A successful knife crime education campaign that has seen knife carrying reduced by 35 per cent during a pilot scheme in Inverclyde is to have its funding doubled.
New figures released today show a second area supported by the No Knives, Better Lives initiative, in Renfrewshire, has reported a 29 per cent fall in knife carrying during the period of the scheme in its area.
Ministers now want to roll out the same tactics to other parts of Scotland and will be opening discussions with local authorities, including South Lanarkshire, to explore whether the initiative can help achieve similar results in the ongoing fight against knife crime.
The No Knives, Better Lives initiative was launched in 2009 and has been working with a range of local partners to educate young people about the dangers and consequences of carrying knives.
At a Victim Support Scotland Conference in Hamilton, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “There is a culture of knife crime in Scotland which stretches back decades and, as we’ve seen by the tragic events of recent weeks, too many communities continue to be blighted by the scourge of knives.
“The Scottish Government, our police forces, local law enforcement agencies and community organisations are united in a shared aim of tackling knife crime wherever and whenever it occurs.
“We are making progress – with latest statistics showing that crime in Scotland is at its lowest level in 32 years, homicide rates are at their lowest in 31 years, the number of people killed as a result of a knife down 39 per cent in the last year and the number of people caught carrying an offensive weapon down to its lowest level in a decade – down 30 per cent since 2006-07. Those caught carrying a knife in Scotland are now also being punished through the longest prison sentences in a decade.”
Mr MacAskill claimed that enforcement coupled with education was having a real impact and that the funding was increasing as a result.
He added: “The No Knives, Better Lives education campaign has been a real success during a pilot in Inverclyde with significant drops in the number of people carrying knives in the area.
“It is that combination of tough enforcement, backed by education, which is having a real impact on the ground and we’ve now seen similar results being achieved in Renfrewshire as well after the same tactics were rolled out there.
“That is why we are doubling the funding of this important education initiative in 2011-12 to give further support to existing areas, as well as roll it out to other communities in Scotland afflicted by knife crime.
“No Knives, Better Lives is achieving impressive results, and more young people are getting the message that carrying a knife is madness and not worth the risk.”
The Scottish government policy is in contrast to Labour in Scotland who are demanding automatic prison terms for anyone caught with a knife. Labour claim that a mandatory jail term is necessary if Scotland’s blade culture is to be addressed.
However critics, including some senior police chiefs have claimed that Scotland’s prison system would go into meltdown if the proposal was put into practice. There are also question marks over funding with a significant increase in the prison population predicted, but yesterday Labour MSP David Stewart claimed that £2 million would be made available through Labour’s plan to impose a £20 levy on offenders.
At FMQs on Thursday First Minister Alex Salmond highlighted the link between alcohol and violent crime and railed against the Labour benches for opposing minimum pricing.