Research into fall in violence

Younger adults involved in fewer offences.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed new analysis detailing the fall in serious violent crime in Scotland over the last decade.

Police recorded crimes figures published last year revealed that serious assault and attempted murder cases fell by just over a third (35%) between 2008-09 and 2017-18.

A study of more than 1,000 cases, split between 2008-09 and 2017-18, indicates that:

• the majority (89%) of the total fall over the decade has been due to fewer cases in the west of Scotland, particularly in and around Glasgow
• a large drop in the number of young people – teenagers and those in their twenties – involved in serious violent crime has also driven the reduction, while the average age of victims is now 31 compared to 27 in 2008-09
• serious assaults are now less likely to involve a weapon, though they still account for more than half of cases
• alcohol continues to be a factor in violent crime, with almost two-thirds of serious assaults in 2017-18 having involved drink
• the proportion of these crimes occurring in a public or private setting has remained steady, with most (70%) taking place in public
• while most serious assaults (80%) are still against a male victim, the total number of these cases fell 41%, while there was little change in the number of female victims
• most male victims are seriously assaulted by an acquaintance (55%) or stranger (23%) while female victims are more likely to be assaulted by a partner, ex-partner or relative (52%)

A separate study into the age and gender of those convicted of certain violent crimes over the same period highlights the reduction in the proportion of younger offenders, as well as the overall fall in convictions reflecting the sustained reduction in violence.

Mr Yousaf said:

“This research highlights the positive impact of our investment in early intervention in reducing violent crime and saving lives - particularly among young men in the west of Scotland - who historically have been at the highest risk of falling victim to violence. Our public health approach to reducing violence has garnered interest from London and elsewhere in the UK, as well as from the World Economic Forum.

“Despite this progress, we are working closely with police and others to tackle violence wherever it persists, and that includes keeping women and girls equally safe.  We have strengthened the law, giving police, prosecutors and the courts greater powers to tackle various forms of domestic abuse, while investing in preventative projects, including in schools and other education institutions, to promote positive relationships among young people.

“The research also highlights the continuing harm caused by alcohol. Having introduced a minimum unit price for alcohol last year the Scottish Government is continuing to develop innovative solutions to public health challenges.

“There is absolutely no room for complacency and we continue to invest in Police Scotland, the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and other prevention initiatives.  At the same time, it is also clear that all of us in society – families, friends, educators and employers - have a role to play in eradicating violence in all its forms.”


The publication Recorded Crime in Scotland: Attempted Murder and Serious Assault, 2008-09 and 2017-18 provides a broad indication of the change in characteristics of these crimes over the last decade, based on a sample of more than 1,000 police records, rather than an exact measure.

A further report published is Changes in the age and gender profiles of those convicted of different types of crime associated with violence between 2008-09 and 2017-18

The Scottish Government has invested £20 million in a range of violence prevention over the last decade, including the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, Medics Against Violence, Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) and No Knives Better Lives.

The MVP peer-education programme, is being delivered in schools across 23 local authorities to give young people opportunities to explore and challenge attitudes, beliefs and cultural norms that underpin gender-based violence, bullying and other forms of violence.

A crime is categorised as a ‘serious assault’ where a victim needs inpatient hospital treatment or a significant injury such as a fracture, internal injury, severe concussion or permanent disfigurement.

The maximum sentence for carrying a knife was increased in 2016 from four to five years.

Since 2007, the measures we have taken to reduce alcohol-related harm include introducing minimum unit pricing, investing more than £746 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008, and delivering more than 834,000 Alcohol Brief Interventions since 2008.

Recorded crime does not provide information on all crime committed in society, as some incidents are not reported to police. Two separate data sources provide information for trends in violent crime in Scotland, both of which include incidents not reported to police.

The 2017-18 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey of 5,500 adults – capturing incidents whether or not reported to police – showed a 46% fall in violent crime since 2008-09.

National Statistics from NHS data show the number of emergency hospital admissions as a result of an assault has more than halved over the last decade – falling from 5,286 to 2,383 between 2008-09 and 2017-18. The equivalent figures for admissions for assaults involving a knife or other sharp object fell from 1,415 to 553.


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