AN English magazine that came under fire for nicknaming a post independent Scotland “Skintland” has had another go at offending Scots by using “lazy stereotypes” to describe its bad health record.
Earlier this year, a fuming First Minister Alex Salmond said high-brow The Economist would “rue the day” it likened Scotland to an impoverished state, after it published a mock map on its front page implying an independent Scotland could not support itself financially.
And now the magazine has riled up Scots once more by using phrases such as “whiskey-soaked summer evenings” and “excessive love of deep-fried mars bars and other health slapping delicacies.” to describe Glasgwegian’s eating and drinking habits.
Beneath the headline “No city for old men” and an 1860 photograph of a backstreet slum, The Economist article said Glaswegians “die younger than other Britons and nobody knows why”.
The article analysed some of the “17 competing explanations for the phenomenon”, including culture, lack of vitamin D, history and inequality, and concluded: “The ‘Glasgow effect’ may well be a problem without a solution. It is as if a malign vapour rises from the Clyde at night and settles in the lung of sleeping Glaswegians.”
Drew Smith, Labour MSP for Glasgow and a member of the Scottish Parliament’s health committee, said: “Public health in Glasgow and indeed across Scotland is a hugely complex problem which needs a real understanding of a whole range of issues.
“If we’re serious about meeting these health problems we need a serious and sustained focus on training and jobs, alongside targeted investment in better housing and health.
“We need to get past these lazy stereotypes and recognise that while Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest challenge, it also represents our greatest opportunity if we can make things better.”
The article attracted many critical online comments from Economist readers. One said: “I detect the malign vapour of bad writing.”
Another said: “Despite all your attempts at research, the article still smacks of ignorance of which can be attributed to one sentence. In all my life living in Glasgow I have never tried a deep-fried Mars bar, I have never even SEEN one, in fact I have never met anyone who has tried or has seen one Please, let the silly stereotypes die.”
Huw Sayer, a freelance business writer, responded: “This is a depressingly glib article for such as serious subject, I expect better analysis from The Economist.”
Jose M Quiros, a retired economist at the US State Department, studied in Glasgow in the early 1970s.
He said: “That Glasgow of 40 years ago compares well with many much celebrated places I have lived in or visited before and since, including Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, New York and San Jose, Costa Rica. The Glaswegians I met made the best they could in very trying circumstances. Glasgow suffered the post-war dismantling of industry earlier than other cities and many of its residents feel trapped because of lack of opportunities to work hard and prosper.”
One Glasgow reader added: “Next time you want to write on Glasgow, give me a call, and I’ll show you something different.”
Professor Carol Tannahill, director of Glasgow Centre for Population Health, said: “Tackling the so-called ‘Glasgow effect’ is undoubtedly one of the main challenges facing the city, and it can’t be put down to any single cause, explained by old stereotypes, or cured by any simple single remedy.
“While acknowledging the ongoing need for a concerted effort to improve the city’s health, it’s important to recognise that great progress is being made in many aspects.”
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Poor health has many underlying causes, which can stretch back generations. We are working on all policy fronts including health, education and employment to improve the lives and life chances of all the people of Glasgow, and we are achieving results.”
A Glasgow City spokesman said: “Like any complex, modern city, Glasgow has to deal with a wide scope of social problems. But the steps being taken by the council and its partners are bringing about improvements across a wide range of indicators. We are taking a long-term view across a great many issues with the aim of delivering lasting change.”
No-one was available at The Economist for comment.