Analysis: 'Homicide rates fluctuate, so this could be just a blip'

THESE figures about homicides certainly appear to be very positive, but it's always important to put statistics like this in context.

Homicide figures are bound to go up and down, so this could be a statistical blip. The rate could go up next year, so it's very difficult to say what these latest figures represent.

Undoubtedly there has been a focus on tackling knife crime in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland and this could be a sign that we are seeing the beginning of an improvement.

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However, these things do fluctuate and during the last year the homicide figure could have been anywhere between 80 and 120.

It's very much a variable crime figure and we'll have to wait until next year to get a clearer picture of what it truly represents. It may well be that we are seeing the start of a long-term downward trend in Scotland's homicide rate.

Next year if the figure goes down significantly then we may be able to say that, but if it goes up then this will have just been a blip and the figure could well vary in following years.

The fact of the matter is that at the moment we are just not safe to draw any conclusions from these figures, however welcome they are.

One explanation for the drop in homicides could be to do with improvements in the medical treatment of people who have been stabbed or the victim of an attempted murder. That is something we have seen when it comes to UK troops on the battlefield in Afghanistan, where improved medical treatment has helped save the lives of servicemen and women.

Another reason for the decline could be that there are more resources being targeted by the police and Scottish Government on tackling knife crime.

In the longer term though the way to reduce violent crime and make Scotland safer is to increase education about knife and violent crime. We also have to take the factor of social deprivation into consideration and look at trying to create more jobs and cut poverty to make inroads into this problem.

The reason why there tends to be so much knife crime and murder in Glasgow compared to other parts of Scotland is also linked to these factors. One reason why so many murders might be committed with knives is because they are easy to get hold of. Alcohol is also a big contributor to violence and of course murder as we see from these figures.

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Again we need to look at areas like increasing education and tackling poverty. But there's also the minimum pricing policy for alcohol, which MSPs didn't seem to like and voted against it in the Scottish Parliament very recently.

• Peter Duff, professor of criminal justice at the University of Aberdeen