Holyrood / Social Issues

Stop and Search? or Stop and Ban?

Police within Scotland, without permission or a warrant, can legally search you if they believe one of the following:

  1. That you are in possession of an offensive weapon, illegal drugs or stolen items.
  2. Carrying cash over £1,000 as a result of criminal activity.
  3. Carrying alcohol within certain events or on certain public transport.
  4. Consuming alcohol on the streets within public areas (unless legal to do so).
  5. And, strangely, evidence relating to the “Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002” (fox or hare hunting). The Glasgow black market fox hunt produces trillions in funds for all sorts of illegal tosh [citation needed].

Police can also stop and search anyone, with their consent, without suspecting them of committing an offense or in possession of prohibited items. The debate over this came to light, when the First Minster Nicola Sturgeon informed Holyrod that Senior Officers were considering ending the tactic. This has lead to a number of MSPs calling for a ban on consensual stop and search and in response some officers responded by accusing politicians of “ignorance”.

But is it that controversial? I get the impression that most of us are in agreement that it is a useful method of crime prevention and are happy to see it continue so long as any problems or negative repercussions of its use are identified and ironed out. Such as: “Officers are not required to inform suspects that they may refuse a search”.


A scrutiny review released by the Scottish Police Authority in 2014 analyses stats obtained between April 2013 and December 2013, highlighting the success and concerns of Stop and Search. The numbers of stop and search cases seen above are quite high among the under 30s. Consensual (non-statutory) numbers are significantly higher within the under 20s; the age group most likely to be negatively affected, despite having an almost identical detection rate as those in their 40s.

In my youth, I was lucky enough to develop a very positive view of our police force, who were very understanding and tolerant when we were “a little too loud and energetic with our parties”. Some may not have been so lucky, but with an average of 15-20% detection rates it is evident the police are doing their jobs. I’d also like to point out that the detection rate among our youth is mostly for alcohol, which is another issue in itself.


Figures from The Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research, using data from 2005-2010 seen above, suggest that 5.2% of consensual searches yield results compared to an average of 16.4% in non-consensual. Alcohol and stolen property may be down a little but what is staggering is the massive drop in weapons and firearms- made more impressive when compared to the drop in non-sexual violent crimes, seen in the table below. This drop can be attributed to a few factors.

  1. We are less likely to carry prohibited items because of stop and search.
  2. The offence of carrying a weapon along with the frequency of stop and search reduces the escalation rate of crimes.


Based on the evidence, I am inclined to believe that the police should have the right to perform consensual and non-consensual stop and searches. But with our youth being targeted more often there may be negative feelings against the police developing in some communities, especially in cases where someone has been searched numerous times with no results.  The tactic is working and any negative effects must be dealt with by our police force. They must be given more trust by our government in matters such as these, but forcing legislation on a tactic that is showing results will only serve to undermine the great work they already do for us.

MSPs please do not ban consensual stop and searches. It may not work in London, but it works here.


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