SCOTLAND’s annual tally of domestic abuse incidents has plateaued, new figures suggest.

Police recorded 58,810 cases in 2016-17, around half of them involving a crime, roughly the same as figures for each of the last six years.

The year’s toll was one per cent higher than a year before and two per cent below a peak of just over 60,000 incidents recorded in 2012-13.

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The current figures - hovering just under 60,000 - come after sustained growth around a decade ago. Figures have doubled in a decade in some rural and suburban parts of eastern Scotland, including the Borders and Aberdeenshire, suggesting historic levels of underreporting.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson remained unhappy with the volume of reports

He said: “While figures have been relatively stable over the past five years, they remain evidence of the unacceptable levels of domestic abuse in Scotland.

“We know these figures don’t paint the whole picture, as victims are often too afraid to report abuse. We also know domestic abuse disproportionately affects women.”

Where gender information was recorded, female victims and male accused accounted for 79 per cent of all incidents.

A male victim and female accused were recorded in 18 per cent of cases, the same percentage shown in 2015/16 figures but a large rise on previous years.

The latest batch of statistics, however, underlined familiar patterns of police call-outs.

Incidents were more common at weekends, with 36 per cent occurring on a Saturday or Sunday.

Meanwhile, the 26-30 age group had the highest incident rate for both victims and accused.

There remain large differences in reporting levels across the country. The Northern and Western isles and rural Dumfries and Galloway and Aberdeenshire all have a rate of domestic abuse at half the national average.

There have been historic concerns that lack of services, especially for female victims, have made some island and rural women reluctant to report abuse.

Orkney Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “We need to see continued action to give people the confidence to come forward and ensure that the justice system is properly equipped to bring perpetrators to justice.

“As well as passing the new legislation, ministers should also work to establish why the rate of reports of domestic abuse is three times higher in areas like Dundee and West Dunbartonshire than in the Northern Isles and ensure that victims have the support and advice they need wherever in Scotland they live.”

The Scottish Government has allocated £20 million over three years to reduce violence against women and girls.

The government’s Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill - to create a specific offence of abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner, and to criminalise psychological abuse, such as coercive and controlling behaviour - is currently passing through the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said the figures may “only be the tip of the iceberg as often victims are still too afraid to come forward”.

She added: “Questions should be asked as to why more than half of all incidents fail to result in a crime or offence.”

The share of incidents that “convert” to an actual crime being recorded has bobbed up and down in recent years. In 2016-17, 47 per cent of incidents involved a crime, most frequently assault. The rural areas with low incident reporting had higher conversion rates.

Nearly half of cases involved victims and perpetrators who had previously been subject to an abuse report.