Shocking figures show that police in Scotland have stopped and searched 750,000 people in the last year. The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research report also found that 500 children under 10 were stopped and searched in 2010 alone. This has caused concern from human rights and children's organisations.
Scotland's Children's Commissioner, Tam Baillie, writing in the Herald said:
On any reading, it is clear that young people are being targeted and there will be times when their rights are being infringed.In a the country that claims to be committed to children's rights and wants to be the best country in the world in which to grow up, this needs to be addressed urgently.
The Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission was also worried:
The recent increase in the use of non-statutory powers of stop and search [i.e. where there is no reasonable suspicion of the person] is particularly concerning. According to Police Scotland these amount to 70% of the almost half a million searches conducted between April and December in 2013. Such an increased and extensive use of this form of stop and search power can, dependent upon the circumstances, be unlawful, be carried out without informed and freely given consent, and have a longer term adverse impact upon police and community relations. Scotland should not be repeating the mistakes and lessons learned in England and Wales, where the use of stop and search is reducing.
One person isn't worried one little bit, though. Step forward First Minister Alex Salmond who pretty much shrugged his shoulders and said "so what" when questioned by Willie Rennie today. You can watch the whole thing here from about 18:30. Willie asked Salmond if he was comfortable with that high number of searches on children who are hardly in a position to consent. The First Minister again showed that he really doesn't get it on civil liberties. As long as crime's going down, he's happy.
With a 1 in 8 chance of Scots being searched by Police, perhaps it's time to start educating our citizens and schoolchildren about their rights. Ultimately, if the Police are going to search you, they need to have reasonable suspicion of a number of things. Otherwise,you do not need to submit. The Citizens' Advice Bureau has a handy guide to your rights. Read and learn it now.
While there are still concerns about stop and search powers in England being disproportionately used on black and Asian people, which must be addressed, the total number is falling. Just think, in a country of 50 million people, there are just 1.1 million stop and searches, while in Scotland, with a population of 6 million, there were 750,000. The downward trend, coupled with falling crime, shows what can be achieved with Liberal Democrats in government. To be blunt, even Theresa May is more liberal on this than Alex Salmond. That's not a good look.
As well as Willie's question, Alison McInnes, our Scottish justice spokesperson said that overuse of these powers on children sends out the wrong message about what sort of society we are:
Overuse of stop and search, particularly towards very young people, sends the completely wrong message about the kind of society we want to live in. Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to building a fairer society.
I've always said that I want to live in a liberal Scotland. So much about the SNP, not to mention authoritarian Labour, tells me it would be anything but if we were independent.