THE number of recorded child sexual offences in Scotland has risen by nearly one-third in five years. The figures have prompted the NSPCC to urge the Scottish Government to draw up a child sexual abuse strategy that puts victims and prevention at its core.

The charity says Police Scotland recorded 5311 offences during 2019/20, including rape, online grooming and sexual assault. The total, which includes non-recent offences, is up 30% on 2014/15. Last year’s figure is an average of 15 child sex offences every day.

The NSPCC also says Childline counselling sessions about sexual abuse in the family tripled across the UK during lockdown.

In last year’s Scottish figures, where gender was recorded, girls were five times as likely to be victims, and in the offences where age category was given, 45% of the crimes recorded were against children under 13.

Across the UK, there were 73,518 recorded offences in 2019/20. The data was provided by a total of 44 out of 45 police forces after the NSPCC submitted a Freedom of Information request. NSPCC Scotland says it believes the statistics show an urgent need for national leadership to create a co-ordinated plan to tackle child sexual abuse, both online and offline.

The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to set about producing a comprehensive child sexual abuse strategy that puts the needs of children and young people at the centre of how authorities respond to child sexual abuse, with a focus on effective prevention and victims having access to timely, relevant and specialist support to help them recover.

NSPCC Scotland says its research has shown that the availability of specialist therapeutic sexual abuse services is patchy and inconsistent. It says support should include that provided through Child House initiatives where services provide under one roof.

Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland’s head of service, said: “Every day, children in Scotland are being sexually abused and having to live with the devastating impacts of this abuse on their lives.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when it is disclosed. In Scotland, we have seen numerous plans and initiatives launched on various aspects of such abuse, including child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviour.

“However, we believe it is crucial to have a joined-up approach and want to see a strategy which puts the experiences and needs of children at the heart of it and is effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Child sexual abuse is complex with a devastating impact and requires a co-ordinated, multi-agency response.

“Intervention and protection are vital in the support of survivors and victims and we are revising Scotland’s National Child Protection Guidance, although we recognise how disappointing the delay caused by our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been.

“No child should have to endure abuse and anyone who suspects a child may be at risk of harm should contact police.”

Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000. Childline can be contacted on 0800 1111 or at