We are working with various partners to tackle knife crime, including YouthLink Scotland, which supports local authorities to deliver the no knives, better lives programme. That programme encourages young people away from carrying knives and builds their capacity and potential to make positive life choices for themselves and their families.
Violent crime is at its lowest level for 41 years and, since 2006-07, crimes for handling offensive weapons, including knives, have fallen by 67 per cent nationally. The number of crimes of handling offensive weapons, which includes knife crimes, recorded in the seven local authorities that are wholly or partially within the West Scotland region has decreased by 73 per cent since 2006-07.
I welcome the progress that has been made so far in West Scotland. East Renfrewshire, for example, now has one of the lowest rates of recorded knife crime in Scotland, with an 82 per cent fall in recorded crimes of handling offensive weapons since 2006-07.
Does the minister agree about the importance of educating young people through initiatives such as the no knives, better lives programme, which he mentioned, to ensure that that welcome reduction in crime continues? Will he reassure me that there will be no let-up in tackling the scourge of knife crime?
Absolutely. On the latter point, I reassure the member that we will not let up our efforts to tackle knife crime.
We have consistently said that the best way to tackle violence is through education and prevention. Our £2.9 million no knives, better lives campaign has been a great success. The member referred to East Renfrewshire, which has had an 82 per cent fall. In North Ayrshire, the decrease has been even bigger at 85 per cent. The campaign has an opt-in national model of delivery that is flexible to suit local needs. To date, 11 new local authorities have expressed an interest in it, and six of them are now actively involved in delivering the programme.
Through the no knives, better lives campaign, we are reaching out to parents and practitioners as well as to young people to highlight the fact that carrying an offensive weapon is completely unacceptable, that it can have devastating consequences and that there is never an excuse for carrying a knife. We will continue to work tirelessly with all our partners to get that message across.
Given the fact that the Scottish Government’s data confirms a continuing reliance by judges on short and medium-term sentences for persons who are convicted of carrying offensive weapons and that that clearly has a deterrent effect, will the minister confirm that such sentences will continue to be available to judges for such crimes?
I am happy to confirm to Ms Goldie that those sentences will still be available. In the measures against short sentences, we are considering where it is appropriate to use an alternative to a short sentence—one that produces a more effective outcome in terms of reducing reoffending. However, violence and a serious risk to the public are clearly matters that would be taken into consideration.