SCOTLAND'S "ned culture" cost businesses £740 million last year, according to insurance company More Than.

Nearly 50% of firms in Scotland were affected by criminality including theft, broken doors, smashed windows, graffiti, littering and intimidation.

Or, to put it another way, neds were responsible for a £740m boost to various sectors of Scottish industry, particularly the recession-hit building trade. Security firms also benefited. As did insurance companies including More Than which, as you know, is owned by American actor More Than Freeman.

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The survey does not take account of the economic contribution made by neds through spending on Burberry caps, white socks, Diamond White cider, Buckfast, Rizla papers and baby buggies for impregnated girlfriends called Senga.

I am not convinced that all the £740m damage is caused by neds. It may be down to old-age pensioners with time on their hands. A bit of vandalism here, some paint-spraying there, and a quick getaway using the bus pass.

The culprits may be company directors. Asked to explain a £multi-million hole in the firm's accounts, they say it was a ned who done it and ran away.

Neds used to be a generic term for ne'er-do-wells, used by Bill Knox on Scottish TV's Crimedesk. (Ask Grandpa to explain, if he's not too busy out doing graffiti.)

Now Ned-ism is a proper culture with its own language. Terms such as bawbag have passed into mainstream usage. The written form of Nedspeak is mainly to be found on subway walls and tenement halls.

The Ned way of life presumably qualifies for protection under Unesco heritage protocols and the European Court of Human Rights. The insurance company better have its facts right.

As this article went to press, More Than Freeman was unavailable for comment. Which is a shame because he has a lovely voice.