What are the main social problems affecting the city of glasgow, Scotland?

Scotland has the highest homicide rate in Western Europe and the sixth highest in the world. But here’s a curious thing: If you remove Scotland’s largest city Glasgow from the statistical mix, Scotland’s murder rate drops so sharply that it’s barely on par with the UK.

Though the city on the Clyde is attempting to reinvent itself with stone-cleaned buildings, upscale shopping centres and an increasingly strong financial services sector, life in Glasgow remains problematic for many of its citizens, mired in poverty, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities and a deep seated culture of male entitlement that leads to fractured nuclear families. A 2008 World Health Organization report noted that in Glasgow’s Calton district, the average life expectancy for males is only 54 years old. Glasgow’s suicide rate is the highest in the UK. Glasgow has the highest crime rate in Scotland. Glasgow’s “won” the title of “Fattest City In Britain” several years in a row. Both men and women are more likely to die of alcohol-related deaths in Glasgow than anywhere else in the UK, and public health officials predict that both drug and alcohol-related deaths will double in the next 20 years.

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As the site chosen for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow is clearly establishing an international reputation as an economic and cultural hub. But the city will never achieve its full potential unless the problems of poverty, unemployment, educational under achievement and drug and alcohol abuse that beset so many of its residents are tackled.

The Cycle of Poverty and Unemployment

The contrast between the quality of life for residents of Glasgow’s east end and western areas is staggering. The average life expectancy for males living in the Glasgow east end, Bridgeton and Queenslie neighbourhoods is 54 years, and 60% of the children living there live in households well below the poverty line. In contrast, residents of Glasgow’s upscale and sophisticated West End live to be 80 and virtually none of them are on the dole.

The correlation between unemployment and poverty is well established. Nearly 30 % of Glasgow’s working age population, or 110,000 people, are unemployed, a rate’s that’s 50% higher than that of the rest of Scotland or the UK. Glasgow has the highest proportion of people claiming IB – the means tested government allowance for job seekers working fewer than 16 hours per week – in all of the UK.

Blighted Youth

Unemployment is particularly acute among Glasgow’s young people: 18% of all 16 to 19 year olds are neither in school nor employed. A 2008 report published by the Centre For Social Justice noted that there are 170 teenage gangs in Glasgow, the same number that has been counted in London, a city six times Glasgow’s size.

Drug and alcohol abuse is an increasing problem for this demographic, as well as for much younger children. In 2007-2008, 173 Glasgow children under the age of 18 which hospitalized for drug overdoses, down slightly from the year before.

Lack of Educational Opportunities

More than one in five working age Glaswegians lack any sort of education that might qualify them for a job. Glasgow had the lowest number of students performing at Standard levels of educational achievement in all of Scotland, and one-third fewer students pursuing higher education.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Glasgow has the highest incidence of liver diseases secondary to alcohol abuse in all of Scotland; indeed in some areas of Glasgow, like the east end district of Dennistoun, these illnesses kill more people than heart attacks and lung cancer put together. Drug-related mortality has increased by 95% since 1997, and it’s been estimated that over 6,000 children live in households where family members use drugs – a fact which makes these children seven times more likely to end up using drugs themselves.


Glasgow has the highest crime rate in Scotland. This should not be surprising: a population marginalized by poverty, unemployment and a lack of educational opportunities often sees crime as its only avenue for economic advancement.

Copyright Darron Blair, 2010