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Violence is down, killings are down but Scotland still has a long way to go to become a healthy society

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HIS laughter was spontaneous, high pitched and happy. Over the past week, a man has filmed a brawl in the middle of one of Glasgow’s main pub and club thoroughfares.

A Disney fancy dress party ended badly and he had a phone to capture the action.

Somewhere in the fray was a Tinkerbell, with two little fairy wings pinned to her back, and a Peter Pan, dressed in neon green.

The hair has been pulled out. Someone found himself on a wet sidewalk that was, in a very Scottish way, sparkling in the streetlights.

“Tinkerbell for that, man, oh my God,” laughed the videographer as he filmed. “Yes!”

The video was posted on social media. Some people loved it. “It has to be the funniest track ever,” said one commentator, according to the Daily Record, who picked up this, uh, story.

READ MORE: Fighting violence

A square between cartoon characters just might be silly. But is it funny? Is it entertaining?

Well, obviously that’s for a lot of people. Always. Even now, a decade and a half after the old Strathclyde Police decided that they alone could not defeat violence, that there was no room for bystanders, political or personal, who didn’t. nothing.

Scots have changed since the establishment of the now popular and widely reproduced Violence Reduction Unit or VRU in 2006.

We are less violent than before. Our young people, above all.

Last year there were 35% fewer homicides in Scotland than in 2010. This figure fell even faster in Glasgow, by 41%. It’s historic.

But have we changed enough? No. Worse: the sharp drops in serious violent offenses, the VRU soberly acknowledged last week, “have now stabilized”.

Statistics on crimes like homicide and aggravated assault have stagnated, which has been clear for some time now.

What next?

Last week the VRU released its latest five-year plan, a framework to build on the 2007 declaration of Scottish violence as a public health issue by a young and new health secretary called Nicola Sturgeon.

READ MORE: Waste isn’t just Glasgow’s problem

The new plan didn’t make the headlines one might expect, say, a Neverland Cosplayers street brawl. But it’s worth reading anyway.

The reasons for violence are complex, as are the measures to prevent it. I am not going to give an overview of all that is envisaged in the last document, called, without much imagination, A Safer Scotland for All.

One idea that shows how thinking about violence has gone beyond law enforcement is a proposal focused on “driven” interventions. What does it mean? Well, that means better coordination between service providers – not just the police – in a given area. But it is also a buzzword to empower communities, give people back power over their neighborhoods.

It’s not rocket science, but having control over our lives, having a stake in where we live, makes us less likely to hurt others. But that’s not something that even a few decades ago you would expect to hear from the cops.

It also makes sense to explore local data. The VRU has a really scary stat. Progress, this decline in violence? Well, that just hasn’t happened in the bottom 15% of Scotland’s most disadvantaged places.

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Unveiling the new vision, VRU Director Niven Rennie called for evidence-based public health action against violence to reflect the response to the pandemic.

“We have seen how effective following science can be in the battle against Covid-19,” he said. “We must now apply the lessons learned over the past year in our efforts to reduce violence.”

But the VRU’s five-year plan also contains a warning about the challenges the coronavirus has brought. There are fears that the violence statistics will start to rise again. The closures have suppressed violence outside the home – while providing opportunities for injury to oneself inside. The numbers will reflect that.

But the response to the bug put utilities – and public finances – under enormous pressure. Some are at breaking point. Some people too. It means trouble.

“After the pandemic, there are a number of risk factors, including increased unemployment, post-Covid trauma, increased drug addiction, poor mental and physical health,” the new VRU document clarified. “Such factors have the potential to contribute to rising levels of violence which, if left unaddressed and sustained, can reverse historic reductions. ”

The VRU does not do politics. I will do it. Just take a simple issue: wellness. The UK government is talking about cutting £ 20 a week from universal credit, reversing an increase in the Covid era. This will have many well-documented impacts. One of them: more children will live in homes with additional stress, additional hopelessness. We don’t need to guess how it will turn out in the future, how such trauma will affect some young people: we know it will come smashing our faces.

The VRU has already helped change the way we talk about violence. But we still have a long way to go.

Politicians can no longer pretend they don’t know the consequences of the trauma and poverty of the early years. You can’t pretend you’re against violence and then do things that you know will create it.

But fighting violence is not only a question of politics, it is also a question of culture.

Many Scots still need to have difficult conversations about violence and our attitudes towards it; our jokes, our language, our popular culture, even the way we report our news.

Many men have yet to understand how gendered this problem is. Most of the killers are men. Most of their victims too.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Most of us – including most men – learn not to hurt others. We can do it even late in life.

But can we as a society teach ourselves not to revel in fighting? Can our policy develop an understanding that actions have consequences that last longer than a minister’s career? Or is it too uncomfortably adult?

Scotland may have given the world the story of Peter Pan. But on violence, we can’t be a nation of boys who never grow up.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.


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