Rape is an unacceptably brutal act of violence, with both immediate suffering and long-term psychological consequences for its victims.
During her time in office, Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini sought to have rape allegations investigated more thoroughly. Now police leaders have responded and rape investigations will be accorded the same importance as homicide.
Previous attempts to convert statements of intent into effective action have not made as much headway as would have been hoped. But what is likely to make this response more credible and effective is the integration of Scotland’s disparate police authorities into a new single force.
This should work to ensure both uniformity of response and greater collaboration and co-ordination of investigative efforts. A national rape taskforce, with 14 divisional teams, will have the same levels of expertise as a murder squad.
Despite recorded crime falling to a 37-year low, rape and attempted rape have risen sharply in recent years. In 2011-12, there were 1,274 cases of rape and attempted rape recorded by police, up 13 per cent from the previous year. Rape laws were broadened in December 2010 in response to criticism of low conviction rates, and now include a wider range of forced sexual acts against women and men.
A major problem in this area is the reluctance of sex attack victims to report crimes to the police. According to Rape Crisis Scotland, just one in four sex attacks are reported. That figure is based on the number of women who have contacted the centre, so the true percentage of reported incidents is likely to be even lower.
It is fully understandable that women are reluctant to come forward, fearful of having to relive their ordeal in court proceedings. It is therefore vital that the police follow through on their pledge to encourage more victims to come forward and to offer victim support through the investigation by specially trained liaison officers. It is to be welcomed that these will act as a single point of contact for rape victims. In a further welcome move, every investigation will be led by a detective inspector or above, leading a team of people who will have the same skill sets as used in homicide investigations.
Police Scotland has pledged to work more closely with Rape Crisis Scotland, which will be invited to make recommendations. Rapes which take place from next week, and which are unsolved at the time, will in future be subject to cold case reviews, in the same way as murders already are.
It has been a source of considerable frustration, both to members of the public as well as to senior figures within the legal profession, that it has taken so long to elicit this commitment to action. But yesterday’s announcement is a step forward for campaigners who have sought greater priority to be given to sex attacks and for more help and support to be given to victims.
Green power enjoys a fair wind
Their arrival has been controversial. They are stationary much of the time. And the energy they produce is expensive. But Scotland’s wind turbines are working.
Last year, a total of 14,600 Gigawatt hours of renewable electricity was generated by wind and hydro power, up 7 per cent on 2011, with wind generation up 19 per cent. The Department of Energy and Climate Change says Scotland is now generating more than a third of the UK’s total renewables output.
On Scottish Government calculations, we are already generating enough power from wind and hydro to power the equivalent of every Scottish home.
This is welcome news given the scepticism over the performance of wind power. Doubts will persist over whether Scotland will be able to meet Holyrood’s ambitious targets. But Fergus Ewing, the energy minister, said yesterday we are “firmly on course” to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.
However, argument will continue to rage over how many more wind farms public opinion will accept, given 34,206 objections to local authorities since 2008. The figure has been rising steadily, with more than 14,000 complaints in 2012.
Questions will persist over the costs of this energy source when subsidies are taken into account. And the figures do not lessen the argument for Scotland to aim for a mixed-energy policy. Variety of source is our best defence against unexpected supply disruptions and geo-political events. And of course wind power only works when there is wind and that is not all the time. Another power source is needed alongside it to produce base power.