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Donald MacLeod: Battle of the beach? Minister’s head is in the sand if he thinks we don’t care about crime

Police officers stand guard on Troon Beach last week as temperatures soar on Bank Holiday Monday (John Kirkby)
Police officers stand guard on Troon Beach last week as temperatures soar on Bank Holiday Monday (John Kirkby)

THIS week we learned, Police Scotland received 343, 570 complaints about antisocial behaviour last year.

We also learned that violent and sexual offending rates, including rapes had also risen sharply and that fraud cases were now at a five-year high.

Considering that, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson could have chosen his words at the annual conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents a little more carefully.

Especially, coming as they did, on the back of a disgraceful occasion celebrated by thousands of our steamed-up youth – The Battle of Troon Beach.

Or, indeed, the scenes of drunken mayhem that befell Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park as high temperatures and copious amounts of booze fried the heads and tempers of hundreds of neds who decided to foul the beautiful green place.

So Michael was rightly lambasted for saying the vast majority of people in Scotland don’t really experience crime.

Really? Try telling that to the poor families who had to witness the scenes of carnage and mounted police charges while they huddled up in fear on the sands of Troon beach, and those families and innocent bystanders who were caught up in the alcohol-fuelled, foul-mouthed mayhem on the trains to and from the holiday town, or the equally distressing acts of drunken violence that broke out in Kelvingrove Park on two occasions this week.

Criminal violence that required not only vanloads of officers on the ground but a mounted police presence and a helicopter.

And all that added to Glasgow’s shocking antisocial behaviour figures, the highest in the country.

So, Michael, you are wrong.

Most people in Scotland have experienced crime.

Maybe not as a victim but often, through no fault of their own, as these examples clearly demondstrate, an uncomfortable or terrified witness.

Crime is experienced in all manners of ways. A neighbour’s car is stolen or, in my case, bikes are nicked.

When that sort of thing happens, everyone surrounding the victim, whether it be family, friend or neighbour, they all feel the fear, paranoid that they might be next to be robbed.

It’s the same, and a lot more so, obviously, for the families and friends of those who have had a loved one murdered, sexually assaulted, mugged, stabbed, assaulted or preyed upon.

Or indeed those who have become a victim of internet and telephone banking fraud – again I know what I’m talking about as it happened to me.

You become infected with fear, scared to switch your computer on or to use your credit cards in case you have been hacked.

So, Michael, most of us have experienced crime in one form or another.

Crime is an unstoppable virus which will, if allowed, undermine our social fabric and cohesion and wreck all we hold dear.

And for the opposition parties making hay over Michael’s gaffe, I say stop playing party politics.

None of you, especially the Tories have done any better.

Their crime reduction record in England and Wales stinks and their response to a rise in violent crime, especially gang-related stabbings in London,w has been woeful.

Fix the problem first, deal with the politics later.

Enforce laws already in place, there’s no need for new ones.

Forget the cardboard cut-out cops and give Police Scotland more real policemen and women.

Give them the resources they need and deserve.

I don’t really believe that, as many have claimed, Michael Matheson is out of touch with the real world and isn’t the man for the job. I’ve met him and I’m sure he is perfectly capable for the task.

But now, more than ever, he needs to turn his words into deeds and the SNP must give him the money so he, and Police Scotland can do the job properly.

The people of Scotland, who in the main have all experienced crime, deserve and expect no less.