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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 19:56 GMT
Youth gang plans receive support
Concerns have been raised about aspects of the bill
MSPs have voted in favour of the Scottish Executive's Anti-social Behaviour Bill despite opposition to some of its measures.

Communities Minister Margaret Curran defended plans to give police powers to break up and move on youth gangs.

But the Scottish National Party led opposition claims that the measure was "heavy-handed" and could alienate young people.

The legislation will now proceed to the next parliamentary stage.

Other measures in the bill include parenting orders, electronic tagging of children and a ban on spray paint sales to under-16s.

The plans have already been endorsed by the parliament's communities committee.

There can be no doubt that anti-social behaviour ruins lives, lowers expectations and threatens regeneration
Margaret Curran
Communities Minister

Ms Curran said the power to disperse groups would give police "an effective tool" for the first time to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Communities across Scotland were fed up with "fear and alarm" caused by anti-social groups, the minister said.

"That problem is not currently being dealt with and communities are suffering as a result," she told MSPs.

"The new power gives the police an effective tool for dealing with groups causing problems that they did not have before."

The minister said that seeking parliament's approval of its general principles was "a significant step forward" in tackling the problem.

Problem 'exaggerated'

But SNP justice spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon questioned the executive's approach.

She said: "If these proposals go through they (the police) will be able to move people on in future simply because they are gathering in a designated area, even if no offences or disturbances are being committed."

The proposals ran the risk of a complete breakdown in relations between young people and the police, the MSP warned.

Young people have the right to freedom of association and this executive should not take it away from them
Colin Fox
Scottish Socialist Party MSP
The Scottish Tories have also expressed concerns over the dispersal powers.

Justice spokeswoman Annabel Goldie said they would create a "conveyer belt" moving problems from area to area.

"What is frightening to me is that this ill-thought out proposal can criminalise people who will not actually be committing any criminal act," she said.

"That to me is illiberal, oppressive and excessive, and far from being another tool in the box, this is a JCB being mobilised to manicure a toe nail."

The Scottish Socialists' justice spokesman Colin Fox, accused the executive of "exaggerating" the problem.

He said: "Young people have the right to freedom of association and this executive should not take it away from them."

Annabel Goldie MSP
Annabel Goldie attacked the dispersal plans
The proposals also came under attack from a senior police officer in First Minister Jack McConnell's constituency.

Chief Superintendent Tom Buchan, Strathclyde Police's divisional commander for Motherwell and Wishaw, told BBC Scotland that the new powers were unnecessary.

He said: "We didn't ask for the legislation, don't feel there is a need.

"I would think long and hard before I would put it in use. It is not addressing the issue."

The powers were described as "draconian" by Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles, who said they were not in the partnership agreement struck between his party and Labour.

"If the coalition is to work properly ministers cannot deviate very far from agreements reached," he added.

BBC Scotland's Glenn Campbell
"Labour ministers are determined to press ahead"

Unruly behaviour plans backed
05 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Unruly behaviour move defended
28 Feb 04  |  Scotland
Call to back youth crime system
26 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Police warning over disorder plan
20 Jan 04  |  Scotland

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