Cathy's Law; Can a Left-Wing Social Worker Be Tough on Crime? Scotland's New Justice Minister Squares Up to the Neds - and the Critics

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Byline: LINDSAY McGARVIE Political Editor

FEMALE, left wing and a former social worker.

Cathy Jamieson's credentials as Scotland's new Justice Minister have outraged the hang 'em and flog 'em brigade.

Jamieson, 47, insists you don't need to be a rabid, right-wing Tory to want to tackle crime head on. Like most Scots it impacts on her life.

Walking her dogs near her home in Ardeer, Ayrshire, she found two youths trying to break into a car. Jamieson tackled them - and they fled. She said: "It was only afterwards I thought how stupid it was."

She insists that her sex, political beliefs and former profession do not make her soft on crime. Just the opposite.

Jamieson said: "There is nothing left wing or socialist about allowing our communities to be terrorised by youths who do things like break off railings to use as weapons or hide knives in bushes to pick up later."

Her first big hurdle will be to convince the 28 members of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) at their annual conference on Thursday.

When they first heard of her appointment, many thought Jamieson, who grew up on the tough Shortlees council estate in Kilmarnock, would be soft on crime. They could not have been more wrong, according to the new minister.

Indeed, Jack McConnell told colleagues he chose her because "there is nothing better than an ex-social worker who thinks we've been soft on crime".

Sitting in her constituency office in Cumnock, Jamieson, 47, said cutting down on bureaucracy was top of her "to do" list.

She added: "The ACPOS conference will be my first chance to meet the police and take forward the whole agenda for making people feel safe in their local areas.

"I want to make sure I work alongside the people who have to deliver that. We have to reduce the bureaucratic processes that tie police up. I want to put an end to highly trained experts doing paperwork when they could be out in the community."

McConnell made tackling anti-social behaviour by under 16s his No1 priority. …