Stand together, stand tall


On Tuesday in the Scottish parliament the Justice Committee voted in favour of sending anyone carrying a knife to jail for six months….

On Tuesday in the Scottish parliament the Justice Committee voted in favour of sending anyone carrying a knife to jail for six months.  The vote was a triumph for John Muir, whose son Damian had been killed in a horrific knife attack in Greenock three years ago.

The despair felt by Mr Muir and others who have been bereaved in similar circumstances is incalculable.  Their campaign to do something about the problems of Scottish men inflicting harm on one another is laudable and brave, but sadly such a proposal will do little to address the underlying problems.

This week Newsnet Scotland was contacted by an individual who had found out about our online publication.  They wanted to know if we would publish the story of the savage beating of a friend at the hands of a mob, coincidently the unfortunate location of the attack was one again Greenock.

A 46 year old man had been viciously attacked in the street in broad daylight by a gang of youths using a concrete brick and a baseball bat, the victim needed five hours of hospital treatment.  The story hadn’t been covered in the local newspaper (The Greenock Telegraph) and three of the youths suspected of being involved in the attack had been arrested and freed the same day – incredulously, the 46 year old who had been beaten faced arrest himself.

Newsnet Scotland wasn’t set up for this type of story – we have limited resources and such events are sadly commonplace.  However the desperation from the individual was palpable and we decided on hearing the details to cover the story – it is the top story in our ‘General’ section.

‘Greenock fury and fear at latest attack’

The attack is indicative of the despair and hopelessness that exists in ever growing pockets of anarchic communities all over Scotland.  It is a hopelessness that a six month sentence for carrying a knife will do nothing to alleviate.

This week the SNP warned that Scotland faced a ‘decade of despair’ from a Labour or Tory Westminster government.  However for many Scots, young and old, that despair is already here and has been eating away at the soul for years.

The 1980’s saw many of Greenock’s young men leave the area in search of work, some never returned.  Those who remained faced a bleak future marked by long spells of unemployment relieved intermittently by low paid short term contract work.

Faced with such a future it wasn’t long before some succumbed to drink and drugs.  Dealers thrived as the social fabric that had knitted the communities together began to disintegrate.

As the years passed and Labour replaced the Conservatives in Downing Street the social collapse spread, compounded by destructive housing policies.  Local authorities stopped building houses whilst those charged with allocating tenancies did so in a manner that was simply catastrophic.

The social experiment of placing ‘problem’ families’ amongst well established and socially responsible communities has failed utterly.

A narrow interpretation of the law and a rigid adherence to this interpretation has led to an upside down situation where problematic and socially inadequate people, in many cases convicted criminals, find themselves at the top of the housing list at the expense of decent, law abiding community oriented tenants.

The people presiding over this shocking state of affairs wash their hands of the very real and very frightening consequences by citing these same narrow rules they themselves introduced.

The result is a situation endured by the local residents of this Greenock community near Branchton who have watched as two such families have slowly replaced honesty, co-operation and trust with crime, intimidation and fear.  Despite complaints about these two families stretching back over a decade, the authorities appear to have done little or nothing.

Local youths, poorly educated and with low esteem and even lower aspirations now congregate in the gardens and pathways surrounding these two houses – dogs accompanying the youths add to the sense of intimidation.

Motorbikes frequently churn up what was once a grassy slope in front of the row of terraced homes, some purchased from the local council before the two families moved in.  Late night fires and gatherings are commonplace as the workshy lifestyles of this growing anarchic gang render them averse to early morning rises.

It is against this backdrop that a number of the gang beat the 46 year old to the ground last Sunday, the second such beating the man has endured in recent months.  Local people who witnessed the attack will say nothing to police knowing full well that they have little by way of protection – leaving the area would be the only option.

Their plight is being ignored as was the terrible beating endured by the 46 year old whose only ‘crime’ was to have had the courage to stand up.  These are the real forgotten people of Scotland, they have no voice, they have no champions – they are deemed irrelevant.

13 years ago the youths who attacked the man would have been youngsters starting their school education, newspapers and televisions at the time were reporting the election of a new Labour government.  A youthful Tony Blair strode down a sunny Downing Street and told us that ‘things could only get better’.

Last Sunday in a community in one of the most resource rich nations in Europe, decent people watched in fear as a victim of the Thatcher years was systematically beaten to the ground by victims of the Labour years.

We need to break the cycle, we need to change old habits – we urge the people of this community to stand together and like the victim of the attack stand tall.

On May 6th Newsnet Scotland urges the people not just in Greenock but in all towns and villages in Scotland to go to your local voting station and make a difference, let our next generation reach for something better.

Something other than a cheque from the ‘social’ or a weapon.