John Mason and Alex Salmond were visiting a fantastic project in the East End of Glasgow today. It's called the Global Glasgow Youth Project and it's based at Cranhill Arts Centre. Some of their funding has come from the Scottish Government's "Cash for Communities" scheme which takes money made by dodgy means from even dodgier criminals - and invests it in projects hardest hit by crime. As it should be!
These guys have done some tremendous work including a peer education project in South Africa and you can see some of the photos of that project here. John Mason made the point that we are too keen to condemn all young people and these guys demonstrate that we're wrong to do that.
I was listening to a Radio Scotland discussion on crime and one journalist said she lived in the East End. Her area wasn't particularly affected but often as she sat on the train home she passed groups of youths standing looking scary at the Red Road flats. Big deal. Now I know that for many people, particularly older people, it can feel threatening just to pass a large group of young people but it's important to realise that more often than not they're doing nothing wrong and mean no harm.
I am staying chez Tartan Hero whilst he's away (combination of house sitting and being too tired to drive home to Greenock some nights) and it's not the least scary place I've stayed in I have to say. But the other night when I got home at 10.30pm there was a ferocious looking mutt in the front garden. It was a pit bull terrier and it was locked into the garden but I had to go via the garden to get into the close. I'm not a dog person and I'm definitely not a frothing-at-the-mouth-kind-of-a-dog person. So I sat in the car for a while wondering what to do. I spotted a "gang" of teenagers further up the road and they were shouting (excitedly, not aggressively) and swearing a fair bit. I can imagine they'd be intimidating to older people.
I was too tired to be intimidated and I asked them if they knew whose dog it was. They did and they reassured me it wouldn't touch me. But it didn't. Reassure me that is. They realised I was nervous and immediately went into the garden and held onto the dog so I could get into the close. "Just let us know when you're in the house missus" they called after me "and we'll let him go". And that's what they did. I shouted out the window to thank them and they were still holding onto the dog for me. Now these guys looked like troublemakers, but they were really polite friendly and helpful to me. Chances are the "gangs" hanging about the Red Road flats are mostly the same.
Projects like the one above are the kind of things that stop kids getting into too much mischief but let's remember that the majority of kids are not getting into trouble. And hanging about in big groups of other young people happens when there's nothing else to do. But it doesn't necessarily mean trouble is looming.