Corpun file 12977
Edinburgh Evening News, 15 March 2004
So what can we try next to tackle the problem of ned culture?
By Ian Johnston
Cameron Glasgow has had enough of neds getting away with
Picture: Gareth Easton
IN his darker moments, former Scottish rugby international
Cameron Glasgow thinks about bringing back the birch to deal with
ringleaders of teenage gangs or simply handing out "good
Then he takes a deep breath as he accepts neither plan is a good
idea. But it is a sign of his increasing frustration at the
teenage reign of terror he sees all around him on the streets of
Edinburgh that he is even contemplating such radical steps.
It is a frustration that has led him to consider emigrating to
New Zealand, believing Scottish society has broken down to the
extent that it is almost a lost cause. And, in his personal
tirade against "ned culture" and the apparent lack of
effective powers for the police to deal with the culprits,
Glasgow has found he is not alone. He has received dozens of
phone-calls and e-mails from friends, acquaintances and others
who are equally frustrated.
Glasgow, 38, a member of the Scotland squad from 1989 to 1997,
and friend Stephen McGoldrick recently witnessed a 13-year-old
boy throw a brick through a car window near his home in the
Trinity area. He grabbed the youth, who headbutted him in the
face. Glasgow and McGoldrick were then confronted by an angry
group of the boys friends.
The boys called the teenagers father, who arrived with a
well-built friend, while neighbours called the police. The
officers arrived just as the situation looked to be turning
nasty. The police calmed the situation down but told
Glasgow there was little that could be done because of the
Glasgow, a father-of-two who works for an investment company, has
also previously intervened to stop a racist attack by a group of
neds on an Asian boy on Princes Street. When he did so, the gang
turned on him and a fight ensued. Afterwards, Glasgow berated two
"big guys" who stood back and did nothing, but they
just said they didnt want to get involved.
Glasgow is sure the older generations answer - corporal
punishment - would prove an effective answer to youth crime, and
says: "For every group of 20 people there will be maybe two
ringleaders. If they were birched and seen by everybody greeting
like wee kids then suddenly they wouldnt be big tough
guys." But while he sometimes finds such thoughts tempting,
he does not actually support them.
"I dont want to be some kind of fascist. I always have
a gut reaction and then a more reasoned reaction. If I see
somebody doing some mindless violence my first reaction is to
give them a good hiding," he says. "Thats my
initial reaction, but in quieter moments I try and sit back and
look at the problem more rationally."
He does believe that the approach favoured by those he describes
as "do-gooders" - helping delinquent children sort out
the problems in their life - has a role. And he adds: "I
dont think all the neds are necessarily bad."
But in addition to the carrot of help from social workers and
others, Glasgow believes there must be a stick - an effective
sanction - to ensure the public are protected from violent neds.
"What do these people offer society? Nothing, so we should
lock them away," Glasgow says. "Im not blaming
the police. They are completely hamstrung by legislation."
In fact he has become so fed up that he has even thought about
emigrating to New Zealand, a country he believes has a greater
sense of society than Scotland. "A few years ago, New
Zealand had a big problem with litter. The government put out an
advert saying: This is a beautiful country, why spoil
it? After a year they didnt have a problem.
"You could run adverts like that all day in Scotland and it
wouldnt make a difference. Edinburgh is one of the most
beautiful cities and its strewn with litter. I am very
patriotic, but I just keep being slightly disappointed with my
own country. We are the silent majority and the sooner people
like politicians realise this is an overwhelming feeling the
One friend who contacted Glasgow after hearing about his
headbutting incident says: "Even as a person of liberal
leanings, I find myself more and more angry at what the neds are
getting away with. There is a gang that congregates opposite Dean
Gardens on the Water of Leith cycle path. They let off fireworks,
kick over seats, etc. It is believed this gang managed to get
into Dean Gardens where they broke certain items in the
childrens play area, pulled down the fence and generally
caused mindless destruction. These may also be the neds who have
caused so many problems in the Colonies . . . cats and pensioners
[are] particular targets."
Meanwhile, Viki Mendelssohn, 33, of the New Town, was in Victoria
Park in Trinity while looking after some friends children
just two days before a 33-year-old engineer was beaten and
stabbed by members of a gang of about 30 youths while cycling
home there last month. Two youngsters have since been charged.
Viki says: "These groups of youths can be quite
intimidating. At the end of my road theres a park and there
have been quite a lot of bag snatches and general disturbances.
We need a system whereby if you break the law, at whatever age,
you are suitably punished with either an antisocial behaviour
order or custodial
sentence. Parents must also take more
responsibility for their childrens actions and be fined
should their child be persistently breaking the law."
A 70-YEAR-OLD man, who sympathises with Glasgow, told
him in an e-mail: "I tend to view any approaching
male/female group with suspicion and apprehension. I have no idea
how to handle a drink or drug-induced situation and am too old to
Glasgows friend McGoldrick, who works for a leading bank,
wrote to Lothian and Borders Police Chief Constable Paddy Tomkins
to complain following the incident with the 13-year-old vandal in
Trinity, and three others involving
"Most men can understand why my friend [Glasgow] and I have
now agreed that if we find ourselves in similar circumstances we
either look the other way or abandon self-restraint, administer
summary justice and hope that your officers are as ineffectual in
dealing with our crimes as they are in handling those
above," he wrote. "What would you have us do?
Nothing?" A police officer is due to visit McGoldrick, who
lives in the New Town, to discuss his complaint.
It is a problem that has registered at the highest level in the
Scottish Executive, with the police expected to be given
controversial new powers to disperse groups of youths as a result
of the proposed Antisocial Behaviour Bill. But whether this will
prove enough to satisfy the likes of Glasgow and put an end to
his thoughts of public birchings remains to be seen.