Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Why Scotland's neds aren't rioting

The hubris of the First Minister of Scotland over his "frustration" that the riots being described as a UK event, rather than an English one, is beginning to get traction as a news story.

Alex Salmond's comments just remind me of the parochialism displayed during the terrorist attacks of London in 2005, and the attempts on the capital in 2007.

As a London-based reporter I remember trying to engender news desk interest in the failed Tiger-Tiger bombing on Haymarket and the fact that an Islamist terrorist cell was on the run with Wimbledon, Gay Pride and a Royal event all taking place in the city that weekend.

The message came back to write an atmospheric wrap, because none of this really affected Scotland. Boom! A few hours later Glasgow airport was aflame and Scotland was the frontline in the War on Terror. Thankfully no one was killed, apart from one of the bombers, but the event shook Scotland out of its complacency.

You'd think that event alone would have been enough of a lesson for Salmond, who was First Minister at the time. It doesn't pay to be smug or feel that Scotland is somehow different or immune to events that can sweep across the country as fast as it takes to send a BBM.

While Salmond may be playing to his nationalist constituency many have been wondering why the Neds, Scotland's answer to Yobs, haven't been rioting.

Geography has something to do with it, I guess, but not the borderline between England and Scotland.

Scotland doesn't have many inner-city housing estates close to High Street shopping centres. It does do a good line in peripheral urban deprivation, far from the glistening consumer cathedrals.

But for any disaffected youth to get to downtown Glasgow, say, they would have to pass through the territory of rival youth gangs, and get back again once the looting was over. I suspect the police helicopter would be the least of their problems on that booty-laden journey.

Also, there is obviously no black street culture in Scotland, and I can't understand why people have been reluctant to consider race as a factor in this.

There aren't that many black Scottish kids who get stopped and searched by an almost all-white police force. The neds don't complain of being harassed regularly or casually abused by "the Feds" the way black teenagers in London do.

Scottish teenagers might then have less reason to be pissed off in the first place, though they face the same problems of unemployment, lack of opportunities and see the same level of inequality.

That said, the contrast between highly visible wealth and poverty in London is on quite another scale. The pavements may not be lined with gold but a Porsche is one of the least expensive cars you'll see parked on some streets.

It's also worth remembering that before last weekend the most recent event that required a mounted police charge to disperse the mob was the party in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow on the day of the Royal Wedding.

Everyone else in Britain had a street party, Scotland had a ned riot.

Footnote: I forgot the obvious reason why there aren't riots in Scotland - not sectarianism, not national character, just the fact that its raining flat out.

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