Scotland's approach to antisocial behaviour: review findings

This report presents findings on the perceptions of current approaches to antisocial behaviour in Scotland, based on discussions with key stakeholders including victims and frontline staff. The report will help inform future reviews on best practice for preventing and tackling antisocial behaviour.

Root causes

To better prevent and address antisocial behaviour, we need to better understand the - often complex - root causes that can lead to this antisocial behaviour.

These include:

Impact of poor mental health

Poor mental health was felt by some people to be a prominent root cause linked to antisocial behaviour. In considering this, we need to recognise that having a lifelong or short-term mental health condition can also make an individual vulnerable themselves. This highlights that health issues, which drive behaviour, can potentially contribute to the perception of antisocial behaviour in communities. Of course, it was also flagged that, mental health conditions could arise with those who are adversely impacted by antisocial behaviour and such individuals may also need support. Views were also shared that the process of dealing with antisocial behaviour could, in itself, cause poor mental health, which is an area for potential further consideration.

Despite pathways between statutory, non-statutory and/or voluntary agencies becoming increasingly well established to provide support for individuals, some community safety officers expressed the view that they felt under-resourced and not sufficiently trained to support and work with individuals with challenging mental health problems. Feedback referred to cutbacks to mental health support and resources which were noted as a further barrier.

Drugs and alcohol

The misuse and influence of drugs and alcohol was identified as a root cause of antisocial behaviour and access to support services was felt to be critical to people’s recovery. Underage drinking was noted by some people as a problem. There were also aspects of “drinking culture” to be taken account of in terms of contributing to antisocial behaviour. It was noted that community support was vitally important to help tackle addictions in adults and prevent youth disorder, but a lack of access, including reduced service provision, was having a serious impact.


As set out in the Vision for Justice in Scotland, crime and victimisation are intrinsically linked to poverty and deprivation, and the Scottish Community Safety Network’s research ‘The Scottish Picture of Antisocial Behaviour’ outlines the strong link between antisocial behaviour and area deprivation.

Our discussions highlighted the view that poverty was a primary root cause of antisocial behaviour and that this could be generational and cultural with some people not being conscious that particular behaviours are deemed to be antisocial behaviour.

Ethnic and other minority communities who live in areas of deprivation, felt that they could be disproportionately affected by antisocial behaviour as they could be specifically targeted because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics. Where someone lives, may also affect perceptions of what is considered to be antisocial behaviour; and it was felt important not to inappropriately criminalise people who may in fact be frustrated, distressed and traumatised. Tackling poverty was therefore imperative, as was recognising inequalities, and providing support for these communities.

Incorporating antisocial behaviour, within a cross governmental approach to tackling poverty, with policy being aligned and developed through co-production was endorsed.

Stigma and stereotypes

Stigma and stereotypes were also considered to be particular root causes of antisocial behaviour. Some respondents were concerned about the ways in which antisocial behaviour was reported through the media, including language which was considered by some to be political and sensationalising antisocial behaviour which can set people against one another and inflame rather than decrease tensions.

Greater respect and understanding to confront these narratives, especially from those in positions of power, was felt to be important. There was some discussion around how the term antisocial behaviour can be stigmatising in itself.


The quality of existing housing stock concerned many people we spoke to.

Poor housing could lead to noise issues and complaints because of limited soundproofing and unsuitable flooring.

Several respondents felt housing problems had been exacerbated by short-term lets and ‘party-flats’. It was noted that some councils were addressing these issues through using new legislation available to them.

Concerns were also expressed about how private landlords address antisocial behaviour. It was highlighted that there was not a universal approach to how all social housing associations deal with antisocial behaviour, meaning that support and approaches could vary dramatically across the country. It was noted that many people affected by trauma can live beside each other and that greater consideration should be taken regarding who is housed next to one another.

Covid-19 pandemic

The impact of the pandemic and lockdown was felt to have been profound and lasting. Although strong community efforts had taken place in some areas during the pandemic (using what might be termed a “prosocial approach”), many considered the pandemic had negatively affected a high number of people’s mental health, with a noticeable decrease in people’s “tolerance” levels.

Some people reported a perceived increase in antisocial behaviour since the pandemic, particularly in relation to the behaviour of some young people, and respondents who have protected characteristics (under equalities legislation) also noted a rise in hate crime.



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