Police incidents of domestic abuse have reached a 20-year high, according to new data, with officers attending a “shameful” 63,000 call outs in 2019/20.

Figures from the Scottish Government reveal that the number rose 4% year on year and is almost double that recorded in 1999/2000.

The government report claims that an awareness campaign following the launch of new legislation on controlling behaviour may have contributed to the increase.

However, opposition politicians described the figures as “shameful”, claiming they should act as a wake-up call to ministers.

Scottish Women’s Aid also said it was struck by the “sheer scale” of the incidents and warned that next year’s data is likely to be even worse due to the pandemic.

Dr Marsha Scott, CEO of the charity, said: “As usual, Scottish Women’s Aid welcomes the annual report of domestic abuse statistics from Police Scotland.  As usual, we are struck by the sheer scale of domestic abuse yet again—almost 63,000 ‘incidents’.

“If we remember that, according to the Scottish Crime & Justice Survey, only 11% of women disclose their abuse to police, it is obvious why we consider domestic abuse to be the single biggest human rights violation in Scotland.”

She added: “It is important to note that these statistics pre-date Covid in Scotland. We know that lockdown and restrictions on movement offered powerful tools to abusers to control and coerce and reduced victim-survivors’ access to help and support, so next year’s data are likely to be even more concerning.”

According to the report, just 40% of the incidents (25,420) resulted in police recording a crime or offence.

Common assault was the most frequent offence recorded, accounting for 34%, followed by breach of the peace which made up 26%.

New legislation under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act, implemented on April 1, 2019, which addresses controlling and coercive behaviour, accounted for 4%, with 1,461 crimes recorded.

Pauline McNeill, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, said: “These shameful figures must shock us into action. 

 “This report shows domestic abuse was a growing problem even before the pandemic began. The knowledge that things may well have gotten worse under the Covid-19 restrictions since makes these figures all the more alarming.

“More needs to be done across Scottish society to tackle domestic abuse but we must see Police Scotland and the Scottish Government lead from the front.

“The police need to start using all the powers available to them and Scottish Labour have repeatedly called for specialist domestic abuse courts to finally be rolled out across the country so that victims get the protection and justice they deserve.”

The Scottish Conservatives claimed the statistics indicate that domestic abusers are not being properly punished.

Shadow secretary for justice, Jamie Greene, said: “These figures show that the SNP have completely failed to tackle rising domestic abuse cases despite warnings from all quarters.

“It is clear that the SNP’s soft-touch justice approach is not working with domestic abuse incidents having reached yet another record, shameful high. Those guilty of domestic abuse are simply not being properly punished.

“With over 150 domestic abuse incidents happening every single day in Scotland, these figures are an urgent wake-up call. Every single victim of domestic violence deserves the whole justice system to be on their side.”

The report showed that 82% of the domestic abuse incidents recorded had a male perpetrator and a female victim, 15% had a female perpetrator and male victim, while in 3% of cases both were of the same gender.

Those in the 26 to 30 age group had the highest rate of victims in the population.

In cases where identities could be verified, in 59% of incidents both the victim and accused had previously been recorded in an incident of domestic abuse.

Incidents of abuse were more likely to occur on Saturdays and Sundays than weekdays, while the most frequent location was at the victim's home.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Keith Brown said: “These statistics are a stark reminder of the unacceptable levels of domestic abuse that occur in Scotland.

“A person’s home should be a place of safety and we know that is not always the case and that women are disproportionately victims of domestic abuse.

“The new offence of domestic abuse has been heralded as gold-standard legislation in strengthening the law against those who undertake a course of abusive behaviour, including both physical and psychological abuse, and we have been clear that we want to see all incidents of domestic abuse reported.

“Last year we provided more than £5.75 million in additional funding for frontline services supporting women and children experiencing, or at risk of, violence or abuse, to help respond to an increase in demand during the pandemic.

“We welcome any indication that more people are coming forward to access justice and we continue to encourage all those who experience domestic abuse to report it and seek support.”

Anyone in need of information or advice on domestic abuse or forced marriage can call Scotland’s domestic abuse helpline on 0800 027 1234.