Ayrshire MSP Sharon Dowey has accused the SNP of giving fire-raisers in Ayr a “get out of jail free card”.

The Scottish Conservatives MSP for South Scotland spoke out after new figures revealed the majority of people convicted of the crime in the area were not given prison sentences.

Ms Dowey claimed the SNP must be tougher on offenders and make them face jail time if we are to reduce local fire-raising crime rates.

She said: “Under SNP criminal justice policy, fire-raisers are avoiding prison and are instead remaining in the community that they once damaged. 

“Fire-raising has a devastating impact on people’s businesses and homes, leaving them to pick up the pieces.

“By letting these offenders remain in the community that they’ve just committed an offence in, victims aren’t experiencing any kind of justice.”

According to the Scottish Parliament, the total number of fire-raising charges reported to the Crown and Procurator Fiscal Service since 2010 is 201.

Fifty-five of those people went on to be convicted, with 36 receiving prison sentences.

Other sentences include a community payback order, an admonition – effectively a judicial warning – and a children’s hearing.

Ms Dowey further accused the SNP of cutting the justice budget in real-terms after the Scottish Government’s latest spending review revealed the justice budget has been frozen until the year 2026-2027.

Responding to Ms Dowey’s concerns, a Scottish Government spokesperson told the Advertiser they are fully aware of and take very seriously the impact of fire-raising on Scottish communities.

The spokesperson explained: “Decisions on sentencing in individual cases are taken by the independent court who consider all the facts and circumstances.

“The presumption against short sentences is not a ban. Our firm focus on prevention, effective community interventions and rehabilitation, both in communities and custody, is working, with reconviction levels at the lowest level since comparable records began.

“The Scottish Government is making a total investment of over £3.1 billion in 2022-23 to further strengthen and reform vital services across the justice sector.”