Carrying of Weapons (Children)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th October 2017.

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The First Minister:

Ruth Davidson is right to raise such an issue of concern and I give a commitment to look further into the specific points that she has raised today. I agree that we want all councils to operate best practice. For tragic reasons, Aberdeen City Council has had cause to look carefully and critically at its policies on the issue.

I genuinely do not mean to say this in any hard political sense, but the Scottish Government is frequently criticised in Parliament for seeking to overly direct councils, and members from all sides sometimes accuse us of having a centralising instinct, although I do not accept that characterisation. There is always a balance to strike between allowing local authorities to discharge their responsibilities—ensuring that the guidance is being adhered to is local authorities’ responsibility—and discharging our responsibility as a Government to ensure that that happens.

On such issues, I am acutely aware that parents who are listening to the debate will not be particularly concerned about who has the responsibility but will want to know that schools are as safe as possible for their young people. The Scottish Government takes that responsibility very seriously. The Deputy First Minister and I will look further into the points that have been raised today to consider carefully whether the Scottish Government requires to take further action.

In addition to the actions that are the responsibility of councils, the Scottish Government takes a range of steps to try to reduce knife crime, not just in our schools but more generally. That includes the no knives, better lives youth engagement programme, which has received £3 million of funding since 2009. It is perhaps relevant that, as we speak, 25 local authorities are involved in delivering that programme. We also invest heavily in the national violence reduction unit. We take a range of actions to reduce the number of knife crimes. We know that the length of sentences for adults who are convicted of knife crime has increased in recent years.

To return to schools, every parent wants to know, when they send their child to school of a morning, that the school will be as safe as possible for young people. That is the case for the vast majority of young people on the vast majority of days in the year, across our country. If we need to take action to ensure that that is the case for every single young person, it is the responsibility of councils and the Government to do so.