Fines revenue cash could pay for 1000 police officers

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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has repeated its call for revenue raised from fines levied in Scotland to remain in Scotland, after figures from the Scottish Court Service revealed that £45 million of revenue from fines levied by Scottish courts went to the UK treasury in 2010/11.

Under current Treasury rules money raised from fines goes straight to the Treasury instead of staying in Scotland.  This is despite the fact that the justice system is a matter for the Scottish Parliament and the independence of Scots Law is protected by the Treaty of Union.

The fines include monies paid in traffic and speeding offences as well as criminal offences.  The total remitted in fines to Westminster is almost sufficient to pay for the annual administration of the entire Scottish courts system and could pay the salaries of 1,000 police officers, or be used to boost support for victims of crime.  

The Westminster government has resisted pressure from Holyrood to allow this income to remain in Scotland.  It currently goes directly to the Treasury as part of the UK’s general revenues.

SNP MSP John Finnie, himself a former police officer, said that if Scotland were able to keep fine revenues, they could be put to use tackling crime and boosting frontline police services, adding:

“It has never made any sense for fines levied for offences committed in Scotland to then be retained by the UK treasury, when they could be put directly to good use funding anti-crime initiatives here.

“The 45 million pounds in fine income received by the Scottish Courts last year would have paid for the full payroll costs of more than 1,000 police officers.

“The fine revenue for Statutory Offences alone in 2010/11 almost matches the entire budget for Courts, Judiciary and Tribunal Support in the same year.

“We could also choose to target fine revenue from particular offences towards specific action to tackle crime in that area, for example some of the 18 million pounds from fines for road traffic offences could be directed towards re-educating bad drivers and those from drug offences towards rehabilitation programmes.

“That is just some indication of what a significant sum of money this is, money which could be effectively targeted towards building safer communities in Scotland, but which is instead disappearing into a Treasury black hole.

“It defies logic to fine law-breakers in Scotland and then send that money to  Westminster, when it can be put to work tackling and preventing crime and providing support for victims.

“It’s time to change this outdated practice and allow fines to stay in Scotland.  With crime at its lowest rate for 35 years this money would help the Scottish Government to continue our good progress.”