I recall years ago the reaction I received when I told a good friend in London that I was going to “live in Battlefield’. He obviously thought I’d left the ‘a’ out of that sentence because he immediately replied: “why would you want to live in a place that resembles a warzone or is so bad that’s it’s named after one?”
I quickly disabused him of such notions. Battlefield may be named after the site where the battle of Langside took place in May 1568, but that’s as far as the military connotations go. As my metropolitan friend quickly realised upon visiting me in my new abode, Battlefield is a relatively genteel (certainly by comparison with other areas in Glasgow), residential, largely middle-income suburb set in the heart of Glasgow’s south-side.
As well as middle-income, Battlefield is significantly middle-aged. According to the 2011 census 37% of the population is aged 45 or older, of whom 24% were between 45-to-64, so a significant number will now be coming into retirement age. In contrast 30% of the population are under 30.
As is visibly apparent, Battlefield is highly densely populated, mainly with people living in tenements. This is dramatically borne out by the 2011 census figures which recorded 87% of the housing stock in the area as consisting of flats compared to an already high figure of 75% for Glasgow as a whole. Furthermore, there is a marked contrast between the proportion of people living in socially rented accommodation in Battlefield compared to the rest of the city (‘socially rented accommodation’ is a euphemism for relatively low rent housing partially or mainly underwritten by subsidies from a body such as a housing association, allowing people to afford housing they would otherwise be unable to). Over a third of housing in all of Glasgow (36%) is classified as socially rented housing; this drops to 6% for Battlefield.
As well having a high density of tenement flats, most of these are privately owned. Just under two-thirds of housing (61%) is owner-occupied compared to 45% for the rest of the city. A further 33% are privately rented, based on market rents, contrasting markedly with the figure for Glasgow as a whole, which stands at 19%. In other words, 94% of Battlefield residents own their homes or privately rent at market rates compared to 64% elsewhere in Glasgow.
So, who lives in this predominately privately owned or rented high density area? Well in addition to being overwhelmingly over 30, 83% of the ‘economically active population’ (another euphemism which means everyone between 16-64 who are neither dependent children or pensioners) was employed; again, this contrasts with a city-wide figure of 70%. Only 7% of people in Battlefield were reported to be claiming some form of out-of-work benefits in 2011 compared to 21% across the city. With increasing numbers of people in employment since the turn of the decade throughout the UK, including Scotland, the employment rate in the area is likely to have increased even further.
The employment profile of people living in Battlefield is also interesting. 59% of people are employed in the public sector; a stark contrast to 29% across all of Glasgow. A further 7.5% are employed in “professional positions not in the public sector” (lawyers, accountants etc). The remaining third are mainly “in a range of non-professional and non-public-sector activities” (20%) followed by manufacturing, construction, utilities, retail and wholesale. Somewhere in the non-public sector figure are people working in the third sector; most organisations in that sector in Glasgow are dependent on public sector grants to remain viable: so, in a sense people employed there are indirectly supported by the public sector, but this is impossible to disentangle from these figures. What can be said with certainty is the average citizen of Battlefield is most likely to be in the public sector or the professions.
Finally, the ethnic profile was overwhelmingly white at 84%. This may have changed slightly since 2011 but is unlikely to be significantly different today.
In many respects, therefore, and at the risk of stereotyping, Battlefield, is a middle-income enclave and it shares many of these characteristics with neighbouring areas such as Shawlands, Newlands and Cathcart.
In many respects it couldn’t be further removed from its martial sounding name and this is borne out by the crime rate which is relatively low, the odd housebreaking apart. There are many deprived areas in Glasgow, but Battlefield is certainly not one of them.
Having said all this there are a huge number of developments which might threaten this repository of professional and comfortable suburbia in the south-side, not least the huge developments taking place at the former Victoria Hospital site and other projects nearby.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring this and other issues impacting on the social, cultural and economic life and prospects of people living in Battlefield for the Battlefield Writers Collective and welcoming discussion on the topics raised.
So, watch this space.