Glasgow and London – a tale of two cities

Posted by Alexander Hay

A referendum on Scottish independence will happen in 2014, but is Scotland able to support itself if it breaks free?

Alex Salmond, Scottish National PartyHaving failed miserably to force Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond into having his independence referendum in 18 months' time, Prime Minister David Cameron may now be left wondering if he had simply made the hypothetical now inevitable. Perhaps fittingly, it took an heir to Thatcher to fully realise the schism she so doggedly encouraged.

But while Salmond's star is in the ascendant, the issue as to how a now Scottish state would be realistically run has yet to be answered. Scotland claims it owns most of what is presently the UK's oil fields in the North Sea – whether Westminster will let go so easily is another matter altogether.

Once that is removed from the equation, it is plain that Scotland is a net beneficiary of money from the rest of the UK. To be precise, each Scot gets £10,212 spent on them a year, compared to the English average of £8,588. That's a lot of free prescriptions and university tuition.

There is, however, one other area of the UK that gets more spent per head than Scotland. At £10,256 per head, London is more expensive still. But this doesn't take into account the fact that Scotland is made up of many urban and many more rural areas. Indeed, there are 170 Scots per square mile versus 12,892 Londoners per square mile. The needs and context of the two regions are very different.

Instead, like should be compared with like. As the largest city in England (not to mention the UK), how does London (population 7.825 million) directly compare to Scotland's biggest city, Glasgow (population 592,820)? The comparisons highlight the considerable task Salmond will face if he achieves independence for Scotland – how to heal an unhealthy and somewhat dysfunctional society.

  • Between 2010 and 2011, 361 rapes were reported in Glasgow, an average of one reported rape per 1642 people, compared to London's rate of one reported rape per 2295. Meanwhile, the conviction rate in Glasgow is half the national average.
  • Life expectancy in Glasgow is an average of 76 (averaged between both sexes), whereas life expectancy in Greater London is 80.85 (averaged between both sexes). The national average is 79.95 (again, averaged between both sexes).
  • Total homicides in London in 2010-2011 were 122, or one murder per 64,140 people. Murder and Culpable Homicide in Glasgow was 69, or one murder/Culp.hom. per 9262 people.
  • Overall crimes of violence against the person in London (which includes all incidents plus possession of a deadly weapon with intent) were around 1 per 50 people. Glasgow, meanwhile, has 1 per 14 (based on Group 1 offences plus carrying blading weapons and minor assaults)
  • Glasgow receives more than 25% more funding than the Scottish average. London, meanwhile, contributes 21.5% of the UK's total output, whereas Scotland as a whole only contributes 8.3%.

Independence is a smokescreen behind which politicians hide the most pressing issues facing Scotland. A great deal of energy is being spent on fighting an ideological battle, while the legacy of industrial decline, social decay and relative poverty is the greatest issue facing Scots today. Perhaps focusing on a referendum is in the best interests of all parties involved, then – it distracts from the real issues facing almost 1 in 12 of the UK's population.

[SOURCES: Metropolitan Police and Strathclyde Police]

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Alexander Hay

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