Serious violence in Scotland down by more than a third in a decade – analysis

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Humza Yousaf said the government and police are working to keep women and girls safe (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Violent incidents in Scotland such as serious assault and attempted murder have dropped by more than a third in a decade, according to new analysis.

The study of police-recorded crime figures shows a 35% fall in those cases between 2008-09 and 2017-18.

It states 89% of the total drop in violence has been due to fewer cases in the west of Scotland – particularly in and around Glasgow.

Serious assaults are also now less likely to involve a weapon, despite still accounting for more than half the cases, while the average age of victims is now 31 compared to 27 a decade ago.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed the figures, saying: “This research highlights the positive impact of our investment in early intervention in reducing violent crime and saving lives – particularly among young men in the west of Scotland – who historically have been at the highest risk of falling victim to violence.

“Our public health approach to reducing violence has garnered interest from London and elsewhere in the UK, as well as from the World Economic Forum.”

The report also found most serious assaults are still against a male victim (80%), although these cases fell 41%, while there was little change in the number of female victims.

Most male victims are seriously assaulted by an acquaintance, with 55% of incidents compared to 23% involving a stranger, while just over half of female victims (52%) were found to be assaulted by a partner, ex-partner or relative.

Mr Yousaf added: “Despite this progress, we are working closely with police and others to tackle violence wherever it persists, and that includes keeping women and girls equally safe.

“We have strengthened the law, giving police, prosecutors and the courts greater powers to tackle various forms of domestic abuse while investing in preventative projects, including in schools and other education institutions, to promote positive relationships among young people.”

Humza Yousaf
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf welcomed the figures (Jane Barlow/PA)

The report – Recorded Crime in Scotland: Attempted Murder and Serious Assault, 2008-09 and 2017-18 – used a sample size of 1,000 cases.

Alcohol was also still seen as a factor, with almost two-thirds of serious assaults in 2017-18 involving drink.

The Justice Secretary said: “Having introduced a minimum unit price for alcohol last year, the Scottish Government is continuing to develop innovative solutions to public health challenges.

“There is absolutely no room for complacency and we continue to invest in Police Scotland, the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and other prevention initiatives.

“At the same time, it is also clear that all of us in society – families, friends, educators and employers – have a role to play in eradicating violence in all its forms.”

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins also welcomed the findings.

He said: “The outcome of the report demonstrates the significant progress that has been made to reduce violence in Scotland, particularly the west of Scotland.

“The report states fewer people are carrying weapons and that is to be welcomed. However, there is still much work to do to try to influence the behaviours of those who are still intent on carrying knives.

“It is unsurprising that 63% of serious assaults committed in the year 2017-18 included a reference to alcohol. Alcohol and violence remain inextricably linked to each other. Another challenge we face is the prevalence of violence behind closed doors within private space.

“Local officers also have access to national resources when investigating incidents of violence. We do everything within our powers and capabilities to ensure those responsible for every incidence of violence is identified, arrested and dealt with through the justice system.

“Officers across Scotland also work with a range of partner organisations, including health, social work and education, to tackle the root causes of violence.”

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