On Tuesday, March 10, 2009 we reported that...

A GROUP of strong-minded teens took part in a landmark conference about Scotland’s knife culture.

Eight S3 pupils from the Vale of Leven Academy travelled to Edinburgh for a debate, headed by Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The topic was why people carry knives and what needs to be done to change attitudes and behaviour.

The Youth Engagement Conference — No Knives Better Lives — was part of a drive by the Scottish Government to involve youngsters in providing a solution to the knife problems which are sweeping the country.

It was held at the capital’s Murrayfield Stadium.

Aaron Forbes, 14, said that he thought the conference was an excellent idea.

He told the Reporter: "The conference allowed us to put our ideas across — I think we were listened to.”

Jessica Quorn, also 14, added: “I did not see knife crime as a big problem in this area, but by going along to this it really makes you more aware and makes you realise how important it is that people don’t carry knives because they can ruin lives.”

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The Vale pupils — along with youngsters from 10 other schools from across the country — were put through their paces at various workshops centred around knife attacks and how communities can help to fight the problem.

Community Safety minister Fergus Ewing was also on hand to give a talk and Scottish Rocks basketball star Rob Yanders added a bit of glamour to the unique event.

Willie Muldoon, the academy’s pupil and family support officer, said it was an excellent initiative.

He added: “They had their say and what the Government is trying to achieve is to get the views of young people to tackle the problem of knife crime.

“It is a case of putting facilities in the communities for the children, and the general consensus of the adults who were there was that it is not a thing that can be budgeted for.”

Headteacher Gus Macdonald added: “We were delighted to be asked to send along eight pupils to represent West Dunbartonshire and we selected eight intelligent young people who fully contributed to the day.”