So, Dundee is the best place to live in Scotland? In that case the city’s menfolk should enjoy it while they can. Males in Dundee have the lowest life expectancy in the UK at just 54.3 years.
A new study, pulled together by a couple of journalists at The Sunday Times in London with the help of a mortgage broker, an events data company and an “expert panel of contributors and writers with local expertise” has decreed that the Tayside city tops the list of where to reside north of the border.
Well, like any location, Dundee has its good bits and lots of money is being invested in transforming the waterfront. The V&A has obviously drawn the world’s attention and it will have done no harm in raising its profile among London’s Islington literati and visiting travel writers (those who compile guides and lists). Whether any of them has ever been to Tayside or ventured beyond Kengo Kuma’s modern masterpiece and the nearest decent hotel is doubtful.
The V&A undeniably helps lift local pride and becomes a catalyst for further investment. However, one £80m cultural institution, even one with a global pedigree, will not make much difference to the average Dundee family, particularly if they were more dependent on Michelin than the museum.
Those who compiled this study drew up their list based on employment, house prices, schools, broadband speed, culture, community spirit and local shops. No mention of crime or health. If they had done a quick Google search they would have found that the number of drug crimes recorded in the city rocketed from 930 in 2017-18 to 1,182. A drop in the detection rate was also noted, from 81.9% to 72.9%. The city also has more sex crimes per head of population than any other area of Scotland: 41 per 10,000 people, including 23 reports of revenge porn offences in the first year of the law.
The End Child Poverty Coalition shows 8,000 of the city’s children – or 28% – are growing up below the poverty line. The Dundee Courier recently reported that deprivation in Dundee is so bad that some families are sharing one toothbrush for the whole household.
This is the brutal, honest side of Dundee, which shares with other cities some serious lifestyle issues. You don’t have travel far from the swanky restaurants in Glasgow’s Finnieston area (also listed in the great places to live table) to discover the underbelly of a city which has invested in re-inventing itself but has an even worse poverty record than Dundee, affecting 45% of children in the city centre.
Leith in Edinburgh, second on the list, also has its attractions. The Shore is a splendid historic area with places to eat and drink, some boutique shops and an occasional market. Leith has the Royal Yacht and will soon have its own distillery.
But the Michelin-starred restaurants which help qualify it for inclusion in the Best Places to Live table are mainly for visitors, not for those who live there. For every hipster there is a problem family, a screaming alcoholic at the Foot of the Walk, drug dealers creeping around neighbourhoods plying their wretched trade.
Yes, it’s good to celebrate what is good and enjoyable, but let’s not fall for the spin, and certainly not for a “study” that has a London metropolitan veneer over it. If this guide had named Edinburgh’s Morningside or Hyndland in Glasgow as its top place to live it would have barely garnered much attention beyond a knowing shrug. Canny media folk know that taking a contrary view is the way to get noticed. Naming Dundee as its hot spot got The Sunday Times the headlines and radiio phone-ins for The Sunday Times that this was really all about. Job done.