Four victims are treated every day for knife wounds

EVERY day in Scotland four people need hospital treatment for knife wounds, according to new figures which reveal the shocking extent of today's blade culture. Police in Scotland admit they face massive problems in controlling knife crime, with thousands of people arrested every year for carrying offensive weapons.

Yesterday, statistics from the NHS in Scotland showed the human side of knife crime - the people in hospital with life-endangering stab wounds or cuts that leave scars.

Doctors and police said the figures are just the tip of the iceberg as many people attending hospital are simply "stitched up" without being recorded and much knife crime continues to go unreported.

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The Executive agrees there is a huge problem in Scotland and is bringing in new laws.

Opposition politicians say tougher sentences are needed and more police.

The Information and Statistics Division of NHS Scotland calculated there were 1,414 patients discharged from hospital in 2004-5 having been treated for a wound caused by a "bladed article", of which 1,305 were men and 109 women. The figure equates to almost four people every day.

Scotland is increasingly in the grip of a blade culture. In 2004-5, 72 people were murdered using a sharp instrument and 3,444 offenders were convicted for carrying a knife or other offensive weapon.

Earlier this year the Executive introduced a knife amnesty which allowed people to hand in weapons before strict new measures are brought in.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP deputy spokesman on justice, said the figures showed for the first time how the health service was having to deal with the consequence of knife crime.

"Any way we look at it, these are a substantial number of assaults. We are looking at four every day of the year which is indicative of how knife culture is still alive and well in far too much of Scotland," said Mr Stevenson. "Knife culture is deeply embedded in Scotland's communities and these figures show for the first time the extent of the problem ... but it is clear knife crime is not reported fully to the police."

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit, was not surprised by the figures.

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"Whether hospitals treat 1,400 or 400 victims of knife attacks, it is still far too many and levels of violence are still unacceptable in 21st century Scotland," he said.

The number of people injured by knives rose from 1,328 in 1997/98, to a peak of 1,902 in 2002/03 before reaching the current level.

Dr Alastair Ireland, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary said

up to 20 people a week were treated for knife injuries but many were not reported because they were not officially admitted. "There are a number of people who find themselves through no fault of their own confronted by someone with a knife, and are even killed," he said.

Dr Ireland blamed the prevalence of knives on the streets and recommended stricter measures to try and remove them.

"They [the police] really need to crack down on people who carry knives. If you arm yourself you have to suffer the consequences legally, because people are dying."

A spokesman for the Executive said:

"We are absolutely clear that knife crime remains a major problem in Scotland which is why the Executive is doing so much to tackle it. We have too many incidents of knife crime involving young men."