THE New Year has kicked off with a real sense of ambition and momentum here in Glasgow.

In recent days I was delighted to bring delegates at a major conference up to speed with the performance of our city economy and what must be done to ensure we continue to forge ahead.

No-one can be under any illusion, however. With Boris’s Tories firmly in power at Westminster and Brexit on our immediate horizon, our task won’t be easy. Major hurdles, not of our making, have been placed in Glasgow’s way.

But with 2020 barely a week old I was able to discuss one of the most exciting projects being progressed in Glasgow for quite some time – our plans for a new metro system.

Glasgow Times readers may be aware that two years ago I commissioned a group of experts to come up with a series of proposals to make our city’s public transport offering fit for the needs of the 21st century.

We are decades behind

European cities of similar size when it comes to moving our citizens around, connecting them with employment, education and leisure opportunities. And to reach our sustainability targets necessary to halt the impact of climate change we really need to persuade motorists to switch from their cars.

The expert Connectivity Commission published its recommendations in April, the most eye-catching of which was for a city metro. Their plan was an entirely new transport model which would initially connect the city centre with major destinations, including Glasgow Airport, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Renfrew and Braehead.

In the relatively short time since, the Scottish Government has pledged to consider the potential for a metro, while our partners at Renfrewshire Council agree it should be a priority project for the City Region. It was particularly pleasing to hear the First Minister support the plans in Parliament just last week.

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The next step for us is to make sure the feasibility work – including all technical and business cases – is completed so it can be considered as one of the major projects which Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government will deliver over the next decade or so.

The case for a Glasgow Metro really is compelling. It will deliver benefits for communities and businesses all across the City Region, has the potential to support that shift away from the car and allow us to deliver on carbon neutrality.

It will help to take Glasgow to the next level as a major European city. And if Scotland is to thrive then its only true metropolitan region must also.

We have the backing of council leaderships, the Chamber of Commerce and Glasgow Airport, and trust now that all political parties can get behind this project for the long-term good of our city and its people.

It’s particularly apt that it’s 2020 that this has accelerated because this year presents Glasgow with a major opportunity on the world stage.

Just 10 months from now, we host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, when 170 world leaders gather in Glasgow to push forward global efforts to reduce emissions.

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Make no mistake, this is massive. It will be the biggest event Scotland has ever hosted and will be impossible to ignore.

It will also be a challenge, but city life will continue throughout.

Based on our past record, I have no doubt the positive legacy will far outweigh the challenge. It will generate tens of millions of pounds for our economy and promote Glasgow to new, global audiences.

And as host city for the most significant climate change event since the Paris Agreement in 2015, we’re ideally placed to position Glasgow as the city which has cracked sustainability, job creation and economic growth.

It was also encouraging to report that our city economy remains, by and large, in good health. There were some surprising findings. Most people don’t know that Glasgow makes more satellites than anywhere else outside of Silicon Valley. And that we’re home to more than a third of Scotland’s jobs.

Glasgow is in a great position to match the ambition and achievements of those European cities leading on quality of life and economic performance. I believe this is the year we will make strides on delivering economic prosperity all our citizens share in and one which properly addresses our climate emergency.