Jam, jute, journalism and abortions. Dundee used to be famous for its three Js, thanks to mills that once employed 50,000 people, James Keillor's world-beating marmalade and the publisher D C Thomson. Today it is better known as the teenage pregnancy capital of Europe. Once again Tayside features prominently in the 2008 Scottish figures, published yesterday. For every 1000 teenagers in Dundee, there were 71 pregnancies and more than 30 abortions. Both figures remain the highest in Scotland, despite a slight improvement over the previous year. The total number of terminations in Scotland was 13,817, another record number, though the figure is little changed from the previous year.

Yesterday nobody was attempting to dress up these figures as anything other than a bitter disappointment after many years and huge resources spent on trying to reverse them. However, to equate them with the failure of the Scottish sexual health strategy would be unfair.

The quality and availability of sexual health services in Scotland have improved dramatically in recent years. Otherwise, these figures would be even worse. But services alone cannot tackle the problem without better sex education emphasising the importance of the context of a loving relationship. Too often there is a still a gap between the sex education that is meant to be on offer and what is delivered. There is also the wider cultural issue of overcoming traditional Scottish inhibitions about discussing sex, despite this being a highly sexualised society. This is not a policy area particularly amenable to state intervention, though the Scottish Government's new marketing campaign encouraging couples to talk to one another about their sexual health is a brave attempt.

Meanwhile, in Dundee, though teenage pregnancy and abortion rates remain the highest in Scotland, both are falling and the city's Cool to Talk website, providing advice to young people, could offer a model for other regions.

More than twice as many women in the poorest areas are having abortions, compared with those in the leafiest suburbs, suggesting that more must be done to target the former. And more than 27% of all women having abortions have previously terminated a pregnancy with the implication that many are using the operation as a contraceptive of last resort. As well as continuing to encourage the use of condoms, long-acting contraceptive devices must be promoted more actively. Abstinence has a place but those who promote it should recognise that safe sex is preferable to unwanted pregnancies.