SEX crimes in Scotland have risen to the highest level ever recorded, official figures have revealed.

Violent crime recorded by police in Scotland is at it highest level for seven years, rising 10% in the year to last March and there has been a 16% rise in robberies.

Recorded sexual crimes, including rape, saw an 8% increase in the year from 12,487 to 13,547 - with many historical offences included in the total.  The report published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician says the recording of the crimes is at the "highest level  since 1971, the first year for which comparable groups are available".

It comes as the Scottish Government announced that those who experience repeat incidents of violence will be the focus of an extensive 16-month research project.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the study will engage directly with victims of violent crime, particularly in Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities, and those facing challenges from homelessness, substance misuse or previous convictions.

READ MORE:  Knife crime offences increase 8% over year to reach record high

On Tuesday, Scotland's Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) said robbery was a crime of desperation and the rise could reflect deprivation in some communities.

The Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin found  crime increased overall by 1%, from 244,504 in 2017-18 to 246,480, with the biggest contributor being a 10% rise in drug possession crimes – up by 2,672.

The report said the recording of crime remained at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974 and the police clear-up rate rose to 51%, one of the highest levels since comparable records began in 1976.

HeraldScotland: Humza Yousaf

READ MORE: Half of hate crimes in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Fire-raising and vandalism dropped by 6% from 51,322 to 47,997 - the lowest level seen since 1976 other crimes increased by 6% from 58,970 to 62,422. Most of these crimes relate to drug possession, crimes against public justice or handling offensive weapons Crimes of dishonesty remained almost unchanged and 'other crimes' mostly relating to drug possession, crimes against public justice, or handling offensive weapons, rose by 6%.

The National Statistics bulletin found crimes were most commonly related to fraudulent use of bank cards, failure to pay for products or services, fraudulent selling and phishing-type frauds with an estimated 28% of these offences internet-based.

The police clear-up rate of crimes rose to 51%, one of the highest levels since comparable records began in 1976, although for sexual crimes it has fallen from 60% last year to 58%.

Deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham said: "Police Scotland cleared up an additional 89 crimes per week on average compared to the year before and increased detection rates are to be welcomed.

"We have seen a large increase in reports of rape and sexual offences since the formation of Police Scotland.

"It is crucial those affected by these crimes feel confident about coming forward and reform of policing has transformed how we approach these cases.

"While violence and carrying weapons remains at historically low levels, it is entirely unacceptable and tackling it is a key priority."

Mr Yousaf added: “While there is less crime and fewer victims than a decade ago, the impact on victims, particularly of sexual or violent crimes, is often devastating. That is why we are strengthening how Scotland’s justice system and other public services support victims, while investing in both law enforcement and crime prevention projects.

“We want victims to have the confidence to report crimes to the police, We know that many of the sexual crimes recorded in this year’s figures occurred many years in the past. We are investing record levels of funding to support victims through a range of front line specialist services.

“Our £20 million investment in violence prevention since 2007 has helped reduce violent crime to levels now 43% lower than in 2006-07, but any rise requires us to re-double-efforts to secure the gains made over the last decade.

"As well as continued investment in policing, in the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and projects such as No Knives, Better Lives, Mentors in Violence Prevention and Navigators, I have commissioned a major study into repeat violent victimisation. While fewer than 1 in every 100 adults are victims of repeated incidents of violence, these accounted for around three-fifths of violent crime.

“This research will help police, together with local and national government to better understand the nature of repeat violence – including the role of substance misuse - and ensure we focus our efforts on those most affected by violence wherever it persists.”