The Scottish Government’s quarterly Recorded Crime in Scotland publication showed sexual assault crimes had climbed by a fifth compared to last year (from 4,587 to 5,495 crimes) and non-sexual violence crimes rose by 9 per cent (from 64,080 to 70,156 crimes).
But recorded crime as a whole fell to its lowest level in almost 50 years, driven by a reduction of crimes under Covid-related legislation, which went from 20,146 to 96. All other recorded crimes collectively increased by 2 per cent.
The statistics covered the 12-month period up until June
Justice secretary Keith Brown said “multiple factors” lay behind the increase in sexual assault and violent crime, including a “greater willingness of victims to come forward, more historical reporting and more online offending”.
But the Scottish Conservatives have described the rise as “troubling”, claiming the figures had continued to “soar alarmingly” under the SNP Government.
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “They are presiding over a crime wave caused by their disastrous management of the justice system, which has led to record numbers of police retirements, criminals being wrongly released and court backlogs causing delays for victims seeking justice.
“Despite this, the SNP are set to make things even worse by slashing the future justice budget still further."
Pauline McNeill, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, said the “terrifying leap” in violent crime called for urgent action as she accused the SNP of “stunning complacency” by “patting themselves on the back” over the figures.
Liam McArthur MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson, described the figures as “alarming”.
Overall, there was a 5 per cent fall in police recorded crime compared to the same period last year (from 300,747 to 285,974 crimes) – the lowest level for a 12-month period since 1974.
Police Scotland have been forecast to receive a real-terms budget cut of around £66 million over the next five years.
David Hamilton, chair of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “The Scottish Government must surely now pause and reflect on its extraordinary decision to deprioritise policing and cancel plans to accelerate defunding.”
Rape and attempted rape decreased by 1 per cent compared to the previous year, but increased by 10 per cent from the year ending June 2018.
The number of crimes of dishonesty were also higher (up 9 per cent) compared to the previous year, and damage and reckless behaviour crimes increased slightly (by 1 per cent).
Crimes against society were lower (by 14 per cent) as were anti-social offences (by 2 per cent) and road traffic offences (by 9 per cent.
Welcoming the overall reduction in reported crime, Mr Brown said: “The latest figures today show recorded crime is at the lowest level seen since 1974, and down 43 per cent since 2006/07.
“But there is more to be done. Continuing to reduce crime and the harm it causes both individuals and our society as a whole is central to our ambitious vision to reform our justice system.
“The Scottish Government has made £48 million available to organisations that support victims over the next three years and has invested over £24m to target violence reduction since 2008. “