By Bill Heaney
MSPs want the police to step up their action against shoplifting and the anti-social behaviour that goes with it.
But they’ve been told that pressures on family budgets which force people to steal to eat can only be eradicated by a change in policies by the UK government.
Sharon Dowie asked the First Minister Humza Yousaf what action the Scottish Government is taking “to tackle the reported rising rates of crime and antisocial behaviour at retail premises”.
The First Minister told MSPs: “Although the latest recorded crime data for shoplifting shows an increase, the levels remain below pre-pandemic levels. However, I absolutely recognise the disruption and harm that it has caused to businesses in terms of theft and antisocial behaviour. Police Scotland and partners are taking action to tackle and reduce it.
“The Scottish Government fully supports the innovative Scottish partnership against acquisitive crime, which is led by Police Scotland and includes a number of other organisations, including retailers. Anyone who is affected by such an incident should report it to Police Scotland, which remains absolutely focused on keeping our communities safe from harm.”
Sharon Dowey told him: “I have met various retailers in my area who have all discussed the challenges that they are facing with the rise in crime and antisocial behaviour. That has escalated significantly over the past year and, in their words, is out of control.
“Police numbers are falling, police funding is stretched and the Government’s approach to justice is not working. What action will the First Minister take to protect retail workers?”
The First Minister replied: “Police officer numbers have increased since the Scottish National Party came into government, recorded crime has reduced—in fact, it is at one of its lowest levels in almost 50 years—and we have more police officers per head in Scotland than there are in England and Wales. We will continue to invest in our police service.
“It is worth noting that, over the past 10 years, from 2013-14 to 2022-23, there has been a 3 per cent increase in shoplifting. I was very interested in the comments that were made in an interview by Dr Sinéad Furey, who is a senior lecturer in consumer management and food innovation at Ulster University.
“‘She said: We have seen this before in previous times of austerity or economic downturn. The return of ‘stealing to eat’ instead of being able to ‘afford to eat’ is yet more proof that we need effective policy solutions that put sufficient income in people’s hands in a dignified way so that poverty and resorting to crime do not become a mainstream means of securing the most basic essentials of living.
“That quote is not from me but from a professor and an academic. The Conservatives would do well to listen to that.”