The number of killings plunged from 2007 to 2013 but has held at around sixty ever since.
Scottish Government officials yesterday formally confirmed a death toll of 64 from murders and culpable homicides in 2016-17.
That figure remained almost half that of a decade ago but 10 per cent higher than a year earlier.
Crime analysts always warn that homicide figures can be ‘jaggy’ – because numbers are so small, they can fluctuate from year to year.
However, the homicide figures in Scotland appear to track relatively closely to other serious violent crimes, which have also stopped dropping in recent years.
Police statistics for overall serious non-sexual violence – offences such as serious assaults and robbery, rose six per cent in 2016-17, though they remained at one of their lowest levels since modern records began in the early 1970s.
The number of homicide cases – at 61 – was the second lowest ever recorded since 1976 with all but three solved by police.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “While we have seen large reductions in homicides over the past 10 years, every death represents a tragic loss of life, leaving friends and families grieving.
“That is why we will maintain our efforts across justice and public services, through education and enforcement, to continue driving down violence in our communities.”
Will Linden, acting Director of the Violence Reduction Unit said: “Over the last decade Scotland has seen a massive decrease in violence. There are fewer young people getting involved in gangs and carrying knives. Young people are also making better choices around alcohol and drugs than the generation before them.
“In the last four years we have seen the number of people murdered in Scotland stabilise around 60, nearly half the figure of a decade ago. Why have we seen this reduction? There was no single solution, it was everyone working together to tackle the disease of violence that was infecting Scotland.
“But every homicide is one too many and if we want to save lives and reduce the levels of violence further we must redouble our efforts. Scotland must face up to its toxic relationship with alcohol, we must challenge social and gender inequalities while continuing to confront knife culture amongst not just those in their teens but those in their twenties and older.”
The latest figures would means Scotland’s homicide rate – at about 1.2 deaths per 100,000 – was slightly higher than those recorded in recent years in Denmark, Ireland and Norway, about the same as in Sweden and lower than in Finland.
Experts are cautious about cross-border crime comparisons, even with homicides, because of different legal definitions and recording procedures. England’s homicide rate has also fallen in recent years but, like Scotland’s, has edged up again.
It rose nine per cent in 2016-17, not including the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster who were added to the year’s figures after their deaths were ruled manslaughter, an English crime similar to culpable homicide. Without Hillsborough, England and Wales’ homicide rate would be about 1.1 per 100,000 but Scottish Government statisticians warned against direct comparisons between England and Scotland. They did stress substantial regional differences in patters of homicides north of the border.
One in five of the killings in 2016/17 took place in Glasgow, nearly double its share of population at 11 per cent.
However, homicides in Glasgow have fallen 60 per cent in the past 10 years with the city accounting for one third of the overall national drop.
A detailed analysis of killings revealed familiar patterns. Twenty-nine percent of those accused of homicides were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A total of 88 per cent were male and three quarters of the victims, 48, were also male. Two-thirds of victims knew their killers, of those 68 per cent were acquaintances, 18 per cent relatives and 15 per cent partners of ex-partners.
Two thirds of killings were in homes, gardens or closes and nearly half were stabbed. There was only one fatal shooting.