LONGER jail terms for those convicted of carrying a knife will be handed out as a result of an announcement by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The maximum penalty for knife carrying will be increased from four to five years, in a bid to make the streets safer.

Mr MacAskill said the Scottish Government would continue to use education to prevent people carrying knives and that the authorities would get tougher with those who do carry weapons.

He also announced changes to allow courts to impose consecutive sentences for criminals still serving a sentence for a previous crime, rather than both terms running concurrently.

Mr MacAskill was at Strathclyde Police Headquarters' Violence Reduction Unit today where he saw weapons seized by police.

He said: "The message I'd send out today is that knives cost lives, the con- sequences can be devastating and carryingone is not worth the risk.

"Our police forces are carrying out a record number of stops and searches on the streets and being caught with a knife could now land you a five-year jail term.

"Today's tranche of seized weapons illustrates the importance of education initiatives to change the culture in which some people think that carrying a knife is acceptable. It is not.

"Sentences for knife possession are tough and getting tougher -now at their highest for a decade and the highest in the UK."

Co-director of the Violence Reduction Unit, Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, said: "Prevention is certainly better than cure when it comes to violence and we welcome any legislation which helps reduce knife crime.

"Today's announcement sends the clear message that knife carrying is unacceptable and those who think otherwise will be punished."