Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2020-2021

Statistics on crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the police in Scotland, split by crime or offence group and by local authority. This bulletin also includes a new chapter which presents an estimate of how many cyber-crimes were recorded in Scotland during 2019-20 and 2020-21.

This document is part of a collection

1. Background

Statistics on recorded crimes and offences inform the Scottish Government’s Justice Vision and Priorities - available via the following link:

These statistics are also used by a wide range of stakeholders. Further information on users and uses of the statistics is available in Annex 5 of this bulletin and in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available via the following link:

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 on the Scottish Government website: Recorded Crime in Scotland - (

Contraventions of Scottish criminal law are divided for statistical purposes into crimes and offences. 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.

For further information on crime and offence groups, see Figure 1 and the User Guide.

Figure 1: Breakdown of crime and offence groups


1 Non-sexual crimes of violence
Sexual crimes
3 Crimes of dishonesty
4 Fire-raising, vandalism etc.
5 Other crimes

Coronavirus restriction crimes (new group since 2019-20)


6 Miscellaneous offences
7 Motor vehicles offences

The Scottish Crime Recording Board ran a consultation in 2019 on how these National Statistics are presented. This included inviting user views on potential changes to the grouping structure outlined above. The consultation closed on 30th November 2019 and a full Summary of Responses can be accessed online. Following a pause in this work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a follow up consultation of users on a new and revised set of crime groups is planned for the Autumn of 2021 (alongside wider views being invited on the production of the recorded crime statistics). Users will be kept informed of developments relating to the consultation through the ScotStat network.

Given the clear user support demonstrated in the 2019 consultation for such a change, a new cyber-crime chapter, presenting the latest available information on recorded cyber-crime in Scotland, has been added. This includes an estimate of the proportion of recorded crime which is cyber-crime (based on the review of a random sample of crime records).

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 basis on which we receive the data means we are generally unable to identify which crimes were committed in earlier years.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2019-20 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 perceptions of crime. A detailed analytical comparison between recorded crime and the SCJS is provided in Chapter 5.

In September 2016 the Office for Statistics Regulation (at the time known as the UK Statistics Authority) designated Recorded Crime in Scotland as National Statistics, which means that they meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. A more recent compliance check in December 2019 confirmed this status, with some recommendations for further improvement going forward. Work on these recommendations was paused as statisticians took on new work in relation to COVID-19, however work to meet these recommendations has recently recommenced. An updated User Guide has been produced and a consultation is planned for the Autumn on the future of recorded crime and police activity statistics.

The statistics on recorded crime clear up rates (Chapter 4) remain published as Official Statistics (i.e. on the same basis as since 2013-14). The Office for Statistics Regulation will re-visit the statistical designation of this information once an audit has been carried out and the Scottish Crime Recording Board has considered any implications for the quality of these data.

Change to the recording of International Crimes

A procedural change was made to the recording of international crime in 2020-21, whereby cases carried out by a perpetrator who was likely to be outside the UK are now included. This change resulted in an estimated 1,160 additional crimes being recorded, which represents less than 1% of all crime recorded in Scotland this year. Further information on this change is available in the Cyber-crime chapter).

Coronavirus restrictions crimes

This year’s bulletin contains a significant number of crimes relating to Coronavirus restrictions, which were recorded under specific coronavirus legislation. Whilst Police Scotland have stated that enforcement would be used when faced with non-compliance and only as a last resort (after they have attempted to engage, explain and encourage compliance), there were 20,976 crimes relating to Coronavirus restrictions in 2020-21. These crimes are included within the total recorded crime figure for Scotland, though are presented separately to the existing five crime groups.

Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on recorded crime

The nationwide lockdowns and other measures put in place due to limit social contact during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are very likely to have had a significant impact on the type and volume of crime recorded in the 2020-21 figures. However, some caution is advised before necessarily attributing all of the changes to this situation. For example, longer term trends in some types of offending, which existed prior to the pandemic, may remain a factor

To inform users about the volume and type of crimes and offences recorded in Scotland during the pandemic, the Scottish Government introduced a new monthly series of Official Statistics from April 2020 onwards. These can be accessed at:

This annual National Statistics bulletin remains the primary source of information on crimes and offences recorded by the police.

Other legislative changes, and changes to classifications can be found in the User Guide to Recorded Crime Statistics in Scotland, available at: Recorded crime in Scotland: user guide - (



Back to top