SCOTLAND's homicide rate dropped to its lowest level on record in 2012-13 with no gang killings for the first time in years.

There were 62 murders and culpable homicides in the country in the year, down nearly a third from a year and the lowest since records began in 1976. But none were listed as being carried out by a "rival gang member" and none, for the second year in a row, were listed as "contract killings".

Most of Scotland's killings remained straight-forward in 2012-13 - and involved men under the influence of drink or drugs.

Half were the result of either "rage or fury" or a "fight or quarrel". Three were motived by jealousy. None was sexually motivated. Just one death was motivated by insanity.

SNP ministers immediately praised the decline as evidence that their policies have helped tackle Scotland's "booze and blade" culture. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Homicides are continuing to fall, dropping by almost 50 per cent since 2006/7 and are now at their lowest level for 37 years - the fewest ever on record and the lowest in a generation.

"We are making progress but we can't forget that behind these figures are the grieving families of 62 victims having to cope with the death of a loved one."

Scotland's homicide rate - the number of murders and culpable homicides per 100,000 - fell to under 1.2, putting it in the same ballpark as European nations such as Portugal, Poland and France.

However, Scotland continues to suffer more homicides per capita than England and Wales, where there was just over one for every 100,000 people every year in 2012-13.

The national reduction came despite Glasgow bucking the nationwide trend with 19 killings in the 12 months, up from 16 in 2011-12 but down from an average of just under 30 a year over the previous eight years.

However, homicides - like other violent crime continue to fall across Europe. In the latest full-scale survey of the continent, for 2008-2010, Scotland ranked behind Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Bulgaria, Romania and Belgium.

Mr MacAskill said: "The main method of killing remains the same - using sharp instruments including knives. The numbers have decreased for the second year running, dropping by more than half since 2006/07 and are now at their lowest level since 1976."

Just one homicide from last year remains unsolved.

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, the lead officer for Major Crime and Public Protection for Police Scotland, said he believed the new national force would boost homicide detetections as Scotland-wide squads investigate them.

He said: "These figures are welcome. One of the benefits of police reform was to increase access in our communities ... to ensure we do all we can to keep people safe."