Knife carriers to be sent straight to jail.
ANYONE caught in possession of a knife will face a 'presumption of jail' under a tough new law being considered by Labour to tackle Scotland's blade culture.
Party chiefs are expected to include the measure in their election manifesto next year, if their current crackdown on knife crime fails to deliver.
The move, put forward by MSP and former Glasgow City Council leader Charlie Gordon, would bring possession of a knife into the same category as carrying a gun.
Anyone found with a knife would be handed a custodial sentence, unless they could offer a credible explanation.
The move comes with figures showing that nearly 30 Scots a week need hospital treatment for knife wounds.
In 2004-5, more than 1,400 people were discharged from hospital after being treated for a blade-related injury.
Gordon has submitted the plan as part of Labour's manifesto preparations, which will be finalised later this year. Labour ministers in charge of knife crime legislation have now given a pledge that if their efforts to crack down on knife crime fail, then they will turn to the plan once again.
The move would give Scotland some of the most draconian legislation in the world on the possession of knives. However, MSPs insist that such is the extent of the crisis, they need to show they are serious.
Gordon said: "If you go back to the razor gangs of the 1950s, judges started handing out lengthy sentences and that helped to bring them to a halt. I think it might well take jailing people for knife possession for us to reverse this cultural problem."
He added: "This is something that affects everyone. I know of middle-class children in nice schools who are keeping knives for protection, they say. They don't realise that they are making themselves more vulnerable to attack.
"If you carry a gun, unless you can convince a judge that there is a very good reason, then the judge has to give you five years. I am aiming at people who think it is OK to carry a knife. If you carry a knife, then you will be locked up."
Ministers have already prioritised tackling knife crime, after putting forward the new Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, which came into force across Scotland last week. The act has doubled the maximum penalty for carrying a knife in public from two to four years.
The minimum age for buying a knife has also risen, from 16 to 18. The police have also been given greater powers to stop and search those who they suspect of carrying a blade. New laws have also been introduced placing strict new licences on businesses that sell swords and other non-domestic knives.
A knife amnesty this summer resulted in nearly 13,000 weapons being handed in to police, including lock knives, machetes, swords, meat cleavers, bayonets and axes.
Labour will wait until the impact of those reforms has been assessed, but party chiefs have given a commitment to toughen it further if knife crime continues to grow.
First Minister Jack McConnell is understood to back extra measures for the Labour manifesto next year, as Labour attempts to show the electorate it is serious about reducing violent crime on Scotland's streets.
Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish National Party justice spokesman, said: "We would have some sympathy for this. We wouldn't support any mandatory system, but given the situation we are in, the time has come to show no mercy. People have been warned and there should be no good reason why people carry knives at all."
Margaret Mitchell, justice spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, added:"While this all helps, legislation alone isn't going to begin to tackle the problem. Until you get into the minds of young people and show them the stupidity of carrying a knife and how dangerous it is, you are never going to move forward."
There are about 10,000 knife offences in Scotland every year with, on average, one person a week stabbed to death. Between April and December last year, some 879 people were treated for knife wounds in casualty departments.
According to the United Nations, the figures make Scotland one of the most dangerous 'civilised' nations in the world.
At present, people caught with a knife face being taken into custody until their court date, but there is no presumption that they will then be jailed after sentencing.
Gordon says that space should be freed up in jails by barring petty offenders, such as fine defaulters, from receiving a jail sentence.
The extent of Scotland's knife culture was revealed last month when two 12-year-old boys were caught with knives while travelling on buses into Glasgow city centre on a Saturday night.
In the High Court in Edinburgh last month, a teenager and his two friends were given a total of 19 years in jail after attacking guests at a party with a meat cleaver and a martial arts weapon. The attack was apparently provoked after the teenager's girlfriend left him for another man.