GLASGOW has benefited from immigration throughout its history. Many of our citizens are the direct descendants of those who arrived here in the 19th and 20th centuries, often fleeing hardship and oppression.

In recent decades, perhaps more than any other UK city, Glasgow has welcomed refugees and asylum seekers. As a result we have become a more diverse, vibrant and culturally rich city.

Our attitude to those who have sought sanctuary here makes the evictions of asylum seekers by a private company on behalf of the UK Government all the more frustrating and challenging. Some of those who have reached the end of the asylum process are being forced onto the streets as the locks of their properties are changed. Despite court challenges to this inhumane practice, the Home Office is forging ahead with its evictions.

Together with our partners in the third sector, and at local and Scottish government level, the City Council has made it abundantly clear to successive Home Office ministers that these evictions must stop. They are against the express wishes and values of the majority of the citizens and communities we serve.

To compound matters, we are extremely limited in what we can do to help as the UK Government prevents us from helping those facing destitution.

The ‘No Recourse To Public Funds’ legislation, which has been maintained by successive UK Governments for over a decade, legally forbids us and our partners from providing or commissioning accommodation and support for those evicted.

We continue to provide support to asylum seekers using the limited powers available to us and will always push the legislation as far as we can. If we had the powers to provide all of those facing eviction with accommodation we would do so in an instant.

But in the eyes of the Home Office destitution is perfectly acceptable and they have specifically designed legislation to prevent us assisting those forced into that situation. Council employees would be breaking the law by assisting failed asylum seekers whose needs don’t go beyond destitution.

I cannot instruct ordinary council employees to break the law and face potential prosecutions, with all the ramifications of that for themselves, their families and their careers. Politicians would not face potential prosecution. Our social work staff would.

Neither I nor any other Glasgow politician can demand that our frontline staff, who already do everything within their powers to support the most vulnerable, are put into such an impossible position.

The Home Office must allow local authorities to do what should ordinarily and reasonably be expected from them, to do the compassionate and humane thing. In the meantime, along with colleagues in the Scottish Government and COSLA, I continue to put pressure on Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and their UK Government colleagues to give us the legal power to make the difference and to tackle a crisis not of our making.

Cowlairs plan

IN the weeks since the Council has reconvened after the summer break, I’ve been delighted to see plans which will make a real difference to our communities gathering apace.

The Cowlairs Masterplan, which was approved last week, really stood out and has the potential to transform the north of the city.

The revitalisation of areas like Cowlairs, which have been all but abandoned in recent decades, with new communities, new homes and new amenities is a priority for the City Government.

Together with the ongoing work in Sighthill and the plans for Port Dundas, Hamiltonhill and Ruchill, the north of the city, from the M8 to the city boundaries, will change beyond recognition in the next decade. It’s an area whose time has come.

And we also want to build strong community amenities that can be used and enjoyed by the people who will move into all these new homes. So, as part of the £3 million-plus allocated to us from the Scottish Government’s fund to transform local town centres, £300,000 has been set aside to create grants boosting local high streets, with a particular focus on Possil’s Saracen Street.

If approved, the council will work closely with North Glasgow Homes to support local traders and the overall environment. Saracen Street has always been a vibrant shopping area, with a strong community spirit, and we want to make sure that continues to be the case. All our communities must share in Glasgow’s successes.