Scottish Violence Reduction Unit

Violence is preventable, not inevitable – it doesn’t sound like such a radical statement these days. A country that can halve its homicides has proved there’s nothing inevitable about violence. But go back to 2004/5 when Glasgow and Scotland were among the most violent places in the developed world and that statement was truly radical. A community that sees its young people maimed and dying on its streets every day will struggle to believe that violence isn’t an inevitable part of their life. To believe a different future is possible amidst the darkness of such a present is truly radical. Of course, the SVRU didn’t come-up with the phrase, it was the World Health Organisation who first used it. But the SVRU’s talent is it knows a good idea when it sees it and it has no shame in taking that idea and making it our own.

Scotland has come a long way since those days. The SVRU has worked hard to play our part in that journey as we walked side-by-side with an army of determined teachers, selfless doctors and nurses, police officers who did much more than their duty every day and of course the communities who are the very core of our country. It’s impossible to say if one element was more important than another, but we’re certain that long-term, sustained progress can only be made when everyone is working together.

So that’s it, the jobs done? Of course not. Take a look at a newspaper or turn on the news. Every night there’s still reports of needless violence. Let’s be brutally honest, Scotland is still a relatively violent country, too many lives are still being scarred by violence, too many lives are still being lost. We have seen significant and undeniable progress but in recent years that progress has begun to level off, we’re not seeing the big drops in violence we once saw. Across a range of measures violence has begun to stabilise. That should concern us all. We can’t let violence get comfortable in Scotland again.

Visit Easterhouse or Castlemilk today and ask those communities if they feel safer now? Hopefully, they’ll say yes, but we know that Scotland’s poorest communities haven’t witnessed the same drops in violence that the more comfortable areas of the country have. If you’re poor in Scotland, you are still more likely to be a victim of violence. That’s not fair. It’s not right. It cannot be tolerated.

From Navigators in emergency departments connecting with those at their lowest moments, to the team at Street & Arrow offering a job and a second chance to those who need it and the champions of One Community Scotland who give so much more than just a warm welcome to ‘new Scots’– the SVRU are working with our partners to develop solutions to the violence that is still infecting Scotland. You’ll find details of all these projects and much more on this website.

They’re not quick fixes. It takes time to find and develop interventions that work. Soundbites aren’t solutions. But if determination, graft and a commitment to follow the evidence (not ideology) to find what works count, then we’ll get there. Every teacher, nurse, police officer, politician, charity, business and community working together can do it. There can be no bystanders if we are to make Scotland the safest country in the world. There are no excuses because we know violence is preventable – not inevitable. 

By Niven Rennie, Director SVRU

Niven Rennie


Telephone: 01786 896785          Email:

Niven has more than 30 years of operational policing experience in the United Kingdom. He joined Strathclyde Police in 1985 serving throughout the west of Scotland in a variety of ranks and positions before progressing to the rank of Chief Superintendent. Niven previously held the role of President of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents where he represented the interests of the operational leaders of policing in Scotland.

On leaving Police Scotland in 2016 Niven took up the position of Chief Executive Officer of South Ayrshire Escape from Homelessness (SeAscape).

Niven was appointed director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit in July 2018.