Nicola Sturgeon's claim that violent crime is at 40-year low is False 3

Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that violent crime is at 40-year low is False

Nicola Sturgeon has appeared regularly across the British media as her party outlines its vision for Scotland before the general election.

She answered questions from listeners to Radio 5 Live on Monday 2 December, who covered topics including Brexit, Scottish independence and the SNP’s domestic record in Scotland.

Ferret Fact Service | Scotlands impartial fact check project

The First Minister made a specific claim about her government’s record in reducing crime in recent years.

Violent crime is at a 40 year plus low in Scotland right now. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it False.


After host Nicky Campbell read out a series of statistics about Scotland’s murder rate, prompting the First Minister to mount a defence of the Scottish Government, stating that violent crime was now at a “40-year plus” low.

Recorded crime statistics are published each year by the Scottish Government. This refers to crimes which are reported and recorded by police and does not equate to convictions, nor does it include all crimes committed as not all crime is reported.

The statistics separate out different types of crime with non-sexual crimes of violence and sexual crimes in two distinct categories.

The most recent statistics for 2018-19 showed 8,008 non-sexual crimes of violence, which is at its highest level since 2011-12, when 9,484 such crimes were recorded.

Recorded non-sexual violent crime has increased year-on-year since 2014-15. The 6,272 crimes recorded that year was the lowest number since 1974.

Sturgeon’s suggestion that Scotland’s violent crime was currently at a 40-year low is out of date.

The Scottish Government also publishes statistics showing violent crime rates per 10,000 population. These show Scotland currently at 15 violent crimes per 10,000 people, the highest rate since 2012-13

Over the course of the SNP’s time in charge of the Scottish Government, violent crime rates have reduced, but the evidence shows that recorded crime has increased in Scotland over recent years.

In response to an evidence request from Ferret Fact Service, the Scottish Government provided figures showing a 43 per cent reduction in non-sexual violent crime, and that crime today was at a lower level than in 1974. However this does not equate to the current crime level being at a 40-year low.

Sturgeon also stated that “crime generally” is at a 40-year plus low. Total crime has also increased in Scotland since 2016-17, and the current figure of 246,480 is the highest since 2014-15. Total crime per 10,000 population is at its highest point for three years.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: False

Nicola Sturgeon’s comments on Radio 5 Live were incorrect. While non-sexual violent crime reduced to a 40-year low in 2014-15, it has steadily increased since then. The crime rate by 10,000 population has also increased to its highest point since 2012-13.

This claim is false

In response to an evidence request from Ferret Fact Service, the Scottish Government said that non-sexual violent crime has fallen 43 per cent since 2006-07,  and the most recent figures show lower rates than 40 years ago, citing recorded crime figures.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at or join our Facebook group.

Photos thanks to iStock/Stephen Barnes

1 comment
  1. This article isn’t comprehensive, and not entirely correct. There are two sets of crime stats: reported crime stats, which show crime reported to police, and the Scottish crime and justice survey . The recorded crime stats show a pick-up in violent crime. The crime survey shows a drop to 2017/18. The crime survey is published with a bit of a time lag, so these are the most recent stats (published this year). I think if you check the crime survey, it’ll show violent crime at the lowest for 40 years. The police stats for reported crime are reliable for tracking the level of only some types of crime. They’re likely to be pretty good for non-sexual crimes of violence. However, there are low levels of reporting of sexual crimes, for instance, and rates of reporting tend to be influenced by factors other than the actual level of crime. The crime survey produces better stats, but with a time lag. Given the rise in reported non-sexual crimes of violence, we might expect the next crime survey to show an increase. However, I think the charge of falsity against Nicola Stugeon is unproven.

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