Why Scotland’s neds aren’t rioting

Scotland’s lack of rioting gangs might be explained by geography, writes TORCUIL CRICHTON – but not the geography of the border


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.

Torcuil Crichton is the Westminster editor of the Daily Record. He Tweets as @torcuil. This post was originally published on Torcuil’s own blog, Whitehall 1212.

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26 thoughts on “Why Scotland’s neds aren’t rioting

  1. The arguments on this are becoming increasingly desperate – there seems to be a trend now on facebook as well to cite the facebook-organised p@ss-up in Kelvongrove Park on the day of the royal wedding to show that Scotland is not immune from rioting.

    You start to wonder if you are living in parallell universe when you read this sort of nonsense.

    Because, firstly, no-one has ever said that Scotland is immune from violence and anti-social behaviour. Quite the opposite – I would say it is probably worse here than it is down south. That is part of the reason the SNP is pushing so hard for minimum pricing because so much of it is drink-related.

    But, secondly, the rammy in Kelvingrove Park would hardly qualify as a “riot”. It was broken up easily enough by a dozen or so polis as soon as it got out of hand. You really have to wonder what is wrong with people’s sense of proportion when they would seriously compare a drunken rammy in the park with what happened in London over the past few days. There are folk down in London who watched their whole livelihoods go up in flames – and the police were nowhere to be seen!

    Sometimes you can go too far to make a political point and Torquil just has.

  2. This degree of pathological opposition to what Alex Salmond and the SNP have to say on such issues is revealing and just shows how out of touch Labour and the Daily Record are with ordinary Scots.

    Scottish police dispersing drunken neds is not the same as the English police giving up the streets to thousands of people intent on rioting and looting.

    Scottish police acted decisively – the English police had to operate with both hands tied behind their back.

  3. Even the BBC calls them “England riots” – after complaints for greater precision and clarity from the English and Scottish public.

    Are the BBC “parochial nationalists”?

  4. Not sure what you mean about black street culture in relation to all this.

    I can assure you there is plenty of prejudice and racism in Scotland though. Got married a while back and now have 5 mixed race kids in a rural area. Lots of abuse and a fair bit of harassment from the general public is routine.

  5. He can’t have ever been to Glasgow.

    The Gorbals is straight across the river from the city centre and the St Enoch centre.

    It’s easy enough to get to the northern end of Buchanan Street and east end of Sauchiehall Street from Townhead, Royston and the Garngad.

    The Silverburn shopping centre is next to Pollok.

    The Fort shopping centre is right next to Easterhouse

    The Forge shopping centre is in Parkhead.

    And where does this “journalist” get off saying that ‘black’ culture is to blame? This is border line opportunism at best, and out and out racism at its worse.

    From reading these comments by this Daily Record, in Labour’s pocket hack you would think he wanted Scotland to have seen the kind of disturbances that our friends in the Midlands, Manchester and London have had to suffer through.

    Disgusting journalism, if you can even call it that.

  6. The reaction that it’s ‘parochial’ is simply bizarre.

    Surely it would be remiss of any First Minister of Scotland not to do what he can to protect Scotland from the economic backlash caused by the riots.They might well happen in Scotland – there is no assumption there – but the fact is they aren’t right now.

    I think you’re letting your anti-nat reactions cloud your judgement here, reading all sorts of nonsense between the lines.

  7. Aye- of course we never have mindless violence in Scotland- any of the commentators on here been to Glasgow during an old firm match- “Scotland’s shame” ignored completely by Salmond until recently because of course us Scots dont behave like the nasty English…

    1. Tsk, tsk Jason. You’re off message. Sectarianism is “Britain’s shame”. By recognising a distinct Scottish problem in such way you are making yourself look parochial and insular.

  8. Watching these comments from the “get Salmond pack” is like watching five year olds playing at their first football game. The ball breaks away and a little knot of bodies follow it and begin kicking and kicking until the ball breaks away again. You just sit there and watch and wait for what ever Alex Salmond or the SNP say and then begin kicking. It is really pathetic.

  9. I’m increasingly distressed by Labour’s response to any pronouncement by Salmond. Can we not think about what we say. Salmond was right, they weren’t UK riots – they were English riots. You don’t have to be a Nationalist or even a Scot to think that the way the BBC were presenting it was wrong – the fact the news tonight have been rebranded England riots proves he had a point. To criticise him over this is out of step with Scottish public opinion and when I read all the Unionist parties lining up to have a go at Salmond over this frankly i found it embarrassing. More thought please.

    1. The point is that if they weren’t UK riots they weren’t English riots either.

      Perhaps the way this argument has been put by some has been clumsy, but I continue to think it’s the right response. Salmond’s “sticking up for Scotland” was inappropriate not just in the context of riots damaging people’s homes and businesses – it made Scotland seem to be washing our hands of our neighbour’s troubles – but in its implicit suggestion that three miles north of Berwick the social fabric of the UK changes fundamentally thanks to an accident of history.

      If we’re going to hone the geography of this violence, we should do so honestly. These weren’t UK riots, and they weren’t English riots. They were riots in certain boroughs of London and in small areas of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Across the vast majority of the UK there were no riots. Far more people and towns were unaffected in England than were unaffected in Scotland.

      Those of us who happily live in the UK have no problem identifying this and are appalled when others try to throw up artificial geographical boundaries on social problems. Those who wish to live in a Scotland outside of the UK have no such collective engagement, and want to distance themselves from their neighbours’ troubles.

      In many ways it says everything about the SNP’s nationalism. Inward-looking, parochial and opportunist. We’re right to condemn it.

      1. It is an accident of history that Scots don’t riot. Because a big part of the reason that Scots don’t riot is simply that there is no recent history of rioting. You have to go back to 1919 to find a situation where the police lost control to the extent that the Uk Government sent the army in. And most public disturbances and much violent behaviour is associated with problem drinking and sectarian conflict – both matters which the Scottish Government is legislating on.

        You may identify with people in London who are the victims of rioting – there would be something wrong with you if you didn’t. But when greater police powers – such as curfew orders etc – are brought in down south, because that is inevitabe, are you going to argue that the same needs to happen in Scotland? Even though there is demonstrably no need for them?

        Because if you don’t, that will be yet another example of inconsistency.

        1. I note you avoid addressing my point. If these weren’t UK riots then they weren’t English riots either. It wasn’t Scotland that remained riot-free but the vast majority of the UK. Salmond and the SNP singling out Scotland was inward-looking, parochial and opportunist.

          1. It’s Salmond’s job to look out for Scotland, though, not everywhere but England.

          2. Alex Salmond is the First Minister of Scotland. There is literally nothing he can do which would not be inward-looking or parochial or opportunist by your standard – because he only has a remit to speak for or represent Scotland.

            That is exactly what he did. You, with your obsession with nationalism, chose to represent that as being anti-English by arguing that the SNP were “insular enough to worry about the indirect effect the riots might have on Scottish tourism before the direct effect they might be having on British people.”

            Alex Salmond is not responsible to British people in London or Manchester or Birmingham however – they didn’t elect him, he has no mandate to speak on their behalf and has sensibly avoided pontifcating on matters over which he has no democratic control.

            He lacks your impertinence in other words.

          3. Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for Scotland to send police to help?

            Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for Sheridan to regurgitate this Labour smear fest in the UK House of Commons in London, which seemed to cause bewilderment to most MPs, given the topic of debate?

            Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for Davidson to smear the SNP and their supporters with the fascist tag not once but twice whilst enjoying parliamentary privilege?

            Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for Davidson to shout “who cares” when the SNP were asking a question in the commons?

            Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for Alex Salmond to point out that Scottish business will be, and is being damaged by association with England, because the BBC/ Sky and the MSM are to ashamed to call these problems English?

            The BBC have agreed and now call them English riots, is that also inward-looking parochial and opportunist ?

            Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for the BBC and the MSM to call the recent troubles in Belfast and Derry, “Northern Ireland riots?”

            Was it inward-looking parochial and opportunist for Unionist politicians, from Scotland, to be much more exercised by Alex Salmonds accurate comments, than the problems these same politicians have created in society?

            If God forbid we ever had similar problems in Scotland would you be happy for these to be called UK riots, I am willing to bet that the MSM would not, and would quickly label them Scottish.

            Every English and Scottish person, who I have spoken to since agrees with me, these riots are not UK riots. One English neighbour has e-mailed her MP to say so.

            Why stop there lets call them EU riots, what do you think the Germans would have to say about that?

  10. Agree with some of what you’ve said here but also agree with those who find yours – and Alex Massie’s – attempt to equate the English riots with the mild skirmish at Kelvingrove Park fairly stupid. Anyone die in Kelvingrove Park that day?

  11. Its a dreadful state of affairs when certain political hacks appear to be wishing for riots and lootings to take place in Scotland in some mistaken belief that it will somehow justify their storyline.

    Salmond, once again, has baffled these london-centric storytellers by his accurate analysis of why Scotland has, so far, resisted the urge to create mayhem on the streets.

    And the labelling of these disturbances as ‘English’ will further diminish any chance of such ‘copycat’ behaviour.

    As an analogy, the good behaviour of Scotland fans whilst overseas is mostly underpinned by their desire not to be confused by their hosts as being in any way ‘English’ .

  12. Indeed Jason Labour might be in a stronger position on tackling mindless violence associated with football had they not argued against the legislation which would have been in place right now if the SNP Government had stuck to its original timetable.

    In fact I agreed with the Opposition parties that the bill giving new powers to the police needed a bit more scrutiny before being implemented – but it does rather undermine your criticism.

  13. We can’t listen to Torcul, he’ll just tell us what we want to hear, the Scots haven’t joined in so far in these riots but there is an increasing gap between the Rich and the poor, people find themselves at odds with what they want and the Party they support.
    Policies are developed for political parties and not for the people.

    Years ago the stupid but saveable coul get a job and recover when they went off the rails, now they join in a growing group who will never work nor take part in society.

    Scotland is in the stupid but saveable category as a country, what shall we do?

  14. Social Democrat

    If you take you argument (if you can call it that) to its logical conclusion then when he is talking- after five years of inaction- about sectarianism, then wee Eck should probably be calling it Glasgow’s shame- after all there hasn’t been too many reported incidents of wife beating and stabbings in Eyemouth or Elgin after an old firm match……think about it..In fact maybe we should be talking about London’s or Birminghams riots- after all it isn’t all of England is it? Taking Wee Eck’s line why should tourism be devastated in the Lake District because of a riot in Liverpool- after all images of riots in “Engerr-land” on tv will make every tourist across the world scared to come to the Lake District

    The real issue is how sad and pathetic it is that our First Ministers response to this issue was basically to say – typical English b****** . The how dare you call Andy Murray British brigade taking a new sinister twist….after all David Grant- no one has ever been murdered in Scotland by a gang or sectarian violence. Only the english do things like that….

    1. Hi Jason

      Personally, I don’t recognise your statement that there has been five years of inaction on sectarianism. I agree that there is always room for more work and I would certainly have liked to have seen the laws that are in the pipeline now in place in the last parliament. However, I think it only right to point out that the last parliament was a parliament of minorities. There was nothing stopping Labour (only smaller than the SNP by one seat remember) from bringing its own proposals before parliament if they were so concerned by an apparent inaction on this issue.

      Secondly, coming from the east coast, I can assure you the public opinion here when sectarianism is discussed is very much along the lines of “This isn’t Scotland’s shame, its a west central Scotland/Glasgow problem”. I believe that this is perhaps a complacent attitude (there are, sadly,occasional Orange marches in Dundee and Aberdeen) but it is certainly the overwhelming opinion amongst the public in my experience. That is not to say that people in the east of Scotland are not capable of violence or that we don’t have social problems as well. Its just that these tend not to manifest themselves through religious sectarianism.

      In reference to the riots, as I have said earlier I believe it is crucial that the negative impacts of the civil unrest is contained as much as possible. That does include pointing out that Cornwall, Cumbria and NE England haven’t seen riots either. The First Minster was doing his job of, as someone elsewhere put it, “keeping Scotland open for business” whilst also showing real practical solidarity with those caught in the unrest in the shape of police boots on the ground. I would expect this of any FM regardless of their party allegiance. To try and twist what he said as somehow anti-English flies in the face of reason and common decency. With respect, you are building strawmen that represent what you WISH Salmond and supporters of independence in general were like, but bear no resemblance whatsoever to reality.

  15. You can sense the deep disappointment expressed by Labour, Tories, Lib Dems, BBC Scotland, The Scotsman and the Daily Record that Scots did not riot as people did in England.

    Here is an interesting fact that should be recognised

    In Scotland we have not had a riot since 1919.

    Since 1919 riots in England happen on average every 3 to 4 years.

    Why is that when people north and south of the border when faced with the same social, economic and political concerns behave differently?

    The Poll Tax is a good example. In Scotland there were Poll Tax protests, in England we had Poll Tax riots.

    These English Riots have been a salutary lesson for Scots. We have discovered that “Scotland Shame” is that unionist politicians and a unionist media continue to misrepresent the concerns and behaviour of ourselves.

    1. I agree some of us are navel gazing and dithering instead of coming across with positive messages.
      Mark you that may be because we have not yet articulated our dream for Scotland, once we have a positive roadmap we can push our policies better and with confidence.

      1. I think the positive message is right there in front of us for all to see as articulated by the SNP. And will shortly be put to the test in a referendum.

        As to the positive, to wards civil unrest and gang violence Cameron himself spoke of it yesterday as wishing to investigate the excellent work being done now in Glasgow on the gang culture, it is showing results in a reduction in violence. The Strathclyde intitative has come about as a result of the excellent work being done in LA which also got a mention. Crime rates in Scotland are at a 40 year low. This did not happen due to negative political inaction, rather the opposite. And no matter how it sticks in the craw of Unionist commentators and their ilk, the SNP must take full credit for it. Iain Gray’s record in office as justice secretary was rather different.

        Alex Salmond was absolutely factually correct by saying we are a different society, we are and always have been different to England. That is not to boast or gloat but to state a simple fact. We have our problems and the SNP are dealing with them very effectively, and to quote Lord Foulkes, “they are doing it deliberately.”

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