This paper reports findings from an exploratory study of mainly young people’s verbally articulated perceptions of urban life in Glasgow, Scotland. The focus is upon areas of deprivation where territory and social capital is contested and whose meanings are possibly only partially grasped by our informants. Their personal knowledge of violence and sense of oppression (fear of violence and constrained agency) are explored through qualitative data generated by means of semi‐structured interviews. Despite the qualified nature of our findings we believe they contribute to understanding a particular Scottish identity, one infused with notions of youth culture, community disorder and social exclusion. These results prompt us to highlight the need for more intense policy concern and interventions in order to address the mental health of young people whose lives are demonstrably blighted by poverty and its exclusionary material realities in a major twenty‐first‐century European city.