Ruth Maguire MSP today called on the Scottish Government to take action amid figures showing that sexual offences against children have risen by a third.

The data requested by NSPCC Scotland noted 5311 recorded offences in 2019-20 an increase of 30 per cent in the five years since 2014-15.

Speaking today in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP MSP asked the Justice Secretary what action is being taken by the Scottish Government to prevent further offences from taking place.

Referring to the pause in consultation on new child protection guidance due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she said: “Some of the spike in sexual offences will be online child sexual abuse. Given that some of the measures put in place to deal with the pandemic potentially increased children’s vulnerability online, there should be no further delay to Scottish Government child protection guid-ance so that all those working with children and families to prevent and address abuse have the best possible tools available.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We know that young people inevitably had to spend more time online for learning and socialising over the last few months. There’s a recognition that with that comes increased risks. We recognise the value of robust guidance to support those working with children and families during the pandemic.

“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime. To tackle it, we require a coordinated, multi-agency trauma informed response, in particular to address the devastating impact it has on survivors and victims.

“We continue our significant funding commitments to third sector partners such as NSPCC, Barnardo’s Scotland, Stop It Now Scotland as well as funding support programmes of work such as Equally Safe and the Child Protection Improvement Programme to strengthen our response to child abuse.”

Providing further comment, Ruth Maguire said: “I welcome the Justice Secretary’s recognition that the measures taken to protect the public during lockdown carried inherent risk to the safety of children online.

“The figures released by Police Scotland are harrowing and an indication that updated guidance on child protection must not be delayed any further in order to provide suitable support for children and families affected by child sexual abuse.”

Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland’s head of service, said: “It is crucial that children and young people who have been sexually abused receive timely, relevant and specialist support to help them recover from the devastating impacts of this crime. However, from our own research we know that such services are patchy and inconsistent across Scotland.

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to follow other nations in the UK and produce a comprehensive strategy to tackle child sexual abuse, which sets out a joined-up approach by the various agencies to both prevent abuse and help young people recover.”

The full exchange can be viewed below: