UK: Report Outlines Britains Social Decay, Failure, Crime, Substance Abuse, Bitterness and Misery.


IT is a drizzly Monday morning in Glasgow and the Triple Two Lounge in the shadow of Celtic Park is already doing a roaring trade.

Out-of-work bouncer David McCabe stubs out his roll-up and takes a gutsy slurp on the first of his eight daily £2.20 pints of Fosters.

Pasty-faced David's epic, taxpayer-funded booze-ups end with an artery-clogging fry-up washed down with a four-pack of Tennent's at his subsidised flat nearby.

Looking a decade older than his 26 years, David says: "My grandad is 71 and still likes a drink. It doesn't seem to have done him too much harm."

But the peroxide, middle-aged barmaid - dispensing a round of whisky chasers to locals - points to empty bar stools and says: "We lost three regulars recently. I think it was heart attacks."

David McCabe

Just one of many ... David McCabe drinks
eight pints of Fosters a day

David lives in the gang-infested inner-city sprawl of Calton - the place with the lowest life expectancy in EUROPE.

A boy living in Calton today can expect to live to just 54.

Drive for ten minutes to well-off Lenzie, in East Dunbartonshire, and according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures released last year, life expectancy is 82.

Locals living among the graffiti-scarred council blocks of Calton drily observe: "If the booze doesn't get you here, the blade will."

Calton, along with Easterhouse and Castlemilk in Glasgow, are the only places in Britain where murder - usually by stabbing - is the most common cause of death among the young.

Someone is admitted to a Glasgow hospital with knife wounds every six hours.

Medics expect as many as three Glasgow smiles - where victims are slashed from mouth to ear - every weekend.

The city's smartest restaurants, designer boutiques and museums are a short stroll away from Calton, in Merchant City.

Yet here down-and-outs swill cider outside homeless hostel the decrepit Belgrove hotel and a "baggie" of heroin is a tenner.

The area's grinding poverty - where 30 per cent are unemployed - would be recognised by Charles Dickens and pioneers of the Labour movement.

Today's Labour Party, after 12 years in power, appear to have failed many of the people of Glasgow's East End.

Last year a World Health Organisation study citing Calton said a "toxic combination" of bad policies, economics and politics creates social injustice that is "killing people on a grand scale".

Local GP Dr Robert Jamieson, 54, has spent the past 22 years working in the heart of Calton. "Drinking has got worse and so has the violence," he explained wearily.

"The healthy and wealthy got healthier and wealthier compared to the poor.

"This is not unique to Glasgow. The whole country needs a wake-up call.

"The housing here has greatly improved but what the people need now is an economy. They need jobs."

Back at the bar, unmarried David, like his father before him, has been on benefits for most of his adult life.

He pays for his lager from his £66-a-week incapacity benefit and whatever he can scrounge from family and friends.

Overweight and pale, he explained: "I'm on the sick because of my drinking. I've got an enlarged liver.

"I've done a few days work as a bouncer and a cleaner but not recently. My dad has been out of work most of his life."

This is a neighbourhood where the grinding poverty and fractured family life push the young towards gangs.

Nodding towards the gleaming steel and concrete of Celtic Park with its Irish tricolour fluttering in the breeze, I ask David: "Bhoys fan?"

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Slowly he pulls back a sleeve to reveal a Union Flag tattooed on a podgy, pale forearm and growls: "Rangers."

Religious sectarian hatred lingers here.

While many in this neighbourhood are the descendants of Catholic Irish immigrants, the pubs of Bridgeton fly the red hand of Ulster and Union Flags and support Protestant team Rangers.

And the infamous razor gangs of the Fifties are far from a thing of the past. Calton is scrawled with graffiti by its mob The Tongs.

There are an estimated 170 gangs in Glasgow - the same number as London, which has six times as many people. Glaswegians are four times more likely to be injured or killed in a blade attack than those living in England's capital. Strapped into a wheelchair and dependent on others for 24-hour care, Scott Breslin was left paralysed from the neck down in a random knife attack.

The 24-year-old was stabbed on his way home from a party near his home in Penilee, Glasgow, eight years ago.

Those responsible got ten years and four-and-a-half years - but served just half and are now free.

Scott said recently: "I've had my independence taken.

"It takes two-and- a-half hours to get up in the morning. The thing that disgusts me the most is the prison sentences.

"Why pass out sentences of ten years when they only do five? I just have to live as close to a normal life as I can."

Surgeon Jeff Downie, 40, is part of the Medics Against Violence initiative in the city after becoming fed up with the daily stabbings. The consultant at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital revealed: "The knife crime in Glasgow is medieval in its nature.

"There's something unique in the Glasgow psyche where there is a need to get up close and personal with your victim.

"Drug dealers here use the Glasgow smile as retribution. They slash with a Stanley knife from the corner of mouth to ear.

"It often cuts through a nerve that works muscles for facial expression - and, contrary to the name, the victims are unable to smile afterwards.

"The bones we can put back together with nuts and bolts but the soft tissue wounds are visible, mutilating and disfiguring for the rest of these people's lives."

And it's not just gang-on-gang violence.

The medic added: "Last year I treated a guy who had just arrived at Glasgow University. It was freshers' week and he was involved in a completely random attack in the middle of town.

"He had a horrible slashing injury from the corner of his mouth across his cheek and is scarred for life."

With his cut-glass accent, ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, 55, is perhaps an unlikely champion of Glasgow's poor. Through his Centre For Social Justice his visits to Glasgow's East End have made him feel "angry, furious".

The MP added: "We have destroyed generations of people because it is easier politically to plant people on benefits than it is to tackle the problem of what has put them there. Politicians of all parties have failed. Our failure is costing massive money now.

"We have a growing underclass who are not able to work and who do not support their families any longer.

"There are places like Calton in every city in Britain which have appalling quality of life." Duncan Smith wants to shake up the benefits system to make it much more rewarding for welfare dependants to find work.

But the bleak and depressing litany of benefit dependency, gangs and ill health in Glasgow's East End has led to some despairing of a political solution.

Alex Richardson, 49, runs the Gladiator charity which aims to divert kids from drugs and gangs through sport.

In a conversation peppered with the richest Glaswegian swearing, Alex insists: "We've been a success despite the Government.

"We take the children very young and give them something to do - keep them active and give them respect."

Single mum on benefits Ann Marie Halloran, 38, and her boys Michael, 16, and Aidan, five, pause outside the Triple Two Lounge as the locals shout up yet another round.

"Healthwise, it's like we're not part of the Western world," she says.

"For the sake of my boys, we can't go on like this."