EDUCATION is the most effective means of tackling knife crime, a Scottish Government-commissioned report claims.

The study, which reviewed worldwide approaches to preventing and reducing such crimes, said longer jail terms for carrying a blade would not be effective if fears were not addressed.

The Scottish Government plans to increase the maximum prison sentence for unlawful possession of a knife from four to five years.

But Rebecca Gillian Foster, author of the report by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) at Glasgow University, said this could punish those who are most fearful.

She said prison was not a "meaningful deterrent" for those who carry a knife out of fear, although it could be useful in sending a message to those who carry knives to acquire status.

SCCJR has recommended that the decision to increase prison sentences should be backed by education and assurances that the police and other services are working to protect young people.

The report says education has an "essential role" in reassuring young people that carrying knives is unnecessary.

It adds: "It may be the only way in which fears can be addressed, and the only way in which knife-related crime can be reduced amongst those who perpetrate it as a result of fear."

Ms Foster also warned stop-and-search, which has more than doubled in recent years, must be used with caution, as it can make the police appear to be the enemy, undermine assurances they are protecting public safety, and may lead young people to turn to self-protection.