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Remembering probation in Scotland

McNeill, F. (2005) Remembering probation in Scotland. Probation Journal, 52 (1). pp. 25-40. ISSN 0264-5505

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Abstract

Set within the contexts of probation’s upcoming centenary in Scotland (in 2005) and the current debate about the future of criminal justice social work in Scotland (and probation in England and Wales), this article provides an account of the early history of probation in Scotland, focussing on the rarely discussed period between 1905 and 1968. Following Nellis’s (2001) injunction to develop a ‘historically tutored memory’ as a defence against the narrowing of our visions for the future, and drawing on Vanstone’s (2004) recent work on the history of the service in England and Wales, the article pieces together and seeks to understand a significant change in Scottish probation’s core identity and purpose from providing supervision as an alternative to punishment to providing ‘treatment’ as a means of reforming offenders. In the concluding discussion, the article briefly summarises the subsequent move towards a welfare-oriented approach after 1968 and, more recently the drift towards public protection as an overarching purpose (Robinson and McNeill, 2004). The article concludes that the current debate in Scotland should shift from ‘second order’ questions around organizational arrangements to ‘first order’ questions around which aspects of these various purposes and identities should endure in the 21st century.