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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 17:39 GMT
Anti-crime package voted through
Man in handcuffs
A new FBI-style agency will target criminal gangs
New measures aimed at tackling serious organised crime have been backed by the Scottish Parliament.

These include setting up a British version of the FBI and the regulation of private security firms.

The vote was delayed by technical problems after an angry debate centring on constitutional issues.

MSPs voted 64-57 to allow Westminster to introduce legislation covering Scotland. Plans for a Royal trespass offence in Scotland were dropped.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill will establish a new UK-wide FBI-style agency, increase witness protection and extend regulation of the private security industry to Scotland.

'Real priorities'

The bill, currently proceeding through the UK Parliament, would still give the home secretary legal authority to designate any area in Scotland out-of-bounds on grounds of national security, as this is reserved to Westminster.

On Tuesday, the executive dropped plans for the trespass law to head off a rebellion by some MSPs.

The Scottish Conservatives intend to make sure that Sewels are used for their intended purpose - for minor legislative matters and when it is in Scotland's best interests
Bill Aitken MSP
Scottish Tories

The move appears to have ensured that enough MSPs backed the executive's "Sewel motion", enabling other parts of the bill relating to devolved issues to be enacted by MPs.

Speaking before the debate, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said: "These are real priorities in the fight against crime, and to lose these measures would benefit only one group in Scottish society - the criminals."

Police officers had expressed concerns about the effect of FBI-type agents operating in Scotland and new ministerial powers on the operational independence of Scottish police chiefs.

Scottish Tory chief whip Bill Aitken said the "far-reaching" impact of the provisions for Scots law, policing and criminal justice system warranted separate legislation at Holyrood.

Regulatory regimes

He said: "The Scottish Conservatives intend to make sure that Sewels are used for their intended purpose - for minor legislative matters and when it is in Scotland's best interests.

"It is one thing if a UK bill is simply making amendments in devolved areas, it is another if a new agency or regulatory regime is being established which could be established on a Scottish basis."

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill added: "Cathy Jamieson is still ignoring the fears of the Scottish Police Federation.

"The bill would still allow political control of police work, a point that the minister herself has conceded.

"Rather than increasing the number of flawed Sewel motions which pass the buck to Westminster, we need to have a considered overall plan of how to improve the Scottish justice system."


SEE ALSO:
Anger at Scots trespass law plan
25 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Row over 'FBI-type' agency plans
19 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Jamieson backs new crime body
29 Mar 04 |  Scotland
Blunkett unveils FBI-style police
29 Mar 04 |  Politics
Ambitious target on crime assets
08 Mar 04 |  Scotland
Police raids in crime assets move
14 Jan 04 |  Scotland


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