In this chapter, we critically examine recent statistical trends relating to the general issues of violent criminality and offensive weapon-handling in Scotland. We also provide a brief history of street gangs in Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, from their roots in sectarian rivalry to the territorial and recreational focus adopted in the post-industrial era. We examine how knife crime has traditionally been a defining feature of street gangs in Glasgow and of street-oriented violence governed by expectations around masculine honour. Insights into the recorded motivations for knife-carrying and gang violence among young people are explored, drawing from previous research as well as the emerging evidence suggesting that gangs may have evolved in the west of Scotland. The chapter concludes by outlining the methodological approaches that we drew upon for the current study, detailing the sampling methods, access arrangements, geographical locations, ethical protocols and data analysis methods used.
Rates of crime, especially those against the person and, to a lesser degree, vandalism have historically (1950–84) been considerably higher in Scotland than, for instance, in Sweden, which shares many of its population characteristics (McClintock and Wikström, 1990). It may be that feelings of shame and stigmatism among lower-working-class youth cultural groups are greater in areas of Scotland, and through gang membership and activity these feelings are transformed into pride and solidarity (Moran 2015). The youth street gang, Moran (2015) proposes, offers an esprit de corps through expressive violence and symbolic praxis factors that ward off threats such as injury and prison; possibly this phenomenon that transforms shame into pride helps to explain higher rates of violence in parts of Scotland with heightened criminality and youth gangs.
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