Domestic violence, predominantly against women, is one of the persisting horrors of modern Scotland. This report absolutely does not aim to diminish, to detract or to distract from a priority for change that has few if any challengers. The Scottish Government too, I feel sure, has no illusions on this:
‘The Scottish Government is committed to tackling the scourge of domestic abuse and helping victims have the confidence to come forward and report it is a hugely important part of that.’ (Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, 27/10/2015)
‘Violent crimes against women in England and Wales reach record high’
This is from the Guardian on the 5th September this year. Though the writer does not refer to Scotland at any point, she is clear that the figures refer explicitly to England and Wales. She elaborates:
‘The number of prosecutions relating to violence against women and girls in England and Wales reached a record level last year, the director of public prosecutions said, as she warned of the increasing use of social media to threaten and control.’
The figures for Scotland were released only today, 25th October 2016. Note that the Scottish figures relate to reports rather than to prosecutions. I’m not sure how much this matters but I’m going to assume that trends in reporting and in prosecuting are both indicators of underlying trends in criminal behaviour rather than indicators of significant differences in policing. Here are the key points, reported in the Herald:
‘The number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by police has fallen in the past year, figures show.’
‘Official statistics show a 3% drop in the figures for Scotland, from 59,882 in 2014-15 to 58,104, the lowest number recorded since 2010-11. The majority of incidents (79%) had a female victim and a male accused, down from 87% in 2006-07. Over the same period the proportion of incidents with a male victim and a female accused has increased from 11% to 18%.’
So, the total number of reported abuse incidents has fallen by 3% yet the number of reported female-on-male cases has increased by 7%. Therefore, reported male-on-female abuse has gone down by more than 3%? I’m not a statistician. Have I got this right, readers?
Readers will be aware that all we have, in areas of crime, are reported levels. Actual levels of crime are generally thought to be considerably higher. From The United Nations Surveys on Crime Trends and the Operations Criminal Justice Systems report of 2010, collating evidence from crime victim surveys: ‘it is known that depending on the type of crime, only about half of the crimes are actually reported to the police.’ This is of course not definitive evidence that the level of actual domestic crime in Scotland is only twice the level of reported domestic crime.
Readers may also be aware that this report is the latest in a long line of attempts by me to try to counter what is known commonly as the ‘Scottish Cringe’ or the notion that Scotland is inferior to other countries in so many ways that it cannot/should not aim for independence as it would not be able to look after itself properly. The idea that Scots males are even more violent toward their female partners than English males are is also part of the cringe. In 2014, Frankie Boyle joked that Scotland should become an Islamic State if only to unnerve England. Of course, he observed, we’d have to improve our treatment of women if we did. He was joking but that we get it tells you how deeply embedded the notion is.
Media reporting of Scottish affairs which constructs our reality for us is, to my mind, mostly to blame for the sustenance of the cringe. Recent attempts by me to suggest that Scotland is and has been for some time, more tolerant of refugees and is less xenophobic than many other countries, have taken me out onto thin ice and attracted a few angry comments. See:
To any angered by this report, I plead that you read again my opening paragraph, give me the benefit of the doubt and point out my errors calmly.
My comparison of Scotland with England and Wales may be problematic but the fall in reporting of male-on-female and the rise in reporting of female on male abuse is not.