Labour knife policy in tatters as party claims are described as ‘fantasy’

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by G.A.Ponsonby

Scottish Labour’s flagship knife crime policy is in meltdown after figures cited by the party were described as “fantasy” and “impossible” by the statistics expert Nigel Hawkes.

The latest blow to Iain Gray’s election campaign emerged after sources cited by Labour’s justice Spokesman Richard Baker denied ever having published such figures.

Scottish Labour claimed last week that knife crime costs the Scottish NHS £500 million.  However the figure was questioned after it emerged a study of knife crime in England gave a total cost to the English NHS of £147 million, this meant a proportional estimate for Scotland of less than £14 million.

Interviewed on Newsnight Scotland last week, Mr Baker was asked where Labour obtained the figure of £500 million.  The Labour Justice Spokesman claimed that the figure had been published at a conference organised by Glasgow based campaign group Medics Against Violence (MAV).  Mr Baker also referenced a report by Strathclyde Police’s Violence Reduction Unit.

However a spokesperson for MAV denied ever having published the £500 million figure and said they didn’t know where it came from.

Caroline Foulkes of Strathclyde Police’s Violence Reduction Unit, who carry out admin work on behalf of the campaign group, said MAV had never organised such a conference.

She said: “They’ve never held a conference.  We do all their administration for them and their administration lady sits in our office.  I think we would know if there had been a conference.”

It has also emerged that figures mentioned in the report by the Violence Reduction Unit referred to all forms of violence in Scotland and not just violence involving a knife.

The latest damage to Labour’s policy follows figures published last week by party Finance Spokesman Andy Kerr who claimed that knife crime costs the Scottish economy £3 billion per year.

This figure has also been called into question after a study in England suggested a loss to the Scottish economy was more likely to be less than half that amount.

The revelation that the figures are almost certainly bogus is a blow to Labour front man Iain Gray who is under pressure following a series of polls that show the SNP winning the campaign battle.

The party has also been forced to concede that their much vaunted mandatory jail for anyone found guilty of carrying a knife is not mandatory at all and that judges will continue to have discretion on whether to hand out a custodial sentence.