MSPs told to get tough with thugs

By Steve Bargeton
Political editor

Bringing back corporal punishment and reintroducing National Service is the best way to deal with young thugs, MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament – C.F.] have been told.

Members of the Holyrood communities committee have been touring the country hearing views on the Executive’s flagship Anti-Social Behaviour Bill as part of their pre-legislative scrutiny.

In some parts of the country they were left in no doubt that people believe that only draconian measures will rid the streets of gangs of young tearaways.

People in Moray said there should be “more institutions introduced to encourage discipline, such as National Service.”

In other areas “physical punishment” was seen as the most effective answer.

But in Dundee MSPs were told that measures such as parenting classes, more leisure facilities and more youth workers was the answer. Significantly, those offering an opinion in Dundee did not agree that the Executive’s plans to fine and even imprison parents was part of the solution.

Considering the evidence yesterday MSPs on the communities committee were divided as to how much weight should be attached to the views of the public.

Scottish Tory MSP Mary Scanlon said, “There was a very strong cry from people that they wanted existing powers more fully utilised and I don’t think we make that point strongly enough.”

But Labour’s Elaine Smith said the call for the return of physical chastisement would not solve the problem of anti-social behaviour on its own.

“Whatever kind of stand people were taking on this, whether they were saying, ‘Bring back corporal punishment,’ or, “It’s a lack of funding to blame,’ what they all seem to be saying is that there is a lack of recreational facilities for young people.”

The Executive’s Bill would extend anti-social behaviour orders to under-16s, introduce electronic tagging for under-16s and ban the sale of spray paint to under-16s.

It would also enable the closure of drinking or drug dens, boost noise nuisance powers, clamp down on fly-tipping and litter and bring in fixed penalties for anti-social behaviour.

The public meetings identified drug-taking, graffiti, fly-tipping, joy-riding, under-age drinking, sex in public and bullying as the most common types of anti-social behaviour.