As we continue to grapple with the impact of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis on communities across Scotland, as a nation we are faced with the following questions: what will be the impact on violence trends? Will levels of violence increase over the coming years? Will rapidly developing technology affect how violence is perpetrated? These are just some of the questions it is now my job to seek answers to as the new Head of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU).

I’m joining a unit which is a world leader in public health policing. Scotland’s success in dramatically reducing violence from its peak in 2005 has driven interest from police forces and governments globally. But if you treat violence as a disease, as the public health model does, then you know it is constantly adapting - and there is no place for complacency.

While youth offending has radically reduced over the last 20 years, young people are dealing with new and serious issues. Due to the pandemic, a whole generation of children missed out on crucial years of education, socialisation and connection. The cost of living crisis came when some 24% of Scotland’s children were already living in relative poverty. And while social media offers young people new opportunities, it also means home isn’t always a safe place with bullying and cybercrime.

Understanding the problem is crucial, but it’s the SVRU’s job to come up with solutions. We start from a strong place, with a strategy for the years ahead and objectives mapped out in the Scottish Government’s Violence Prevention Framework. I bring to that my own commitment to the objectives of The Promise, which the SVRU will wholeheartedly play its part to deliver as part of the scaffolding of support available to young people with care experience. In my previous role as a co-chair at the Independent Care Review, I found it distressing to see that, due to being over-criminalised for behaviour that is treated differently by authorities when growing up in a care setting, so many young care-experienced people end up in the justice system. Another way is possible and within reach.

Core to achieving all the SVRU’s objectives, is ensuring we share power with those with lived experience of violence. They hold unique insights, and therefore many of the solutions to reducing it. We will set up an advisory board of people with lived experience of a range of issues to address the underlying risk factors of violence.

I will also ensure we live up to our national remit and engage with communities across Scotland. We know more equal societies, where people feel connected and have a sense of belonging, are less likely to experience the causes of violence.

None of this will be possible without radical collaboration. Amidst spending restrictions across the public sector, we have to pull together as never before to ensure Scotland continues to make progress in preventing and reducing the harm caused by violence: a mission which can, and must, become a reality.