i mean, it’s not like belle and sebastian predicted a riot;

NOTE: I started writing this a good few days ago, before my recent site outage, so apologies if any of this is now out of date. Also, apologies for profanity. I need to make up four days of web stats somehow.

Oh, Alex Salmond. You make it so easy for your haters, you do, waddling around like some enormous wind-up penguin with your flippers flapping stammering Shcott-land, Shcott-land with every second word. You’re obviously a very intelligent man and sometimes you make very good points, but the trouble is you bury them in nationalist rhetoric and make them sound like cheap political point-scoring.

Like what you said the other day, about how these are English not UK riots and couldn’t happen here. This is damaging tourism, you said, could lead to copycat incidents. And you’re right. They’ve already had to arrest two idiots for setting up Facebook events trying to start riots in Glasgow and Dundee. But did you have to sound like such a cunt when you were saying it? Could you not have expressed a bit of sympathy for the authorities in those English cities, struggling to cope, like you would have done had this happened somewhere, anywhere else but our own back yard?

As I often do in these situations, I turned to my own Englishman in residence for his take on the riots a couple of days ago. “Why hasn’t it happened here?” I wondered aloud. There are parts of Glasgow where poverty and unemployment are as rife as they are in the London and Birmingham estates where the trouble exploded. Our low life expectancy is routinely mocked, and as for acts of wanton violence and criminality – we’ve got two football teams who aren’t allowed to play each other any other time bar noon on a Sunday. “True,” he said. “But there isn’t the same anger up here.”

And I chewed on that for a while. I wanted to disagree. We’re just as angry about the cuts, we’re just as angry about what they’re doing to our universities. We took to the streets in our time, and we managed to do so without smashing windows and nicking trainers and flat-screen TVs and mango-scented Body Shop body butter (that stuff’s amazing by the way and will do wonders for post-riot skin dryness).

But then I read this piece by Simon Jenkins, and I started to see what he meant. In his column, Jenkins suggests that had we seen these riots happen anywhere else charge would have been taken in each city by powerful mayors or police figures or local government, not national politicians trying to be everywhere at once. Theresa May or David Cameron can’t control what’s going on in Birmingham or Manchester. They can’t possibly. Of course London has Boris Johnson, a mayor elected on the television personality ticket who can pose as a good goof for the papers while holding a broom, but who’s looking out for Nottingham? Can you name another regional UK political figure with that same level of clout? Of course you can’t. But you know who Michael Bloomberg is, right?

One of the most striking interviews I remember seeing on the news last week was with one of the kids who had been involved in the rioting. When asked why he did it, he shrugged his shoulders. “Because we can,” he said. Now, better minds than mine have written about the extent to which this lawlessness may or may not be rooted in social and economic problems. Beyond pointing out that what began in Tottenham last weekend started out as a legitimate response to an act of police brutality before the world went up in flames it’s not something I want to address. But surely because we can isn’t that far from because nobody cares, because nobody is watching us – and yes, I’ll say it: because nobody is looking out for us?

Now I’m not saying that Scottish society is perfect. I’m not saying that our police are not without their faults, that the devolved Scottish Parliament doesn’t speak for everybody and certainly doesn’t always get it right. But the police, our devolved government, is there. As the Englishman in residence frequently points out, population-wise the Midlands is the size of Scotland, yet the people who are supposed to be looking out for their interests are somewhere along the M1 having an ’emergency debate’ about phone hacking. And yes, thats an important issue and absolutely has its place and needed doing but is hardly having an effect on mass unemployment and college dropouts, gang culture and drug abuse.

I’m not for a second allowing myself to be complacent. I never saw the Facebook pages in question but I think it’s telling that, from the quotes I read, the authors were wee bams who will be dealt with accordingly. As the nation breathes a sigh of relief and tries to get back to some semblance of normality, perhaps we do have something to be thankful for – up here, we’re not completely abandoned.

Elsewhere: Jennie Kermode links the riots to a lack of civic pride. While I don’t necessarily agree, it’s an interesting read.



  1. William
    August 14, 2011 / 7:28 pm

    I tend to agree entirely with you on Salmond. There is another point I’d make regarding the riots compared to scotland. While Scotland has minorities, whole inner cities are not immigrant communities, disconnected from the society they live in. Our largest minority is in fact English as I recall.

  2. Valeman
    August 14, 2011 / 10:19 pm

    I tend to disagree regards Salmond, peurile name calling may be the order of the day for bloggers and media hacks with a unionist bent, but in all honesty it says more about them than the intended target.

    As for the “UK” riots, he was quite right in describing them as English and sod all to do with us, much to the obvious dismay of the MSM up here, although it didn’t stop the likes of Severin Carrell in the Grauniad writing with undisguised glee about the two wee neds from Scotland.
    This pair of eejits appear to be the only ones north of the border who were in anyway interested in the new English sport of extreme window shopping.
    It may well be a fact that “there isn’t the same anger up here”, but when it is expressed (on the odd Sunday at noon)that won’t stop the “UK” media from reporting it correctly as “the Scottish problem”, pity they couldn’t report so precisely on the wee stramash south of the border.
    Salmond was merely expressing what the vast majority of Scots were thinking anyway. It wisnae oor problem!

    • August 15, 2011 / 8:46 am

      See, you’ve fallen into the classic cybernat trap here: I disagree with you, so that automatically makes me a unionist.

      I’m not a unionist. I’m a we-absolutely-need-to-talk-about-this, but-we-have-more-pressing-social-problems-right-now-so-can-we-get-back-to-the-subject-please…ist.

      You have quite rightly picked up on my frequent distaste for the First Minister, but that’s not because I’m anti-independence. It’s for the reasons above. But hey, there’s “nationalist” in the title of his party – maybe he’s contractually obligated to turn every statement around to it. I don’t know. What I’m saying is that I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason this has not been an issue north of the border is PRECISELY because of the good work the Scottish Parliament has been doing. Just… have a bit of class, and don’t be so bloody smug about it.

      “UK riots”… do you honestly think that was some massive MSM anti-Scottish conspiracy, rather than a convenient soundbite because the riots involved more than just London? Referring to them as so was inaccurate, but from the way it was pointed out I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few media figures half-hoping for an outbreak in Glasgow just so they could say “we told you so”.

      • lis is on her phone
        August 15, 2011 / 8:48 am

        Bollocks, that was the OP by the way – didn’t realise I wasn’t logged in.

      • Stringer
        August 15, 2011 / 11:23 am


        People in Scotland who’ve felt alienated and disenfranchised have had their own media. They’ve had -for a long time now- government.

        There are generations of people below the border who have no media presence, who have no voice, authority figures or protection. A country that was also destroyed by Thatcherism, but hasn’t had anyone other than right wing lunatics like the EDL trying to form them any kind of identity.

  3. Stringer
    August 14, 2011 / 10:59 pm

    There are millions of people in England -of many races and backgrounds- who feel unrepresented, unwatched and unwanted.

    To watch national TV, to read papers, even to see football coverage, you would get the impression that below Scotland there is a vast empty space all the way down to London. And in London itself, there are thousands of people who also suffer from this, who are not represented.

    From people who feel abandoned and ignored, to others who feel free to do what they want because there’s no authority figures, all of that found a very violent voice.

    And the people in charge of fixing this are the same people causing it. So it won’t be fixed. The problems are already being written off under a demonisation of the young, and under the tag “gang culture.”

    It was the yoot (except for those that were adults.) It was the evil dole spongers (except for those who had job.) It was the kids from single parent families (except for those from traditional family units.) It was the evil immigrants (except for all those pesky white people.) All in all, it’s going to be put down to any and every easy excuse that totally avoids the real issues.

    And what you picked up on is something else that’s been annoying me this week. Snark from north of the border, that somehow Scotland is better, is more left wing, or -the real laugh- that somehow Scotland won’t riot because of free prescriptions and universities. It’s the ‘not our problem’ mentality that at times makes it very hard for me to feel at home up here. It is a minority, and not a representation of most people i speak to, but it’s a minority that stands out.

    • August 15, 2011 / 9:22 am

      Which, coincidentally, is exactly the same way millions of Scottish people feel when they pick up a national newspaper. It’s exactly the same way millions of Scottish people felt during the Thatcher years. I suppose the difference is that we have our own media and, since 1999, our own devolved Parliament. Both of which go some way to fostering a sense of identity or a bond (relating, I guess, to the Jennie Kermode post I linked) that just doesn’t exist between Carlisle and the Watford Gap. I worry that with that identity comes this sense of defensiveness that turns into an ‘us against them’ way of looking at things – we’re so caught up in ourselves and our own disengagement with Westminster that we forget that the Midlands is the size of Scotland and feels exactly the same. You and I have talked about this before.

      Scotland more left wing than rural England? Almost certainly. Scotland more left wing than the inner cities, where the electorate doesn’t even engage because they know nobody is listening? Don’t make me laugh.

      I know what you mean about the ‘not our problem’ mentality. It’s easy to get a little smug, seeing another BNP councilor returned in Bradford or Birmingam. “Are they MENTAL?” you think, “they’re hating on folk who have been contributing to the local economy since their grandparents came over after the second world war! Whose accents are exactly the same! It wouldn’t happen up here!” Of course it wouldn’t, because as William said above the only people who migrated to Scotland were the Irish, and we’re only just now getting over the widespread anti-Catholic bigotry that permeated employment/housing/society for just as many years.

  4. August 15, 2011 / 10:02 am

    I’m still thinking about it all but one of the differences between Scotland (and indeed Northern Ireland) and England is not so much about levels of anger but about where the anger is directed. At home, we’re still too busy being angry with each other to direct much of our attention to the authorities which are failing us. Besides, we’re very removed (geographically) from said authorities – devolved assemblies and their nebulous powers aside – which makes reacting to them less attractive/ plausible/ immediate. I wonder if it’s the same in Scotland?

    Also, we don’t have the same class divides (or discourse about class) at home so disparities in wealth are not so apparent to us. I have a feeling that that is the same in Scotland also. (Though please correct me if I’m wrong on any of this.)

  5. Kristina
    August 15, 2011 / 10:06 am

    I heard one of the interviews Salmond gave and the context was that he was sending a bunch of police to help England out, the question put to him was, is he not worried that this would leave Scotland under policed if the same thing happened, he was, imo, trying to explain why it wouldn’t (presumeably as long as they were back by the first old firm game).

    My only rankle with what he said was that the media should make it clear it was riots in England not riots in the UK. I sort of understand, again the context was that the media was playing its part in whipping up frenzy and he didn’t want that happening to Scotland but without that context it did come across a little petty, which was unfortunate.

  6. joshy
    August 15, 2011 / 3:27 pm

    thank you, lisa-marie, for one of the brightest, least hysterical commentaries i’ve seen on the riots.

    alex salmond, albeit a decent enough fellow, is no statesman and often sounds, dare i say, derisive. his comments on the riots were NOT helpful. scotland needs a real leader like john smith.