Violent street gangs have taken over from parents as role models for Scotland's kids, according to a shocking study. Youngsters now look up to gang leaders as people to imitate, it's claimed.
Youth charity the Prince's Trust made the worrying findings in a study which showed that 30 per cent of young people in Scotland do not have a parent that they consider to be a role model. More than 1700 young people took part in the survey. It showed 62 per cent said that finding a sense of identity was a key reason for joining a gang. And more than a fifth said young people were looking for role models in gangs.
Geraldine Gammell, director of the Prince's Trust Scotland, said: "All the threads that hold a community together – a common identity, role models, a sense of safety – were given by young people as motivations to join gangs. Our research suggests young people are creating their own communities and gangs in search of the influences that could once have been found in traditional communities."
The survey of 14 to 25-year-olds also revealed that kids were more than twice as likely to turn to another young person with a problem as they were to turn to a parent. Unemployment, low self-confidence and lack of training opportunities were the issues most likely to hold back them, the study discovered.
Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of Strathclyde Police's violence reduction unit, agreed with the shocking results of the research. He said: "Young men from deprived backgrounds who have poor parental relationships can often find the support they don't find within their families amongst a group of similar young men – there is a sense of understanding through their shared experience.
"The gang becomes almost like an extended family. Much of the activity they engage in with that gang is for prestige and honour and to gain the so-called respect of fellow members – particularly the older members. When you do not experience success in school or home and lack the aspiration to do so, the reputation as a fighter or gang member may be all you have."
The report found that in the UK as a whole, just nine per cent of young people have spent time as part of a gang, three per cent regularly take drugs and just two per cent carry a knife. But research by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith recently revealed a very different rate in Scotland – with Glasgow having six times as many teenage gangs as London per head of the population.
His report for the Centre for Social Justice found there were more than 170 gangs in the city – compared with 169 identified by the Metropolitan Police in London, a city more than six times bigger. The news comes just days after five teenagers were arrested during a crackdown on 300 thugs seen brandishing weapons on YouTube and Bebo. Youngsters in Ayrshire and Glasgow were targeted as police launched their drive to tackle gang culture. One of the boys detained was just 14 years old.
Last week, the Record revealed sickening images of children as young as 10 brandishing knives, machetes and swords on the video sharing websites. Strathclyde Police's anti-gangs unit, who have made 315 arrests since they were founded at the start of the year, were searching for seven youths from the "Crosshouse Yung Team". The gang's Bebo page shows youngsters posing with knives, swords and other weapons.