Number of homicide cases in Scotland fell 5% last year to new low
There were 60 cases of murder or culpable homicide in 2013-14, new government figures show.
The number of homicide cases in Scotland fell 5% last year to a record low, official statistics show.
There were 60 cases of murder or culpable homicide in 2013-14, a drop of three on the previous year's figure.
It was the lowest annual total since current records began in 1976, the Scottish Government said.
The statistics also show that sharp objects such as knives were the main methods of killing and that drink and drugs were factors in more than half of homicides.
The Homicide in Scotland figures were published by the Scottish Government.
They present details on homicides recorded over the last decade, with the new statistics for 2013-14 covering the year immediately following the establishment of Scotland's single police force.
The figures include all crimes of murder and culpable homicide but exclude road deaths and corporate homicide.
In detail, the figures show that Police Scotland last year recorded 60 cases of homicide, a "slight decrease" of 5% from the 63 recorded in 2012-13.
In one case there were two victims, meaning the 60 cases actually involved 61 people who lost their lives — two fewer than the previous year. This represented a rate of 11 victims for every million people in the population.
Use of a sharp instrument — such as knives, broken bottles and other pointed weapons — was the most common method of killing last year and featured in the deaths of 23 people. It was, however, the lowest level for that category since current records began.
Of the 88 people accused of homicide last year, 52% were reported to have been under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time.
Additional figures show that 84% of those accused of homicide were male and that men aged 21 to 30 were the most likely to be accused in such cases.
Men also accounted for 75% of all homicide victims in 2013-14. For all homicides recorded in the last decade, just over half of the adult female victims were killed by their partner or ex-partner.
Last year, 72% of all homicide cases happened in a residential location and 70% of the victims had known the main person accused of their killing.
Some 30% of the 60 cases took place in the Glasgow City area but the city also accounted for 28% of the decrease in the total number of homicide cases across Scotland over a 10-year period.
Reflecting on the figures, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "Homicide is a devastating crime for the families of victims and while I am encouraged that last year we had the lowest levels on records, we cannot be complacent and must never forget the grieving families left behind.
"It is concerning that alcohol and drugs continue to be factors in over half of homicides and is another stark reminder of the devastating social harm these substances can cause.
"This is one reason why we are continuing in our efforts to encourage people to drink less alcohol, maintaining our commitment to introduce minimum pricing and to tackle the scourge of cheap, strong alcohol.
"Our national drugs strategy is also having an effect and problem drug use is also falling, particularly amongst young people.
"We will not be complacent though. This Government is constantly looking at new ways to reduce knife crime even further by changing the culture on young people carrying knives through education and over the last five years Scottish Government has funded the No Knives Better Lives programme with over £2.5m.
"We are also increasing the maximum penalty for knife possession from four to five years, combining tough enforcement alongside our education work.
"This Government is also taking action to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse in Scotland.
"Last week, we announced our intention to consult on a specific domestic abuse offence and we are providing £34.5m in funding between 2012 and 2015 to be targeted at a range of domestic abuse initiatives across Scotland."