Scotland is a role model for the UK on knife crime

On the street...and in classes across Scotland, No Knives, Better Lives positive message has witnessed an 80 per cent reduction in young people carrying knives.

Scotland is leading the way in tackling knife crime and is now being held up as a role model for others to follow.

To try to combat the growing scourge of knife crime in our country, in 2008 the Scottish Parliament decided to treat the problem as a public health issue.

Delivering the campaign...for NKBL for the past five years, senior development officer Jane Dailly.

It has since invested almost £9 million in Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, which has seen a 64 per cent drop in handling offensive weapons in the last decade.

The Scottish Government has also ploughed £3.4 million into the hugely successful No Knives, Better Lives project since 2009.

This joined-up approach has been lauded by campaigners in England and Wales which are now facing their own knives crisis.

Jane Dailly, No Knives, Better Lives (NKBL) senior development officer, is delighted Scotland is receiving plaudits for its work in tackling the issue.

Tragic death...of Aberdeen schoolboy Bailey Gwynne (16) in 2015 and the subsequnt Lowe Report into his death resulted in a change of attitude from some schools; they are now more than happy to deliver the No Knives, Better Lives campaign message.

She said: “Our public health approach to knife crime is being seen as a success story down south.

“It’s nice for us to be celebrated in that way.”

But what does NKBL actually do?

Jane is employed by Youth Link Scotland, the national agency for youth work, which delivers the NKBL programme on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Every year, she trains around 300 teachers, youth workers and peer educators to deliver knife crime prevention courses in Scotland’s schools.

NKBL has reached tens of thousands of youngsters since 2009. And the results speak for themselves.

Jane said: “The recorded incidents of young people carrying offensive weapons in the last ten years has dropped by 80 per cent.

“In a broader context, the huge reduction in violent crime in Scotland also shows we are looking at a wider cultural change.

“The public health approach to tackling knife crime is a partnership with several agencies, including NKBL, the Violence Reduction Unit and Medics Against Violence, which helps young people stay safe by giving them an understanding of the consequences of violence.

“All of us working together has made a really positive impact.”

Jane is keen to steer away from negative images of hooded youngsters brandishing knives.

So NKBL is working to develop a series of stock images which do not promote that stereotype.

When training, she also advises against using knives to drive the message home.

Explaining why, she said: “One thing we have learned over the years is that if you make knife carrying seem like a bigger problem than it actually is, you can potentially exacerbate it.

“The police used to use the shock approach, taking an array of knives into classes which had been collected from around Scotland.

“But that could make young people fearful.

“The two reasons young people carry knives is due to fear/protection and because they think everyone else is.”

So NKBL has developed new ways to deliver its knife crime prevention message.

Its Instagram site, set up five months ago, has more than 1000 followers. And the project recently developed The Balisong, a play which has been performed at more than 60 schools. It is hoped it will be performed in many more this year.

Jane said: “It tells the story of three friends who have brought a butterfly knife to school.

“It is a unique and powerful way to engage with young people about the risks and consequences of carrying a knife and the challenge of speaking up.

“After one of the shows, a pupil reported someone who was carrying a knife in school so it is making a difference.”

The tragic death of Aberdeen schoolboy Bailey Gwynne (16) in 2015 and the subsequent Lowe Report into his death also saw a change in attitude from schools.

The report found his death was “potentially avoidable” if other pupils had told teachers his killer was carrying a knife.

Jane added: “When we were trying to promote the programme, schools would quite often say: it’s not an issue for us.

“But that changed quite dramatically after the report.

“Much like alcohol and drugs, it’s something schools now want to tackle and talk about as a matter of course.

“Knife crime doesn’t conform to where a school is situated – it can happen anywhere.”

Statistics show 80 children packed a knife into their schoolbag last year

Text books, homework, packed lunch, gym shoes – the usual items you’d expect to find in any child’s school bag.

But 80 school pupils also packed a knife or item with a blade from April to December 2017, according to Police Scotland.

Since April 2017, the Scottish Crime Recording Board allowed the specific crime of possessing an offensive weapon with a blade or point in schools to be identified in the National Statistics on Recorded Crime.

Unfortunately, that means there are no comparison figures.

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is important these statistics are seen in the overall context of a 64 per cent reduction in crimes of handling offensive weapons in the last decade.

“The decision to specifically record offences of possession of weapons in schools was in order to support efforts to make Scotland’s schools safer.

“We continue to work with schools and local authorities on anti-violence campaigns and curriculum programmes.”

It is illegal to sell knives or similar products to anyone under the age of 18 in Scotland or to sell kitchen knives or cutlery to anyone under 16.

* The Scottish Government consulted Police Scotland, teaching unions and leaders and Medics Against Violence – there was no support for a new search power to be given to teachers.

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