Analysis: Let’s own up to what’s wrong with our largest city

ONE of the reasons that Glasgow successfully overcame its dreary image was that it, instead of rejecting the many criticisms made of it, it was courageous enough to accept the validity of many of them and set out to change.

The instinctive reaction to observations that our citizens share lower levels of trust and low levels of social participation is to reject such insults to our perceptions that this is a warm, friendly place of cheery, stairhead banter and chatty individuals relating to everyone and everything around them.

Yet given the scope and quality of this research – and not least because it was conducted in Glasgow – we are forced to accept its conclusions that this is not the cosy, unified community we have perpetuate in our folklore, songs and comedy. Will Fyffe’s portrayal of the Saturday night drunk singing to his lonely self may still be nearer the mark that the concerned community offered by Chewin’ The Fat.

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The fact is that Glasgow suffers “excess mortality” over and above that of other equality deprived cities. The search to establish the causes of this may prove as elusive as trying to track down the Higgs boson. This excellent research struggles to put its finger on it, arriving at tentative suggestions rather than firm policy prescriptions. Given Glasgow’s appalling health record, the additional investigations proposed must be pursued. Unless the causes of Glasgow’s “extra” bad health are established they can hardly be tackled.

One comfort to Glaswegians is the confirmation of something they always knew – that the neo-liberal social policies of Margaret Thatcher had a greater adverse effect on Glasgow than on Manchester or Liverpool. Politics now cannot play as big a part in rectifying the situation. But the Commonwealth Games next year surely offers the opportunity to increase levels of volunteering and other forms of social participation. There is still time subtly to adjust the legacy goals of the Games to target this item on the health agenda.

Even without its “excess’ mortality Glasgow is still one of the most unhealthy cities in the UK. No-one is in doubt as to the causes of this outstandingly bad health. They are poverty and deprivation and can only be tackled by public resources. Instead of starving the city of cash through cutting its budget the Scottish Government should be making Glasgow a priority.