Scotland

Crime cash to help youngsters, SNP conference told

Kenny MacAskill
Image caption Kenny MacAskill hit out at critics over the release of the Lockerbie bomber

More cash seized from criminals will be used to help educate youngsters about the dangers of knife-carrying.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill made the pledge as he outlined the SNP's record on crime.

He revealed the Scottish government was putting an extra £500,000 into diverting young people away from violence.

Mr MacAskill also hit out at his international critics over the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

The justice secretary has come under intense pressure from the US following his decision to release terminally-ill Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from prison, on compassionate grounds, more than a year ago.

Mr MacAskill told delegates in Perth he was elected to the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish people, adding: "It is to those electors that I am accountable and to that institution that I am answerable - to no other, irrespective of their size, status or power."

The crime funding announcement is the latest in a series of investments made as part of the CashBack for Communities scheme, following the seizure of £6.6m from a Russian gangster, earlier this year.

Mr MacAskill also unveiled plans for a consultation on strengthening Proceeds of Crime laws, which allows the authorities to recover more cash from criminals.

That could see the range of offences that can lead to money being seized being increased to take in illegal money lending, the distribution or selling of obscene material and supplying unclassified video recordings.

Mr MacAskill also used his speech to mount a staunch defence of the SNP government's record on crime.

Labour and the Tories have called for mandatory jail sentences to be brought in for those caught carrying a knife.

The justice secretary conceded Scotland had a "particular problem" with knife crime, but insisted: "We're tackling it. Knife crime, as the facts show, is down by 30% since we came to office."

He also defended ending short jail terms and the new, alternative community payback orders, adding: "Whether clearing the snow from an auld biddy's path, or restoring headstones in graveyards, we'll have them out in our community paying back the harm they have done with the sweat of their brow."

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