Serious Organised Crime strategy

The Serious Organised Crime Taskforce Strategy seeks to close the potential gap between intelligence and tasking through the better use of threat assessments and aims to reduce the harm caused by serious organised crime by ensuring that all partner bodies work together.

What is serious organised crime?

For the purposes of this strategy, serious organised crime is: crime which involves more than one person; is organised, meaning that it involves control, planning and potentially use of specialist resources; causes, or has the potential to cause, significant harm; and involves financial or other benefit to the individuals concerned.[3]

What does serious organised crime look like in Scotland?

Latest assessments suggest that while the geographical spread of Serious Organised Crime Groups (SOCGs) operating in Scotland remains much as before (with a majority of SOCGs located in the West of Scotland), the threat from these groups is growing in scale and complexity.

Many groups operate across country boundaries and, in some cases, globally. We also know that SOCGs based elsewhere operate in Scotland.

Drug trafficking remains the largest criminal market in Scotland, with a majority of SOCGs involved in drug crime. More and more SOCGs are diversifying, with two thirds involved in multiple crime types including drugs, violence, money laundering, fraud, human trafficking, counterfeiting, illicit puppy trade, rogue trading and environmental crime.

High-priority areas of threat include SOCG violence, drugs, cybercrime, criminal use of firearms, human trafficking, child criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation and the potential for SOCG infiltration of legitimate businesses.

EU exit means that with no physical controls at the Ireland/UK border, it is almost certain that the Irish land border and Common Travel Area routes to mainland Great Britain will remain of concern. Cybercrime has no geographical boundaries and affects communities and businesses by exploiting advances in digital technology and vulnerabilities of victims. The threat from cybercrime has grown significantly and will continue to expand in scope, frequency and impact. Due to the evolving and complex nature of cybercrime, assessing the level of threat it poses to our communities is challenging and the true scale and impact of serious organised crime is not yet fully comprehended, but the scale is likely to be larger than known.

Human trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation and sexual exploitation occurs throughout Scotland and is not confined to our major cities. See The Scottish Government's Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy for Scotland.

There has also been an increase in child criminal exploitation, including county lines models[4], and in online child sexual exploitation. County Lines can result in increased community tensions and violence in affected areas and, in many cases, relies on the criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults. The increasing demand for and impact of on-line Child Sexual Exploitation is also of significant concern particularly as children spend increasing time online.

A majority of SOCGs are involved in the operation of seemingly legitimate businesses including pubs, restaurants, shops, garages, nail bars, hairdressers, construction and property development. The key reason for serious organised crime involvement in these industries is for the purposes of laundering illicit money raised through serious organised criminality. Many of these businesses seek to infiltrate the public sector space through contracts, licences, permissions and so on.

The Scottish Multi-Agency Strategic Threat Assessment

The Scottish Multi-Agency Strategic Threat Assessment (SMASTA) presents a comprehensive picture of the scale and nature of serious organised crime, significant vulnerabilities and emerging threats, alongside the intelligence requirements to fill any gaps in coverage. It is used by partners at the Scottish Crime Campus to identify strategic priorities and emerging threats in order to inform operational work and decision making.

The latest SMASTA summarises the current threats and threat enablers as follows:

Current Threats

  • Human Trafficking
  • Child Sexual Abuse
  • Violence (SOCG-related)
  • Firearms
  • Drugs
  • Financial Crime
  • Money Laundering
  • Cybercrime
  • Organised Immigration Crime
  • Organised Acquisitive Crime
  • Illicit Trade
  • Organised Environmental Crime

Cross-Cutting Threat Enablers

  • Use of Technology
  • Border Vulnerabilities
  • Transport
  • UK and Overseas Connections
  • Specialists and Business
  • Prisons and Lifetime Management
  • Foreign National Offenders
  • Corruption

The SMASTA will be updated and published on a regular basis.



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