England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.
The study, based on telephone interviews with victims of crime in 21 countries, found that more than 2,000 Scots were attacked every week, almost ten times the official police figures. They include non-sexual crimes of violence and serious assaults.
Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.
The attacks have been fuelled by a “booze and blades” culture in the west of Scotland which has claimed more than 160 lives over the past five years. Since January there have been 13 murders, 145 attempted murders and 1,100 serious assaults involving knives in the west of Scotland. The problem is made worse by sectarian violence, with hospitals reporting higher admissions following Old Firm matches.
David Ritchie, an accident and emergency consultant at Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary, said that the figures were a national disgrace. “I am embarrassed as a Scot that we are seeing this level of violence. Politicians must do something about this problem. This is a serious public health issue. Violence is a cancer in this part of the world,” he said.
Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of the Strathclyde Police’s violence reduction unit, said the problem was chronic and restricting access to drink and limiting the sale of knives would at least reduce the problem.
The study, by the UN’s crime research institute, found that 3 per cent of Scots had been victims of assault compared with 1.2 per cent in America and just 0.1 per cent in Japan, 0.2 per cent in Italy and 0.8 per cent in Austria. In England and Wales the figure was 2.8 per cent.
Scotland was eighth for total crime, 13th for property crime, 12th for robbery and 14th for sexual assault. New Zealand had the most property crimes and sexual assaults, while Poland had the most robberies.
Chief Constable Peter Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, questioned the figures. “It must be near impossible to compare assault figures from one country to the next based on phone calls,” he said.
“We have been doing extensive research into violent crime in Scotland for some years now and this has shown that in the vast majority of cases, victims of violent crime are known to each other. We do accept, however, that, despite your chances of being a victim of assault being low in Scotland, a problem does exist.”