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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 17:05 GMT
Bill aims for safer Scotland
Jack McConnell and Margaret Jamieson with officer
The ministers visited an Edinburgh estate
Long awaited legislation to tackle anti-social behaviour in Scotland's communities has been launched.

The Scottish Executive claims the bill will be a major step forward in the effort to create a safer country.

However, critics believe the measures will stigmatise young people and do little to deal with the root of the problem.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill aims to tackle everything from vandalism and noise to fly-tipping.

The measures are a key priority for First Minister Jack McConnell and have been put together after one of the most extensive consultations ever carried out by the executive.

Electronic tagging

A key feature will be legislation forcing parents to take responsibility for their offspring.

Anti-social behaviour orders and electronic tagging will be extended to under-16s and the police will be given powers to disperse groups of young people.

Ministers believe the crackdown will rebuild respect and responsibility in local communities.

But opposition parties have warned the approach does not tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour.

Mr McConnell and Communities Minister Margaret Curran launched the legislation on a visit to West Pilton in Edinburgh.

Colin Fox
Colin Fox said the root causes must be tackled
They met with locals, community representatives and community wardens who have recently begun patrolling the streets in the area.

Mr McConnell said: "Our job as politicians is to listen, and act, on the concerns of those who elect us.

"A major concern of Scots of all ages and across all communities is anti-social behaviour."

Ms Curran said people had set out "in the clearest, starkest terms" that anti-social behaviour was a serious problem that needed tackling.

"Our proposals are not about targeting any particular groups in our society," she said.

"Anti-social behaviour is not just caused by young people or any other group.

"It is caused by a minority of selfish, irresponsible and criminal people off all ages. These are the people we want to target."

'Root causes'

The Conservatives and the Scottish National Party broadly welcomed the measures but the Scottish Socialist Party claimed the proposals unfairly stigmatise young people and fail to deal with the social problems they face.

SSP MSP Colin Fox said: "A lot of the measures that are suggested here are closing the stable door after the horse has bolted in many ways.

"I'd like to see the root causes of the behaviour addressed."

Barnardo's Scotland said it was "disappointed" because the Scottish Executive had "got it wrong" with the legislation.

Tam Baillie, assistant director of policy at the charity, said he was sceptical as to whether it could effectively tackle anti-social behaviour.

Mr Baillie said: "Rather than introducing new and costly legal processes, the Scottish Executive should be developing the existing Children's Hearing system and concentrating on long-term solutions that we know will work."

Kirsten Campbell
"Tackling anti-social behaviour has become a priority"

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