More than three times as high in 2005, the homicide rate in Scotland has fallen dramatically in 12 years and is now the same as in England & Wales



In September 2005, the Guardian wrote:

‘Scotland has the second highest murder rate in western Europe and Scots are more than three times more likely to be murdered than people in England and Wales, according to a study by the World Health Organisation. The study, based on the latest crime figures from 21 western European countries, finds that only Finland has a higher murder rate than Scotland….Scotland’s homicide rate is 2.33 deaths for every 100,000 people each year, compared with 0.7 in England and Wales. In Spain it is 1.02, and in Italy 0.96. Germany has western Europe’s lowest murder rate: 0.68 per 100,000 people.’

The population of England & Wales is 53 million or 530 hundred-thousands. There were 723 homicides in England & Wales to March 2017. That’s 1.36 for every 100 000 people.

The population of Scotland is 5.3 million or 53 hundred-thousands. There were 74 homicides to end March 2017 after a ten-year fall to 2016 ending up below the English level. However, there was an increase in 2016/2017. So, that’s 1.39 for every hundred thousand people and approaching the level of other western European countries like Spain.

In sharp contrast murder in England and Wales has been climbing as the Scottish figure has fallen.

According the Guardian again but in 2017, we read:

‘Police record 10% rise in crime in England and Wales, with 18% increase in violent crime and 26% rise in murder rate. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, at Southwark police station in London this month. There has been a 20% surge in gun and knife crime.’

Whether the increase in the Scottish murder rate was a return to higher levels or a blip in a downward trend will be revealed next year.

Why might this be happening? One popular theory has it that poverty is the key component to what makes one place more dangerous to live in as compared to another. See:

‘Recession ‘boosted murder rates’ at

I wrote this in August:

Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals Scotland to have become more affluent than every other part of the UK bar the South-East of England and that much (most?) of this improvement has come under the SNP

Could some credit for Scotland’s falling murder rate go to the progressive polices of the last ten years of SNP government and some blame for England & Wales’ climbing rate go to the austerity policies of Tory and Coalition governments?


2 thoughts on “More than three times as high in 2005, the homicide rate in Scotland has fallen dramatically in 12 years and is now the same as in England & Wales

  1. Alasdair Macdonald September 6, 2017 / 9:37 am

    Alcohol has a strong influence on the homicide statistics for Scotland. Of course, excessive alcohol consumption has a positive relationship with the levels of deprivation, so, it is likely that poverty is a factor in the level of homicides. Finland has always had a very serious alcohol problem. So have the other nordic nations, which indicates that simple relationships in homicide rates are not easy to find!

    The Strathclyde Police Violence Reduction Unit had a significant effect on the general level of violence in and around Glasgow and the approaches have continued into Police Scotland. Having heard former Superintendent John Carnochan and his successor Karyn McCluskey speak on several occasions and they use a wide range of strategies which have the general effect of reducing the overall level of ‘anger’ and consequently, the likelihood of reacting with extreme levels of violence.

    During the riots in the English cities the VRU staff were invited by Mr David Cameron to discuss why there was no similar disorder in Scotland’s cities This was, of course, only after Mr Alex Salmond admonished and corrected the PM about his statement about ‘British’ youth: no riots had occurred in Scotland.

    Given that inequality is wider in London than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, looking at the variation in murder data amongst the various London boroughs could be instructive.

    The final point is that, as you caution, not to read too much into a single statistic, but at trends over time.


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