Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2014-15

Official Statistics Bulletin presents statistics on crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the police in Scotland. It forms part of the Scottish Government series of statistical bulletins on the criminal justice system. Statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police provide a measure of the volume of criminal activity with which the police are faced.

This document is part of a collection

2. Background

2.1. Statistics on recorded crimes and offences inform the Scottish Government's Strategy for Justice in Scotland, and National Outcome 9 - 'we live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger'.

2.2. These statistics are also used by a wide range of stakeholders. Further information on users and uses of the statistics is available in Annex 6 of this bulletin as well as in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available via the following link:

2.3. The 'Recorded Crime in Scotland' annual statistical bulletin forms part of a series of bulletins produced by the Scottish Government on the criminal justice system, which can be found at

2.4. The term "crime" is generally used for the more serious criminal acts; the less serious are termed "offences". The distinction is made only for statistical reporting purposes and has no impact on how the police investigate reports of criminal activity. The "seriousness" of the offence is generally related to the maximum sentence that can be imposed. This distinction has been consistently used in the Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletins since publication began in 1983 and, prior to this, in the Criminal statistics publication dating back to the 1920s.

A further distinction, although not absolute, is that the numbers of offences recorded by the police generally tends to be affected more by police activity and operational decisions than the numbers of crimes.

Crimes relate to Groups 1 to 5:

Offences relate to Groups 6 to 7:

  • Non-sexual crimes of violence,
  • Miscellaneous offences, and
  • Sexual crimes,
  • Motor vehicle offences.
  • Crimes of dishonesty,
  • Fire-raising, vandalism etc., and
  • Other crimes.

For further information on crime and offence groups, see Chapter 7.

2.5. In general, this statistical bulletin covers the ten year period from 2005-06 to 2014-15, the entirety of which is subject to the Scottish Crime Recording Standard (SCRS) introduced in 2004-05. The SCRS has helped maintain a consistent approach to recording crime. The SCRS manual is published by Police Scotland in the 'Our Performance' section of their website under Related Documents and can be accessed here:

2.6. Crimes are presented in this bulletin against the year in which they are recorded by the police. Not all crimes are reported to, and recorded by, the police immediately following their occurrence. As such each year's figures on police recorded crime will include a proportion of crimes committed in earlier years. The current basis on which we receive the data means we are generally unable to identify crimes committed in earlier years.

2.7. The Police Service of Scotland (referred to throughout this report as Police Scotland) is responsible for operational policing in Scotland and is held to account by the Scottish Police Authority. The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 changed the policing landscape in Scotland, replacing the previous eight police forces, the Scottish Police Services Authority and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency from 1 April 2013. The statistics set out in this bulletin cover the second year following the establishment of Police Scotland.

2.8. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2012-13 provides a complementary measure of crime to police recorded crime statistics. The survey provides information on the criminal justice system, people's experience of civil justice problems and people's perception of crime.

The SCJS also provides an estimate of the proportion of crimes not reported to the police. In 2012-13, it was estimated that 39% of crimes, as defined by the SCJS, were reported to the police.

The survey also provides estimates of progress for two national indicators in the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework, namely:

  • Improve people's perceptions about the crime rate in their area; and
  • Reduce crime victimisation rates.

Further information on the National Performance Framework can be accessed via the following link:

Additional coverage on the SCJS is featured in the Data Comparisons segments throughout the bulletin, located toward the end of each crime or offence group section. A more detailed analysis on the comparisons between recorded crime and the SCJS is provided in Chapter 4.

2.9. There have been no major legislative changes throughout 2014-15 which impact on the comparability of the statistics.

Past legislative changes, and changes to classifications can be found in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available at:

2.10. The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) published an assessment report on Recorded Crime in Scotland on 31 July 2014. The report states that UKSA "cannot at present confer National Statistics status on these statistics", whilst also recognising that the UKSA "have been impressed with features of the institutional framework in Scotland" and noting that "Police Scotland is surrounded by a strong framework of inspection and regulation, including a National Crime Registrar, the Scottish Police Authority, and HMICS".

As a result of this, the 2013-14 and 2014-15 statistical bulletins on Recorded Crime in Scotland have both been published as Official Statistics. UKSA assessment reports point to improvements statistics producers can make and the Scottish Government continues to action these requirements. The full assessment report can be accessed here:

The Scottish Government has taken forward a number of actions to improve the information provided to users and to aid their understanding and interpretation of the statistics. More details are included on the strengths, limitations and quality of the statistics, the quality assurance processes that support this and how the results of audits by HMICS are taken account of in producing recorded crime statistics. An assessment of any risk and potential sources of error associated with the use of the underlying administrative data source has also been provided to users.

The Scottish Government has produced a User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland as part of a suite of documents, alongside the Framework of Assurance and the Recorded Crime: Comparability of Police Scotland and Legacy Force Data report. These accompanying documents are intended to support and inform users about police recorded crime statistics in Scotland.


Email: Keith Paterson

Back to top