Scottish election 2021: Douglas Ross denies misleading voters on crime figures as he warns indyref2 focus will 'drag Scotland down'

Douglas Ross has warned continued focus on a second independence referendum will “drag Scotland down”, but denied misleading voters around the use of violent crime figures.

Launching an ad campaign criticising Nicola Sturgeon for having taken her “eyes off the ball” on domestic issues due to her focus on indyref2, the Scottish Conservative leader claimed another five years of SNP government would “wreck havoc in our communities”.

Highlighting recent trends which show drug deaths more than doubling since 2009, and education standards calculated through PISA scores dropping in maths and science, Mr Ross claimed drug deaths could reach more than 2,000 by 2026 and fall behind Spain, Lithuania and Hungary on education by 2026.

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Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross stands in front of a picture of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as he launches an ad van campaign in Glasgow during campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election.

He said: “Every time Nicola Sturgeon pushes for another independence referendum and takes her eye off the ball, Scotland suffers.

“She will drag Scotland down and wreck our recovery from Covid if the SNP win a majority because her eyes will only be focussed on independence. We’ve seen what happens when she takes her eye off the ball.

“An SNP majority hell-bent on another independence referendum would wreak havoc in our communities. The damage from five more years of distraction would be devastating.”

The Moray MP also highlighted a recent rise in violent crime which has increased from 6,272 in 2014/5 to 9,316 in 2019/20, claiming it could rise to more than 15,000 by 2026.

However, official statistics show the rise between 2018/19 and 2019/20 was due to more than 1,600 crimes being recorded under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 for the first time.

The Recorded Crime in Scotland publication referenced by the Scottish Conservatives states violent crime dropped by 5 per cent between 2019 and 2020, with domestic abuse crimes removed and has decreased by 19 per cent overall since 2010/11.

In the same period of time, crimes of dishonesty such as theft have dropped by 29 per cent and fire-raising and vandalism has dropped by 42 per cent.

Despite this downward trend, Mr Ross denied he was misleading voters by focusing on the statistics that paint the worst possible picture in terms of recorded crime.

He said: “Serious crime in Scotland has risen, so you cannot have the SNP saying everything is great when it is clear – I have heard from police officers, I have heard from victims both during this campaign and since I became leader – [there is] real serious concern about the justice system in Scotland and it is yet another area where Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have taken their eye off the ball.

"We’ve also got to remember over 100 local police stations have closed since the SNP merged the eight police forces into Police Scotland.

"We know there are less officers on our streets in Scotland, frontline officers with a visible presence in communities now than when the SNP introduced the single police force.

"Yes we have to look at all of the figures, but it is also clear that the picture painted by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP that somehow our justice system is perfect here in Scotland and there is no area to improve is completely wrong.”

The SNP was contacted for comment.

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