Police face one gun alert a day in Lothian

FIREARMS incidents are running at the rate of more than one a day in Lothian and Borders, figures from the force reveal.

Incidents involving knives are at a similar level.

And today Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker, who obtained the statistics, said they showed the problem of violent crime could not be treated as only a west-coast phenomenon.

He said: "Violent crime is a problem across Scotland. It doesn't apply to just one part of the country and is very much a concern in the east as well.

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"We want to be reassured the right resources are going to Lothian and Borders to tackle this."

The Lothian and Borders figures show a total of 370 firearms incidents in the area in the 322 days from November 23 last year to October 8 this year.

In the same period, the force recorded 326 incidents involving knives and 17 incidents involving swords.

Superintendent Graeme Dobbie of Lothian and Borders Police insisted there was "no serious problem" with firearms in Edinburgh.

But he said any information about a suspected firearms incident was taken extremely seriously and thoroughly assessed to determine the most appropriate course of action.

"If it is in the interest of safety to authorise the deployment of armed response officers, the decision may only be taken by the most senior officers in the force."

Previous statistics have suggested around half of firearms incidents involve air weapons.

And although firearms policy is a Westminster responsibility, the SNP has been pressing for the Scottish Government to be allowed to pilot a licensing scheme for air weapons.

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Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the Government was also committed to tackling knife crime and preventing gun crime from taking hold in local communities.

He said: "Most areas are great places and safe for most people, but we do know that some areas of Scotland have a problem with violence, all too often fuelled by drink.

"There is no one simple solution. It's about enforcing existing laws, bringing in new legislation if need be, but fundamentally about changing the culture, and making people realise that carrying a knife or firearm is not a good idea."

He said the Scottish Government was working to educate young people about the dangers of carrying a weapon and investing money in projects to work directly with young people who are involved in gangs.

"I will also continue to press the UK Government to let us take action on firearms.

"I want to pilot an air weapon licensing scheme, which will immediately start to address the problem of air weapons that are used irresponsibly and held unnecessarily.

"I believe this work can help make sure we have fewer dangerous weapons in Edinburgh."