The perception of Glasgow still held by outsiders – that it’s all tenement blocks and stabbings, that the only food on offer is gussied up cholesterol and that its football divide is less about sport and more a continuation of the thirty years’ war – has always inspired resistance from those who know the city.

A bumpy journey on Glasgow’s pot-holed roads is a bone rattling indictment of the decline of the public realm

As someone from Glasgow who has since left, I’ve always felt duty bound to put up a bravura defence of my city when it’s brought into disrepute. Have these people not heard of the artistic heritage of Kelvingrove and the Burrell; the academic renown of Glasgow’s universities, the architectural bequest of our status as the Empire’s second city; or the culinary heights scaled by places like the Ubiquitous Chip?

But walking down Sauchiehall Street recently, past the charred remnants of Mackintosh’s School of Art and the graffitied empty husks of Marks and Spencer, Watt Brothers department store and British Home Stores, it was hard not to feel a twinge of embarrassment about all those Scouse-like displays of hyper localism I’d mounted when the Dear Green Place was being traduced.

Brutally put, Glasgow, especially in the city centre, is becoming the sort of dump people always believed it was. Prosperity and vibrancy seem to be retreating to enclaves like the West End and Shawlands, while the historic heart of it is increasingly left to twist in the wind.

The city’s council – led by the SNP – point to a series of mitigating factors. Covid is increasingly the crutch they rely on. Working from home – a consequence of the Scottish government’s controlling instincts during the pandemic – has delivered a seemingly perennial knock to weekly footfall in the city centre. Counterproductively, the same council wanted to extend parking charges to 10 p.m. seven days a week, until it was warned off by local businesses.

A bumpy journey on Glasgow’s pot-holed roads is a bone rattling indictment of the decline of the public realm. Stuart Robertson, director of the Charles Rennie MacIntosh Society,  recently said that Sauchiehall Street looks as though it had been ‘bombed’.

Indeed, in some parts of the city, where listed buildings stand in the way of some breezeblock modern development, fires seem to coincidentally start. The Old College Bar, perhaps one of the city’s oldest pubs, went up in smoke in May 2021, mere months after an attempt was made to build a new residential development on it.

This week, the India Buildings – a reminder of Glasgow’s increasingly distant patrician past – had to be demolished by the council because of the derelict state it had been allowed to fall into. Until recently, the Egyptian Halls – designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson – on Union Street in the city centre were concealed behind scaffolding and illegal advertising hoardings for 15 years.

The visible decline of your hometown is made even more galling by the excuses of its alleged custodians.

Glasgow has an acute issue with rats. A recent report found the city had the most pest callouts of any city in Scotland and the city’s GMB union convener has claimed infestations have left certain districts a no-go zone for binmen. Susan Aitken, the council leader, once breezily insisted all cities have rats and that Glasgow’s issues stem from the ‘neglect’ of the Thatcher era.

Research by the Tax Payers’ Alliance has found that the number of officials in Glasgow City Council being paid six figures a year has reportedly doubled in the past year. This is hardly good value for money and quite the look for a leadership continually pleading poverty.

The SNP have devised various vacuous city strategies and the concept of a ‘Golden Z’ to revitalise the city centre. Scottish Labour, the coming thing, have alighted on metro-mayors to knock urban Scotland out of its collective funk. Lots of Caledonian Andy Burnhams popping up is a nice idea in concept, but does a country the size of Scotland need another tier of politician on top of 32 local authorities, a devolved parliament and Westminster?

Either way, Glasgow is withering away in front of us thanks to the SNP’s disastrous rule.

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