WITH Covid-19 restrictions, the world has felt a bit smaller this year.

Measures introduced to prevent the spread of the virus mean Glaswegians have been unable to travel far from the city. The focus has been on the response to the pandemic.

But, within the city chambers, there has also been a determination to look outward, beyond travel bans and looming Brexit deadlines.

Just one week after all eyes had been on the American election, council leaders in Glasgow joined a virtual meeting with their counterparts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to sign off on an official partnership.

The two cities – both seen as post-industrial – want to work together on major challenges such as climate change, racial injustice and health inequality.

Pittsburgh is known as the Steel City but the decline of the industry led to hardship, drawing similarities with Glasgow’s shipbuilding experience.

Glasgow Times:

Jamie Cooke, head of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in Scotland (RSA), who was on the call when the partnership was formalised, prefers to describe the two cities as “pre-something”.

The RSA has played a role in the formation of the partnership, with two of its fellows – Duncan Booker at Glasgow City Council and Grant Ervin in Pittsburgh – involved in the process.

Mr Cooke said Pittsburgh is now regularly rated as one of the most desirable US cities while Glasgow was recently named one of the top 100 cities in the world.

Both are leading work in new industries, he added, with AI and robotics in Pittsburgh and satellites in Glasgow.

He believes there is a “strong commitment from both cities around sustainable practices” and work will ramp up in 2021.

The virtual signing took place on November 12, exactly one year before COP26 will be held in Glasgow.

Glasgow Times:

Representatives from across the world will descend on the city for the conference, which will be held at the Scottish Event Campus from November 1 to 12.

Both Glasgow and Pittsburgh are committed to the Paris Agreement, aiming to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees. A delegation from Pittsburgh, led by mayor Bill Peduto, will attend next year’s conference, where an in-person signing of the new partnership will take place.

Mayor Peduto previously reaffirmed his commitment to the Paris Agreement in response to a tweet by President Donald Trump.

Back in 2017, Mr Trump said: “I was elected by voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris.

“I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve US interests.”

Mr Peduto responded: “As the mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy and future.”

The city is pushing for climate action in America, taking a leadership role in the North American chapter of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

Mr Peduto was recently awarded first place in the 14th Annual Climate Protection Awards, an initiative sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Walmart. Pittsburgh won in the Large Cities category, for cities with populations greater than 100,000.

Policy exchanges between Glasgow and Pittsburgh were supported by grants from the Soros Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, while both cities are members of the Resilient Cities Network.

Glasgow’s depute leader Councillor David McDonald is also city convener for culture, vibrancy and international co-operation. He presented a report to city councillors asking them to agree to the formal partnership with Pittsburgh as well as with Berlin and Santiago.

It stated a new international strategy for the city remains a “key priority” despite the “continued uncertainty”.

It added: “In particular, the city needs to have a vision above and beyond Brexit and other challenges and that it asserts Glasgow’s position as a world-leading, global city.”

The report emphasised that “sustainability and social justice must go together – both locally for Glasgow’s most vulnerable communities and globally across the planet”.

There is Scottish and Irish heritage in Pittsburgh, which was the city where Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist, made his fortune.

Mayor Peduto, speaking after the virtual ceremony, said the Scottish connection in Pittsburgh had been strengthened over recent years.

He said the cities had built a “renewed strength through a shared resilience journey” and want to collaborate further on issues such as “climate change, health inequality and building more equitable prosperity”.

In a blog on the partnership, Mr Cooke said: “Glasgow and Pittsburgh both have legacy of industrial pride, tinged with economic and social hardship.”

He said the two cities share a “practical, rugged, humorous character, resilient in the face of challenge – a character which has drawn scorn from outsiders, but which now helps ground both as desirable places to live and work”.

Mr Cooke told the Glasgow Times there had been “stagnation in the federal system” in America, made more difficult by President Trump. He believes partnerships can “allow cities like Glasgow and Pittsburgh to get on with things”. In Scotland, that would mean “putting constitutional issues to the one side”.

Any work should benefit the whole region, Mr Cooke added, whether in Pennsylvania or around Glasgow.