Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay has hailed the first stage of a landmark Bill against domestic abuse as “a historic moment”.
As deputy convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee Ms Mackay heard harrowing first hand evidence from victims of abuse.
She said: “The Justice Committee heard heartbreaking evidence, and I thank our witnesses for their immense bravery in telling us their stories so that others will not suffer in the way that they did”.
The new laws promise to markedly improve the present system, which is based on individual incidents rather than a pattern of abusive behaviour, and for the first time will include psychological abuse as a factor.
In her speech at Holyrood Ms Mackay told MSPs: “Domestic violence — physical and psychological— exists in all sections of our communities and at all levels of society.
“As we have heard, mental and emotional abuse includes threats, criticism of someone’s appearance and intellect, name calling, and controlling what someone does, their access to money, where they go, how they dress and who they speak to, among many other degrading control mechanisms.
“The cowardly abuser knows no bounds.
“They will threaten someone’s children and isolate them from friends and family — in effect, they will try to make them a non-person.
“It is all about control— control by fear.”
The Bill has been welcomed by a wide variety of organisations, including Scottish Women’s Aid, the Law Society of Scotland, Children 1st and the NSPCC.
Ms Mackay said: “The new domestic abuse Bill has two main purposes – to create a new offence of engaging in a course of abusive conduct against a partner or ex-partner, and to amend other procedural and evidential aspects of criminal law in relation to domestic abuse.
“We all know that psychological and emotional abuse is just as painful as physical abuse.
“We might not see the bruises, but controlling and coercive behaviour eats away at the victim’s soul and self esteem each and every day.”
The new laws will also put a stronger emphasis on the effect abuse has on children.
Ms Mackay said: “Children are the forgotten victims of domestic violence.
“The ways in which they can be harmed by domestic abuse extend further than simply witnessing abuse.
“As we listened to stakeholders such as children’s charities and women’s groups, it became clear that children needed to be recognised as major victims of such crime.”