Calls for fines to stay in Scotland as figures show £113 million goes to London

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By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP John Finnie has revealed figures showing that since 2007, over £113 million collected in fines in Scotland has been sent to the Treasury in London.  Mr Finnie and members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are now calling for all fines raised in Scotland to stay in the country.

Scottish efforts to tackle crime are being hampered by Westminster’s insistence that money paid in fines are sent to the Treasury in London instead of staying in Scotland to fund anti-crime initiatives.

By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP John Finnie has revealed figures showing that since 2007, over £113 million collected in fines in Scotland has been sent to the Treasury in London.  Mr Finnie and members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are now calling for all fines raised in Scotland to stay in the country.

Scottish efforts to tackle crime are being hampered by Westminster’s insistence that money paid in fines are sent to the Treasury in London instead of staying in Scotland to fund anti-crime initiatives.

The Scottish government has sought to promote alteratives to prison as punishments for those convicted of non-violent crime.  One aspect of this policy is that courts are more likely to impose a fine and the amount collected in fines has increased.  This is reflected in the amount of money transferred to Westminster annually from the Scottish justic system.  

In 2007-8, the Scottish courts collected a total of £16,745,000 in fines.  By 2010-11 this sum had increased to £45,625,000.  However, even though justice policy is the responsibility of the Scottish government and the Scottish legal system is quite distinct and independent, none of this money remains in Scotland.  Instead it goes into the budget of the UK Treasury.  Since 2007 a total of £113,278,000 has gone south.

In November last year, Mr Finnie, MSP for the Highlands and Islands and a former police officer, called on Labour MSPs to support the retention of the monies from fines in Scotland.  Mr Finnie made his call after Labour MSP Graeme Pearson called for fines resulting from the Offensive Behaviour legislation to go to organisations tackling sectarianism.  However the Scottish government does not currently have this power, as all money collected in fines must be sent to the Treasury.

The Scottish government forecasts that between now and 2013 it will spend over £66 million on a range of anti-crime measures, including community safety, anti-sectarian measures, measures to protect and support victims of crime, and programmes to combat the misuse of drugs.  An additional £11.7 million is to be spent funding the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

If the money paid in fines by Scottish offenders was allowed to be used to combat crime in Scotland, police, victims support organisations and anti-drug campaigning and support groups could potentially see a significant funding increase.  Currently these funds come out of the public purse, resulting in budget squeezes elsewhere.  Mr Finnie wants criminals to pay for the cost of the damage they cause to society.

Mr Finnie noted that Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill agreed that Scotland needed full fiscal control in order the Scottish government to use money collected in fines to target specific projects and programmes.

Mr Finnie said: “These figures show the volume of money that is being taken out of Scotland every year.

“This money, £113 million, could have been ploughed back into Scotland’s communities, helping to tackle law-breaking by funding anti-crime initiatives.

“Under Treasury rules money raised from fines goes straight to the Treasury instead of staying in Scotland.

“I am urging for cross-party support to get the UK Government to change this system so Scotland is armed with the tools it needs to clamp down on the scourge of crime.

“Kenny MacAskill agrees Scotland needs the full financial levers to enable us to use money taken in fines to target specific areas.

“It doesn’t make sense to fine Scots for breaking the rules and send that money to Westminster when it can be put back into helping the people of this country to stop flouting the law and supporting victims of crimes.

“The SNP is urging the UK Government to allow fines to stay in Scotland.  With crime at its lowest rate for 35 years this money would help continue our good progress.”