The north and north-east has bucked the national trend by witnessing a slight rise in re-offending rates last year following a decade of progress.
Highland, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Orkney and Shetland were among just six areas of Scotland where the proportion of criminals who are convicted of another crime increased between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
New figures show that the proportion of re-offenders on Shetland rose by 1.7 points to 20.1%, while in Highland it increased by 1.5 to 25.6%,.
In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, it was up by 0.7 percentage points to 27.8%, and Orkney’s increased by 0.2 to 16.3% – the second lowest rate in the country.
The data also shows that the Western Isles has now overtaken Orkney and Shetland to boast Scotland’s lowest re-offending rates, after falling by 5.9% in the year to 13.1%.
All areas of the country witnessed an overall drop compared to the same data in 2007-08 – with the Outer Hebrides having plummeted by 18.5 percentage points, Moray’s by 7.5, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire by 5.8, Highland by 3.9 points, and Argyll and Bute by 6.2.
Across Scotland, the percentage of offenders who were convicted of another crime within 12 months was down from 28.3% to 27% between
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary and north-east MSP, said: “These figures suggest some progress has been made in reducing re-offending rates in the ten years up to 2016.
“However, the SNP’s soft touch approach to justice is putting that progress at risk.
“Scrapping jail sentences of less than a year sends out entirely the wrong message and is unlikely to act as a deterrent to re-offending.
“It is also concerning to see parts of the north and north-east bucking the national trend for a reduction in re-conviction rates.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf responded: “Scotland has continued to reduce the number of people who reoffend, implementing a clear focus on rehabilitation, working alongside partners in local government, the third sector and Scottish Prison Service, to help many people with convictions turn their lives around.
“Short custodial sentences often serve little purpose, and these independent figures support our work to encourage courts to consider community sentences as a robust alternative to custody – challenging and supporting men and women to tackle underlying issues behind offending behaviour.
“There will always be cases where the court rightly decides prison is the most appropriate sentence, and we are supporting the Scottish Prison Service to provide services that help transform the lives of people in custody.”