16 December 2004

S2M-2038 Knife Crime in Glasgow

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 16 December 2004

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Knife Crime in Glasgow

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2038, in the name of Frank McAveety, on knife crime in Glasgow. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the unacceptable number of incidents involving knife crime in Scotland and particularly in the east end of Glasgow; believes that the Scottish Executive, Strathclyde police and other key agencies need to work more effectively to tackle this problem; considers that a range of measures to deal with knife crime are required, and believes that the Executive should consider measures such as restricting access to the purchase of knives, ensuring appropriate programmes are in place to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying and using knives, speedier and effective sentencing for those convicted of knife crime and ensuring that the police have effective powers to deal with those who carry and use knives.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I first visited Glasgow at the age of 32, for the 1978 Garscadden by-election at which Donald Dewar returned to parliamentary politics. I found the people of Glasgow warm and welcoming and I thank Glasgow MSPs for their courtesy in allowing me to join them in this debate, which reminds me of how Glasgow people welcomed me in 1978. Even political opponents were friendly in Glasgow. They were focused, but they were friendly.

I will take apart a couple of things that Frank McAveety usefully states in his motion and focus on them as the most important matters. The motion refers to

"ensuring appropriate programmes are in place to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying and using knives".

I must draw an important point to members' attention: we can talk about knives as both weapons and tools.

As a young lad in the country, I carried a 9in, double-edged knife, but I never realised that it was a weapon; it was a tool to be used for a variety of purposes. I was far from being alone in my attitude towards knives. A good pal, who is now dead—for reasons that had nothing to do with knives—used to go to the front of the class in secondary school to sharpen his pencil with his flick-knife. Nobody thought anything about it; it was just another knife being used as a tool in an appropriate context.

I will support, in principle, the Executive's planned measures on knives and the control of their sale, which will be a useful move, but we should not imagine that cutting off the supply of knives will cut off the desire in the people who currently use them as weapons to have a weapon of some kind. If we take knives away from them, there is a real danger that they will find another weapon to use instead. That is why the motion's point about educating young people about the consequences of carrying knives is the most important one. The issue is about people's attitudes to other people and their willingness to enforce their point of view on them through violence. Such people happen to use knives in far too many instances.

I am slightly surprised that members have so far not made the link between drugs and knives. The knife is the preferred weapon for a frightener in the drugs industry. A knife to the buttock is a standard warning in the drugs industry. I would have thought that Glasgow MSPs had met that practice in Glasgow, as I have done in the north-east—we got it from Glasgow. There was a grave misfortune in my constituency: one of my constituents died from being stabbed in the buttock. The knife went too far in and severed the femoral artery. My constituent was dead in 20 seconds.

It is important for us to educate our youngsters about the consequences of knife use. It is not simply bravado to carry a knife; consequences may follow from doing so. Of course, Glasgow has the unenviable reputation of being a city in which the proportion of knife crime per 100,000 of the population exceeds the total murder rate per 100,000 people in London, which is a city that we do not always think of as being one of the safest in the world.

Robert Brown was correct to say that there is no single solution. Just because I say that we should not get too wound up about knives, because the problem will move on, does not mean that I do not support Robert Brown's important point. I welcome Tommy Sheridan's view on sentencing up to a point, because I do not think that mandatory sentences are the right thing way to go. However, I certainly think that it is vital that fiscals, in considering charges and the courts to which they will take them, and sheriffs and district magistrates in considering sentences, take the context into account. In particular, I would like the severest sentences to be given for the use of such weapons in the drugs business. That is a hidden crime that is rarely reported to the police. Members might be surprised at how prevalent it is.

I congratulate Frank McAveety on securing the debate and thank him for his hospitality in allowing me to speak in it.


Stewart Stevenson
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