IT’S hard to believe that we are already in October and into the autumn season. With the darker nights and the changing of the clocks fast approaching, one of the issues that comes into sharp focus is that of keeping our communities safe.

Last month, I was in the heart of our city in George Square. I was appalled to see that several of the monuments in the square had been defaced with chalk graffiti.

While this might not be the worst example of disrespect or damage to pieces of public property, it speaks to a wider – and growing – problem we are experiencing in Glasgow with vandalism.

I am certain that the vast majority of Glaswegians reading this column share my pride in our city and the communities in which we live in. However, we do have very noticeable problems when it comes to a lack of civic pride among some people in our communities, which has tangible consequences.

This is apparent whenever a monument is defaced, a local business’s property is damaged or when even charities are targeted.

To put this into perspective, Glasgow City Council notes that in 2017-2018 alone, more than 78,000 metres of graffiti were removed, along with 1050 instances of flyposting.

In 2020, it spent £650,000 on graffiti removal – more than any other UK local authority.

Just last year, the City of Glasgow’s City Centre Task Force was given the job to improve the feeling of Scotland’s largest city.

Among things such as finding uses for empty retail buildings, the £2 million allocated to this mission included much effort to remove graffiti.

Vandalism is not going away until it is acknowledged a lack of civic pride is a significant contributing factor as to why many people harm public and private properties alike.

Any efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour from leading to this crime must include promoting civic pride among individuals, especially in our schools. There are various routes which should be pursued to remedy the problem of vandalism at one of its sources by promoting civic pride.

One way in which this can be done is a greater role for non-governmental organisations, and by extension greater support for them by the SNP-Green government, in holding community-oriented events that actively foster engagement and a sense of community between all different types of individuals who call Glasgow home.

Groups like the Scottish Civic Trust exist to not only promote Scotland’s heritage in an inclusive way – namely by caring for our common heritage exemplified in our culturally significant buildings – but also through promoting volunteer opportunities to create a common affinity for this heritage at the local community level.

Glasgow is in no short supply of iconic and often historically important buildings, from the City Chambers to the University of Glasgow.

In pointing this out, I believe there would be plenty of opportunities to create community involvement for the benefit of everyone.

Another avenue for positive change is that of tougher laws on damaging and defacing public property. It is with this in mind that I support my colleague Meghan Gallacher MSP’s recently announced Proposed Desecration of War Memorials (Prevention) (Scotland) Member’s Bill.

This bill would make desecration of memorials its own offence, aligned with laws that already exist in England and Wales. Not only would the punishment for such as an offence be as high as 10 years in prison, but the bill has received the support of various groups, including the Friends of Dennistoun War Memorial, as well as from other veterans’ groups and veterans themselves such as Simon Weston.

Judging by what I saw recently in George Square concerning the appearance of the monuments there, this is a bill that is very much needed.

Although other measures would be welcome and are still needed, I call for greater collaboration between the public and private sectors to address anti-social behaviour.

Glasgow City Council, in 2019, sent hundreds of letters to businesses in Glasgow. This was meant to spell out an approach to tackle the problem of anti-social behaviour that has cost both sectors dearly, as it has every Glaswegian that has noticed the decline in their city’s atmosphere and image.

However, in 2020, Glasgow was reported as having the unenviable title of being the most vandalised city in Britain – higher than London and Manchester.

Addressing this issue requires co-ordination between the public and private sectors, advice and involvement from non-governmental organisations when developing future policies, with the same applying to engagement with individuals of all ages at the community level.

If not, it is every Glaswegian that will suffer further consequences.