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Niven Rennie was recently appointed director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit. Here he reflects on Scotland's violence prevention journey so far and looks to the future.

I have been in post as director of the SVRU for more than a month now. It’s been a busy month but before cracking on with my growing to do list I thought I’d take a brief moment to reflect on where the unit is and crucially where we are going.  

You cannot start to write about the SVRU without paying tribute to its history or recognising its achievements since 2005. Projects like Navigator, Street & Arrow, One Community and the array of work being carried out in our schools and communities across Scotland are built upon the dedication, commitment and hard work of those who have worked for the SVRU past and present. There has been strong leadership and guidance which has enabled vision, foresight and innovation to flourish. Allied to this has been the confidence of the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to provide the funding and support upon which the unit has been built.

Earlier this week deputy director Will Linden and I attended a briefing in London. All 43 English and Welsh forces and the British Transport Police were present to discuss knife violence. I found myself reflecting on how far Scotland has come in the last decade. We have moved on from campaigns focussed on stop and search supported by metal detectors to projects aimed at prevention, diversion and support. Partnership, co-operation and innovation have replaced a lot of the traditional policing approaches to knife crime.

Many forces are now looking to Scotland to find out how as a country we worked together to cut homicides by nearly 50% and reduce offensive weapon carrying by 64%. However we cannot rest on our laurels. Every death, every act of violence is a tragedy and comes at too high a price for Scots to pay. We need to build on our successes and focus ceaselessly on where work still needs to be done if Scotland is to become the safest country in the world.

For example, we are currently involved in raising awareness of the effect of adverse childhood events (ACEs) but what next? What do we do to prevent ACEs from occurring or mitigate their impact on our young people? What can we do about the proportion of care experienced young adults who end up in our justice system and make up a huge part of our high prison population? How can we impact on the 50-60,000 people in Scotland who remain caught in a chaotic lifestyle which too often ends in violence? How can we break that cycle?

With the support of our partners who work tirelessly on the front-line of these problems I want the SVRU to remain at the forefront of finding solutions that work. I want to see our footprint more strongly established across Scotland and ensure the SVRU are working where we are needed, supporting those who are already doing such great work. 

Scotland has come so far from those dark days when we were branded one of the world’s most violent countries, but we still have a long way to go before we can say the job is done. We should accept nothing less than being the safest country in the world, it’s the Scotland our children deserve.

Back to work….

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