KEITH Brown has been accused of breath-taking spin after claiming a new report showing a jump in violent and sexual crime proved Scotland was a safe place to live. 

Labour said the unrealistic gloss put on the numbers "beggars belief".

Mr Brown, the justice secretary and deputy SNP leader, came under fire after publication of the official recorded crime figures for the year to September.

They showed all crimes fell by 3 per cent to 287,374 over the year, one of the lowest levels since 1974.

However the fall was entirely driven by a collapse in crimes related to Covid, which fell from 19,861 to just 36, and all other forms of crime showed a collective increase of 3%.

Non-sexual violent crimes rose 8% in the year to 69,353, also up 5% on 2018.

While sexual crimes were 6% higher in the year to September than in the previous 12 months at 14,838 recorded offences,  10% higher than in 2018.

Crimes of dishonesty were 12% higher compared to the year ending September 2021 at 100,246, but 10% lower than in the year to September 2018.

Anti-social offences were 4% down over the last year, and 13% lower than in 2018.

Road traffic offences were also 9% lower than in 2021.

Scotland’s chief statistician drew attention to the total 3% fall in recorded crime being “driven by a reduction in crimes recorded under Coronavirus related legislation (from 19,861 to 36)” and confirmed: “All other crimes collectively increased by 3%.”

However the Scottish Government response to the report did not mention this.

Instead, it was headlined: “Trend down as people feel safe in communities.”

It also said crime recorded by police remained “lower than before the pandemic, according to new statistics released today”, despite the rises in sexual and violent crimes.

Mr Brown said: “The latest figures today show Scotland continues to be a safe place to live. 

“Recorded crime is at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974, and below pre-pandemic levels, meaning the vast majority of people do not experience crime.

“While there are fewer victims compared to 2007, we continue to strengthen support for those who experience crime and to promote work to reduce reoffending. 

“This includes proposals to introduce an independent Victims’ Commissioner, making sure victims’ voices are heard and placing women and children at the heart of delivery.

“Continuing to reduce crime and the harm it causes both individuals and our society as a whole is central to our ambitious vision to reform our justice system.

“These historically low levels of crime are testimony to the continued efforts across the justice sector as we continue to deliver a safer Scotland for everyone.”

Scottish Labour justice spokesperson Pauline McNeill said: “It is shocking to see the number of violent and sexual crimes soaring once again.

"It beggars belief that the SNP government would try and pretend these figures are anything other than a national scandal.  

“Their plans to cut justice budgets risk making this grim picture even worse. The SNP need to get a grip on spiralling rates of serious crimes so our communities can truly feel safer.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur added: “Violent and sexual crime levels are at some of the highest levels we have ever seen. The SNP can no longer get away with spinning the figures. 

“The government plans to spend the next five years cutting the budget for police and courts. This will hamstring investigations and hurt prosecutions.   

“People need to know that if they have been the victim of a crime, they can go to the police and their case will be investigated. Right now, with rates as high as these, many see this as a hopeless exercise.   

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see the Scottish Government invest in our justice system to deal with court backlogs, cut crime and boost public confidence.”