Offensive Weapons

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th November 2020.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Independent

6. To ask the First Minister for what reason crimes involving offensive weapons reportedly continue to be on the rise, and what action the Scottish Government is taking to tackle this. (S5F-04595)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Although there have been increases in such crime in the past few years, the longer-term trend is positive. Over the past decade, the number of crimes of handling an offensive weapon that have been recorded and the number of emergency hospital admissions due to assault with a sharp object have more than halved.

Over the past decade, we have invested more than £20 million in violence prevention programmes. That includes funding for the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, Medics Against Violence and No Knives Better Lives. Alongside enforcement and prosecution options, we will continue to work with partners to deliver targeted violence prevention programmes in local areas where such crimes occur.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Independent

We have seen a downturn in the number of crimes. That has no doubt been brought about partly by the pandemic that we are experiencing.

However, although there has been a decrease in crime in most local authorities, Midlothian is rare, in that there has been a 5 per cent increase, even if we discount crimes that are counted under the new coronavirus legislation. For comparison, I note that there has been a 15 per cent decrease in crime in Glasgow.

At the start of this year, Midlothian Council very nearly lost its police community action teams, which have been doing fantastic work. That was because of lack of funding. Having seen the latest figures, will the First Minister commit to ensuring that there is ring-fenced funding for the Midlothian community action team, to ensure that the numbers do not continue to rise? Can she explain why there are still significant increases in crime in areas including Midlothian and Moray?

The First Minister:

I am happy to have the particular local issues looked into; I do not know what the circumstances are in those areas. There are often fluctuations from area to area, and relatively small increases in numbers often result in high percentage increases—which is not to say that the increases are less important because of that.

I will not give the commitment that the member asked for, because deciding where resources are best targeted in order to prevent and investigate crime is an operational matter for the chief constable. It is right and proper that such decisions are for the chief constable.

As with all national figures, there will be local variations within them. However, it is not true to say that crime is down because of the pandemic. Recorded crime in Scotland is at one of its lowest levels since 1974 and has come down by 41 per cent since 2006-07. Therefore, the long-term trend in crime in Scotland is firmly downward. However, that should not give anyone a ground for complacency.

I know that the chief constable continues to take all such matters seriously and makes decisions that ensure that resources are targeted where they are required most.