have only now returned to the numbers which we left. We shall encourage Chief Constables down the route of ensuring that there is a high profile and visible Police presence on the streets deterring and indeed detecting crime and providing much more public reassurance than exists today. We shall also back the Police. We recently attempted to have compulsory blood testing carried out where a Police Officer had been assaulted by a prisoner who might be HIV Positive but Liberal and Labour Members voted us down. What sort of message does that send out?

We shall also ensure that those sentenced by the Courts are sentenced honestly. At present a sentence of 4 years means 2 years, a sentence of 6 years means 4 years and a sentence of 9 years means 6 years. The discount given to prisoners is supposed to be for good behaviour and yet under the ECHR conditions, foolishly incorporated into Scots Law, Governors cannot refuse to allow this remission. Under the Conservatives the sentence handed down by the Judge will be the sentence which is served with limited remission being allowed.

For those in prison we shall ensure a drugs free environment. It is ludicrous that drugs are so easily available within Scotland's jails. This must stop.

The pernicious drugs culture is harming every aspect of Scottish society. We will fasttrack the cases of those charged with supplying drugs. At the moment it is taking at least 9 or 10 months before their cases are dealt with. This sends out the wrong message and that message will be changed to ensure that the cases are dealt with within 4 months of their arrest.

We shall review our approach to Juvenile Justice. Is it not significant that one third of those who give willingly of their time to serve on Children's Panels resign every year? Frustration at being unable to do anything to either help or deter youthful criminality is clearly the reason why.

We shall ensure that the powers of Children's Panels are beefed up to include after school and weekend detention, not by locking youngsters up in cells but by simply making them attend at a school or other centre where they will have to sit and study. This will bring home the message. We will insist also that they work on schemes to reinstate damage caused by vandals and for that small minority who repeatedly offend and are a danger to the public we will ensure that there is sufficient secure accommodation.

The wishy-washy totally unrealistic approach of Liberal/Labour Justice Ministers has manifestly failed Scotland. The effect of this is there for all to see. This must change and we will make sure that it does.

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