LIKE few others in living memory, 2020 has been a year we all want to put behind us.

There is little that can be said about this most tragic of years that hasn’t already. It has taken a toll on all of us, on our communities and our economy, a harsh and cruel chapter which will be difficult to forget.

Since the introduction of Lockdown in March I have used my Glasgow Times column to regularly inform and update readers on the city’s response to the Covid pandemic. 

From support for our most vulnerable, our recovery plans, the measures put in place to assist business and allow citizens to safely get around, to our appeals for continuing government assistance, I hope this column has helped kept readers abreast of the vital work carried out by council staff and the wider Team Glasgow.

I’m grateful to the Glasgow Times for giving me the platform to do so.

No-one, however, needs reminding that we’re not out of the woods yet. Rates of infection remain dangerously high and next couple of months will present considerable challenges to our health service. I would echo the advice of our leading health experts and the First Minister and urge all of us to think carefully about our choices in the coming weeks.

But we have real grounds for optimism. This week the roll-out of vaccinations has begun here in Scotland, which, along with rapid testing, gives us the biggest hope we have of saving lives and keeping people safe.  And the decision to move Glasgow from Level Four was a testament to the efforts of all of us to reduce the spread of the virus and gave our retailers some glimmer that they can salvage something from this year.

If we can show more of the same and keep following the rules we can look forward to living in a Glasgow with fewer restrictions.  
In a recent column I borrowed the words of the First Minister and wrote that in the months ahead we will want to be looking back at this episode not still looking through it. Whilst we’re still some way from being able to do that, in this last column of 2020 I would like to briefly reflect on two things which have struck me this year. 

When put to the test, and in circumstances no-one could have anticipated just a year ago, the resilience shown by and within our communities has been incredible. Our people and the grassroots networks operating within our neighbourhoods mobilised without hesitation, volunteering their time and efforts to support those who needed it most when they needed it most. The SNP City Government has been committed to empowering communities. But the response to Covid means we now have to think beyond that. Our communities are now increasingly understanding that they already have the power. It is our job, as a council, as elected members, to help them use it. 

Covid has also shown us, through the measures that have been necessary to allow social distancing and support the uptake in active travel, that our cities can change much faster than we had previously thought or attempted. Glasgow, like cities everywhere, must transition to a cleaner and greener future. We have a key role to play in addressing the climate emergency and a target of 2030 to be carbon neutral. We can’t put the brakes on the momentum we’ve created in recent months and go back to business as usual. 

In 2021, Glasgow can not only bounce back but seize an opportunity perhaps of a scale and significance we only get once in a generation. As readers will be aware, next November our city will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26. For 10 days our city will be the focal point of the world. Global leaders from around 170 countries will gather here to seek agreement on the very future of our planet. In recent weeks, US President-Elect Joe Biden’s team have already talked publicly about the importance of Glasgow in putting our planet back on track in its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The world is already talking about us. 

Throughout the mounting build up to next November I have been consistent in my message; COP won’t just happen in Glasgow but with Glasgow and for Glasgow. It will give us the platform to tell government, businesses and investors that if they want to show the world their commitment to a healthier, more sustainable and fairer future then Glasgow is the place to do just that. We have a chance to project Glasgow onto the global stage like never before. And it is an opportunity, I’m sure, our peers from across the world would love to have in this forthcoming year of recovery and renewal.      

To conclude I want to wish all of those who came to the fore this year a merry, much deserved and safe Christmas; to our NHS and council staff, the retail workers, bus and train drivers, teachers, carers and all those who went that extra mile and looked out for their neighbours. You have shown the best of the caring and compassionate Glasgow we know we are. Here’s to a better, brighter and Covid-free 2021.