Our Culture of Violence Herald 2005, in response Irvine Welsh

 Our Culture of Violence Herald 2005 in response to Irvine Welsh


I’m writing about the tragic death of a young 20yr-old boy who lived behind us here in a northern suburb of Glasgow. He was violently and indiscriminately attacked in the centre of Glasgow by two youths.  A recent study from California cited Scotland as having the highest rates of Youth violence in the world. When it reaches so close to home, it shocks and horrifies us all. 


As I pick up the Evening Times I read of further attacks. Apparently the two Youths involved in the random attack, injured several others the same night.  My son works as a junior doctor in Glasgow and those on call in the Infirmary talked of the numbers brought in injured that same night.   It was a Friday night after an Old Firm clash. 


We live in a Culture of Violence, that starts in the home and spread out into the community at large. Add to this a cocktail of alcohol over-indulgence and ease of access to drugs, and you have a lethal combination, a powder keg just waiting to explode.  


 Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, recently suggested in the press that it was time for an Open Debate on this pressing subject.  Perhaps we need to look at other cosmopolitan areas such as New York, which used to have a high level of violence, and  adopted a zero tolerance approach several years ago – which meant targeting young criminals and the smallest crimes, before it leads to the more serious ones.  My daughter was there this summer and found New York a safer city to walk around in than Glasgow. We also need to tackle the alcohol and drug abuse problems, through education and through stricter laws on selling alcohol to the very young.   


The introduction of laws banning physical violence in the home may help to raise awareness that violence towards others is not acceptable behaviour in our society. This also raises questions about our society’s attitude to violence generally, as a way of controlling others. There are other more successful ways of coping with problems and with young children. Another problem is the severe lack of male role models for many young boys growing up here, and the fact that Scotland has such a high rate of single parent families.


The second issue is attitudes to binge drinking. We glorify ‘being drunk’ and ‘binge drinking’ in Scotland – as if it is something to be proud of.  A whole generation is being caught up in a cheap triple alcoholic haze. Do we care? Well we should. We set the example by what we do and say. My view is it is the entire ‘Culture’ and attitudes here in Scotland that have to change, and not about a few experts telling the less fortunate to behave better. 


It is time we looked seriously at these and other alternative ways of behaving, before youth violence escalates even further on our streets.


P. Keightley, 2005



I hope my two letters may have added to the debates and moves in Glasgow to tackle knife crime as a health issue.  In 2005 Strathclyde police set up the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). Glasgow was then the murder capital of Europe, with 137 homicides that year. All sorts of crackdowns had not worked so police tried a pioneering new approach treating violence as a public health issue. The VRU’s empathetic outlook – working with deprive communities, talking to gang members, and dumping the old punitive, judgemental attitudes – produced results.


By 2018 Scotland’s homicide rate had more than halved. And police authorities from London to horn of Africa were copying the VRU approach.





Our Culture of drink and violence posted Letter 2005 to y Local Herald newspaper

Early this year a 21-year-old university student, Matthew Colpi Vance, a keen rugby player, who lived near me north of Glasgow, was violently attacked in the centre of Glasgow by two youths aged 20, on a drunken and violent rampage through Glasgow’s city centre. 


The story is that they were randomly punching people as they walked the streets.  Matthew was attacked on Sauchiehall street just outside the Garage night club.  Apparently that night several other injured people were admitted to hospital. It was also the night of a Rangers Celtic football game.

After Matthew fell he suffered massive head injuries and lay bleeding on the ground, the court heard that McHarg said: ‘He deserved it’. And walked off laughing and joking.  


The young hooligan(20), Lee McHarg has just been jailed for four and half years. Amazingly his co-accused Christopher Cairns (20), who didn’t hit Matthew, was jailed for longer! (five years), on the basis of three assaults and the culpable homicide of Matthew, and on the basis he had been involved with McHarg in a violent course of conduct.  McHarg was not given six years because he pleaded guilty.(?)  

The judge said. ‘This is a tragic case. A young man who promised a bright future is dead, and it seems to have been caused by you two having far too much to drink.’  


Personally I believe that people can all to often use drinking is an excuse for rude language or violence. Yes it can dull our senses, or make us loose our inhibitions, but I don’t believe drinking causes the violence, or can be used as an excuse.  I might have a few drinks, but I would never dream of using foul language or attacking someone. 


In schools there is education of the dangers of illegal drugs, perhaps its time for the dangers of legal drugs too.  


It should be about setting clear boundaries and punishments, both for the offenders and their parents. Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, recently suggested in the press that it was time for an Open Debate on this pressing subject. Cities such as New York, have adopted a successful zero tolerance approach. 


It is time we looked seriously at these and other possible answers, before youth violence escalates even further on our streets.  

If we treat young people with respect then hopefully they will view us with respect too. 


Pauline Keightley, 2005