OK, we need to stop lying about Dundee being the best place in Scotland, the UK, Europe, the World and the Universe to live ... there I’ve said it. Take me outside, tie me to a pole, light me a fag and don’t bother with the blindfold.
The idea of ‘Best Place To Live’ (BPTL) is stupid and patrionising, which is just a lazy PR concept.
It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes for the ‘creatives mafia’ in any city, which in the case of Dundee comprises of around 50 people spread out between the West End, Broughty Ferry and the burgeoning town of Newport-on-Tay which for the uninitiated happens to be in Fife.
It lets the cooncil off the hook and allows them to focus all their energies into talking the place up while ignoring the hard stuff that needs done like providing care for the elderly which won’t win them awards or plaudits.
It fosters a culture of positivity at all costs where the first casualty is always the truth – sweep the bad stuff under the carpet – we do life sciences here don’t you know?
The city of jute, jam and journalism was named Scotland’s BPTL earlier this month by the Sunday Times, hot-on-the-heels of coming sixth on Lonely Planet’s Best in Europe 2018 list of places to visit.
The media barrage since the opening of the new V&A franchise store on the waterfront has been held up by luvvies everywhere as a classic example of how a bit of the old culture can drag a place out of the doldrums with a slice of bread and jam for everyone.
I don’t buy it, like I don’t buy the opposite side of the spectrum which labels a place “drug capital of Europe” – as happened to Edinburgh in the 80s – with the focus shifting from the V&A to Dundee having the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe.
Makes for punchy headlines – even if drug deaths aren’t recorded on a like-for-like basis across the continent.
If culture is the be-all and end-all then surely London would have no knife crime given the huge choice of galleries and museums on offer in the teeming metropolis. No doubt Dundee’s fake valium problems – and I shy away from using the word epidemic – have been acute with the local authorities needing to do more, particularly in terms of providing addiction support services.
But the tired media narrative framed around the place highlights the duality of over-the-top coverage of the opening of a museum being followed up with the horror story of drug deaths.
There is no room for the middle ground where the real truth lies.
Rather like the theory of inverse care in health, where those who need it most receive the least, an influx of professional types into one area will substantially improve it simply because they shout the loudest. The middle-class are brilliant at advocating change and will complain about anything and everything, especially if it impacts on the lives of their precious little darlings.
They are also media-savvy and will hit Twitter and Facebook like billy-oh if, for example, the bins are not getting picked up quickly enough.
You only have to walk a mile or so from any ‘trendy’ place in Scotland’s cities and you’ll find abject poverty. The poor don’t benefit from the regeneration with not so much as an out-of-date avocado thrown their way.
I have friends and family from Dundee, lived across the road in Tayport for seven years and like the area and the people. I know Dundonians who take the absolute mickey out of all the hype surrounding the place and others who think anyone not talking it up to the nth degree deserves a swift ‘punch in the pus’.
I consider my home in a Fife mining village to be my current BPTL. It includes an ice-cream shop, a target shooting shop, one that sells crystals, a solitary pub called The Crystal, a Chinese takeaway and a unisex haridresser called Kutz for U.
I have hot and cold running water, toothpaste and Netflix. There’s not a museum in sight, but then surely, it’s more important who you live with than where you live?