NEW protections for victims of stalking will be considered under legislation set to be introduced to Holyrood.

SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon is bringing forward a members' bill to help tackle the “incredibly serious crime”.

The move would allow the police to apply for a stalking protection order – instead of forcing victims to take legal action through the civil court.

There were 1,372 recorded cases of stalking in 2016/17, according to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, more than double the total of 605 in 2012/13.

But the latest survey found less than a fifth had reported the most recent incident of stalking to the police.

Ms Gougeon insisted the new legislation would help victims pursue justice.

She said: "Stalking is an incredibly serious crime which can have a life-changing impact on victims, and which is too often not reported to police at all.

"While there are currently legal tools to tackle harassment, a non-harassment order requires victims to take legal action themselves through the civil courts.

"There are obvious reasons why some victims of stalking would not be willing to do this, not least that it may cost them personally if they do not qualify for legal aid.

"The introduction of stalking protection orders, allowing police to apply directly to the court where there is evidence of stalking, could help victims to pursue justice."

Ms Gougeon has already won the backing of campaigner Ann Moulds, who founded Action Against Stalking.

Ms Moulds was the victim of a “long and horrendous stalking campaign” at the hands of a former friend, and has since campaigned for greater protections.

Her two-year ordeal saw Alex Reid bombard her with sexually explicit messages, including photos of himself dressed in women's underwear.

Ms Moulds welcomed moves to change the law, insisting the current system was failing to fully protect victims.

She said: "Stalking is a criminal matter and the police have a duty to ensure victim safety and protection from ongoing abuse at the earliest possible stage.

"This cannot be achieved under the current system. I am delighted Mairi Gougeon MSP is addressing this gap in the law and provisions for victims of stalking and fully support the introduction of a Stalking Protection Bill."