AN MSP from Greenock says local victims of crime have been let down after the Scottish Government wrote off more than 5,000 hours of community service due to be performed by offenders.

Jamie Greene, the shadow justice secretary for the Conservatives, has accused the SNP of 'letting criminals off lightly in Inverclyde' over the move.

Figures unearthed using Freedom of Information laws show that 5,479 hours of community payback orders were wiped out.

Across Scotland as a whole, 262,153 hours of work given to criminals in the courts have been cancelled.

Mr Greene has branded this as an insult to victims of crime and is push for a Victims Law to be introduced at Holyrood as soon as possible.

He said: “The number of Community Payback Orders cut by the SNP in Inverclyde is absolutely staggering and a total insult to victims of crime in our community.

“SNP ministers need to ensure these community sentences are taken seriously, fulfilled and criminals not let off the hook.

“It is the latest example of the SNP letting down victims and I will continue to push for a Victims Law to be introduced to put victims first, ending the SNP’s soft-touch justice system.”

In January, the government announced it planned to use extraordinary powers to write off a huge number of hours handed out by sheriffs in Community Payback Orders.

The Scottish Government today defended that decision and it says low reconviction rates and the challenges of the pandemic prompted the move.

A spokesperson for the government said: "The justice system holds those who commit offences to account and community-based sentences have helped contribute to record low reconviction rates in recent years.

"The pandemic has been an unprecedented public health challenge.

"This was recognised by parliament when last year it approved legislation to allow community orders to be varied where necessary, as well as regulations earlier this year to reduce unpaid work hours.

"This is to address the unavoidable build-up of unpaid work resulting from essential public health restrictions and the rationale for the regulations was clearly set out at the time.

"Orders imposed for domestic abuse, sexual offending, and stalking were excluded.

"Our justice system has continued to operate effectively despite the challenges of the pandemic and those on community orders will still serve the majority of their sentences.”