Crime in Scotland is surging, victims are suffering, and the police are approaching breaking point.

In 2021-22, there were 9,842 violent crimes recorded. This is higher than any other year throughout Nicola Sturgeon’s time as First Minister. In the same year, the police recorded 14,556 sexual crimes across Scotland. This is higher than any other year on record.

Additionally, the number of domestic abuse incidents has hit the highest level on record, with 65,251 incidents of domestic abuse being recorded by Police Scotland in 2020-21.

Despite this, police officer numbers in Scotland have now dropped below 17,000 for the first time since 2008. Official figures released by Police Scotland show that there were just 16,805 full time police officers employed by the service as of March 31, 2022. More than 900 police officers have been cut from local divisions since the SNP centralised the police force, and the number of local authority funded police has been cut from 170 officers to just 87.

In addition, Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation, in a budget submission to the Parliament’s criminal justice committee, recently said police numbers have already been gamed “to meet the budget challenges” and that police officer numbers are being carefully manipulated for presentation purposes.

On top of this, the SNP’s soft touch approach is siding with criminals and failing to deliver justice for victims. Nicola Sturgeon said in 2015 she would end automatic early release completely. But this year, she backtrcked and claimed she’d only committed to ending automatic release under certain conditions.

To this day, all prisoners sentenced in Scotland to less than four years are automatically released halfway through their sentence. The SNP Government now wants to automatically release criminals after serving just a third of their prison sentence and in 2019, the SNP effectively banned sentences of 12 months or under - against the advice of women’s and domestic abuse groups, who pointed out that short sentences provide vital relief for victims.

My Conservative colleague, shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene MSP, has proposed a range of measures in his new Bill, known as the Victim’s Law, to begin to address these issues. The consultation period on this Bill ends on June 1, and if you are a victim of crime I would strongly encourage you to have your say.

Our proposals so far involve scrapping the “not proven” verdict from Scots Law to end the confusion it causes, which can cause extra trauma for victims and is disproportionately used in sexual offence cases, which may lead to guilty people walking free.

Our Victims Law proposal would also allow victims and their families to request criminals be given exclusion zones when they are released from prison, and would allow victims to speak directly to parole boards and prison governors when criminals are considered for release. All this, and much more.

It is time to properly fund the police and end the SNP’s soft touch on crime. Victims are being let down; they deserve better.