Lockdown: Disorder in Edinburgh's Meadows highlights shameful neglect of young generation over last year – Brian Ferguson
One of the most depressing things about the disorder at the Meadows in Edinburgh which dominated the Easter holiday headlines in Scotland was how predictable it all seemed.
It was not just down to the dropping of the “stay at home” message from the Scottish government coinciding with the warmest weather of the year.
The ugly scenes of police officer trying to break up brawling teenagers also felt like the culmination of something that has been bubbling away for a while and threatening to spill over into exactly the kind of scenes that unfolded on Saturday.
Huge police resources have had to be deployed at both the Meadows and Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow in recent weeks as the warmer weather has drawn ever-increasing crowds – armed with carry-outs, regardless of their age and a country-wide ban on drinking outdoors.
Yet all this seemed to count for nothing as officers battled to deal with the impact of thousands flooding into the Meadows on Saturday – and the inevitable flashpoints to emerge from an unofficial, unstewarded, unregulated “event”.
The main reason that the scenes of violence in the Meadows were so shocking is that they were so rare for the city centre.
In 25 years of attending events, festivals and major sporting events in the city, I struggle to recall any ugly incidents of note.
Parks and gardens across the city have been open and welcoming to all, with events like the Meadows Festival, Fringe Sunday, the Mela and Leith Festival largely trouble-free and requiring only a handful of police officers.
Now, suddenly, the authorities are grappling with the prospect of the Meadows being seen as both a no-go area for many and a magnet for troublemakers.
While the police, the city council and politicians desperately try to work out how to prevent a repeat, it is perhaps worth considering the root causes of Saturday’s disorder.
By Sunday, my anger and dismay at the violence of the previous night had turned to sadness and reflection on what the impact of Covid restrictions had had on young people at a time of their lives when they could and should have been enjoying themselves.
I wondered how many young people have felt they have been truly abandoned over the last year. I wondered how many have felt isolated, frustrated and even angered at the prolonged restrictions they have had to live under. I also wondered how many have lost out on a part-time job or the prospect of securing any kind of employment due to the pandemic.
Without any money in their pockets, without a holiday away with their mates to look forward to, and with gigs, nightclubs and festivals still some months away from returning, is it any wonder some of them might feel disillusioned, despondent and downright angry?
With Scotland’s deep-rooted relationship with alcohol also in the mix, is it really that shocking that the end result has been by antisocial behaviour on a grand scale?
There is no doubt the Meadows scenes brought shame upon Edinburgh at the weekend. But perhaps they have also helped highlight the shameful neglect of a generation of young people over the last year – and the need to make them much more of a priority for the country over the next 12 months.