Alex Salmond: Scotland safer than England

THE riots seen in England over recent days are less likely to happen north of the Border, Alex Salmond claimed yesterday, as he argued that the chaos should not be described as a "UK crisis".

In his first intervention since looters rampaged through London, Birmingham and Manchester, the First Minister warned that there was a danger that Scotland could get caught in the "backwash" of the chaos in copycat violence here.

But his claims that there was less likelihood of violence kicking off in Scotland, and his criticism of TV and newspaper reports that described them as "UK riots", were condemned by political opponents who accused Mr Salmond of trying to making political capital out of the chaos.

The row came as David Cameron described pockets of the country's society as "sick", and police confirmed that water cannon could be deployed if the rioting continues over coming nights.

Meanwhile, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland confirmed that ten units of riot police from Scotland were being sent to England to assist in the effort. Forces in Scotland have also held discussions in recent days to ensure they were prepared for any trouble in Scotland.

Mr Salmond condemned the violence across the country saying there was no excuse for what he described as the "mayhem and lawlessness and criminality" seen south of the Border.

Asked by the BBC whether the violence was less likely to happen in Scotland, the First Minister replied: "Yes but we have no complacency about it." Scotland had "a different society", he added. "It is important that we present that," he went on.

He said: "One of the many frustrations yesterday was to see the events being described on the BBC network and Sky as riots in the UK.

"Until such time as we do have a riot in Scotland, then what we have seen are riots in London and in English cities. And it is actually unhelpful to see them inaccurately presented, because one of the dangers we face in Scotland is copycat action."

He added: "It is important that we try and make the distinction. One of the bright spots in the economy right now is the surge in tourists numbers round Scotland. We don't want anything to damage that, so it is really important that we remain vigilant both in terms of our policing and our government, and that we see things properly presented, otherwise we will be caught up economically and socially in the backwash of what's happening south of the Border."

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The comments were met with a barrage of criticism from Mr Salmond's political opponents last night, who claimed he was using the crisis for his own political ends

Scotland Office minister David Mundell said he welcomed the fact that Scottish forces were being deployed south.

He added: "That is the positive side of the First Minister's comments this morning. What is unhelpful is the tone he has adopted in trying to make political capital out of a terrible situation. It is a parochial and petty view. I think most Scots would prefer to see the Scottish Government concentrate on providing practical assistance as part of the UK rather than scoring cheap points."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: "The First Minister's reaction to the riots is small-minded and embarrassing if he really thought the most important thing was that they should be called 'English riots' on TV. Surely he could have seen his way to expressing solidarity with the communities devastated by this criminal violence first and foremost."

He added: "There are few Scots who don't have relatives or friends in the places affected south of the Border."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: "Scotland is not free from social tensions and community disorder and instead of gloating about riots in another part of the UK, the First Minister's efforts would be better spent addressing those deep-rooted issues here."

However, one sociologist said Scotland's more "conservative" society might explain why the chaos had not yet spread north of the Border.Dr Stuart Waiton, of Abertay University also said Scotland did not have the same "ethnic mix". He added: "Not that these are race riots in an old-fashioned sense, but I do think black youth are more patronised and molly-coddled." He said this had helped to create youngsters who "are quite narcissistic and have very few connections with their communities".

A BBC News spokeswoman said last night that the corporation had decided to change its own approach to the riots.

She said: "While the rioting and disturbances have been taking place in England, our initial approach was guided by the story's impact for the UK as a whole. However, with the events confined to several cities and towns in England, we are now referring to 'England riots' in our coverage for absolute clarity."

The ten units of riot police that were being sent from Scotland yesterday represents 250 of the country's 17,234 officers.

A spokesman for Acpos said they would be travelling to the Midlands and north of England.

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