Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 25th June 2009.

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. Paul Martin (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to reduce the number of knives being carried and used in our communities. (S3O-7570)

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

The Government is committed to reducing the number of knives that are carried and used in our communities and we are working with a range of partners, including the national violence reduction unit, to tackle the problem head on.

Action includes: coordinated enforcement by the police throughout Scotland, which last year alone resulted in more than 250,000 people being stopped and searched and more than 1,600 weapons being seized from potentially dangerous individuals; education through our new £500,000 youth engagement initiative—no knives, better lives—which will educate young people about the dangers and consequences of carrying a knife; and earlier and effective intervention, such as the groundbreaking community initiative to reduce violence project in the east end of Glasgow, in which our £1.6 million investment is supporting partners to tackle the long-standing problem of gang violence.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

Does the cabinet secretary share my concern about a recent report in the Evening Times, according to which more than 200 pupils in Glasgow—some as young as 12—said that they carry knives? What action is the Government taking in that respect? Will the Government support our call for a knife amnesty?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Educating school pupils is extremely important. On Friday I was in Inverclyde, where an initiative was piloted at St Stephen's high school in Port Glasgow as part of the no knives, better lives programme. Pupils were shown hard-hitting images and a variety of matters were considered. The initiative was formulated through discussions with young people, to ascertain what they thought was best. The initiative is being rolled out throughout Inverclyde and might be taken elsewhere.

To some extent the initiative replicates what is going on in the east end of Glasgow. We are doing what we can to ensure that we have the appropriate tough laws for enforcement and that we can educate our young people about the consequences of carrying a knife.

There was a knife amnesty, and we are not precluding anything. The priority of the police and other agencies is to ensure that the law is enforced and that we prioritise changing the culture. However, we never say never.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

The cabinet secretary is aware of developments in the east end of Glasgow. Is he also aware that there have been a number of serious incidents recently, which have involved people in their teens? In light of that, is he aware that local people are increasingly demanding closed-circuit television, for the purposes of protection from crime and identification of criminals? The agencies tell me that it is hard to meet the demand for CCTV. Will the cabinet secretary increase funding for CCTV, to tackle knife crime in the east end of Glasgow?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Tackling knife crime is not just down to CCTV; it is part of a package, which is why we have the community initiative to reduce violence. The Government thinks that there is a role for CCTV in making our communities safer. The matter tends to be dealt with by councils as part of the community safety agenda. I have witnessed the good work done through remarkable schemes using CCTV in Glasgow and elsewhere, and I do not doubt that CCTV will have a role to play as part of the CIRV project in the east end of Glasgow.

It is about having tough laws and enforcing them, and it is about the police, prosecutors and the judiciary doing what they have to do. It is also about bringing together education, health and other partners to ensure that we educate our young people to change the culture of violence. There is no magic elixir or panacea. It is not simply about CCTV; it is about the appropriate legislative process and changing the culture, which is what we are doing.