I’M sure many Glasgow Times readers were as delighted as I was at the news that we will finally see the closure of the notorious Bellgrove Hotel.

The council-funded acquisition of the Gallowgate hostel is something we’ve been working on behind the scenes with partners from the Wheatley Group and Scottish Government for several months and it was a huge relief to see it delivered. It has been a long time coming.

For decades, this facility has compounded the misery of many of our most vulnerable citizens: thousands of men who have been ravaged by addiction and mental health issues and have looked for a bed and the company of those in similar circumstances at the Bellgrove.

Glasgow City Council stopped referring homeless people there many years ago, but a benefits system that simply paid for a roof over someone’s head allowed the hostel’s owners to continue to rake in millions over the years by housing people in cell-like rooms with barred windows. The term Dickensian is overused, but it is an accurate one to describe the conditions that the owners perpetuated in what was, for them, a lucrative business

Shutting the Bellgrove creates an opportunity to really improve the look and feel of this part of the East End. But more importantly, it allows us to intervene and improve the lives of those who sought accommodation there.

The 50 or so men who are still residing in the Bellgrove will now be assessed by our colleagues in the Glasgow‘s Health and Social Care Partnership and Wheatley Care to help them move on from the hostel into modern homes with tailored care and support in place for those who need it. The HSCP has experience in working with vulnerable residents when hostels have been decommissioned and I know staff will look forward to helping residents’ transition to more suitable and settled accommodation.

Following closure and rehousing, the Bellgrove site will form part of the next phase of the ongoing and successful regeneration of the Gallowgate. In recent years the area has seen the demolition of the old Whitevale and Bluevale multi-storey blocks and the construction of over 200 new homes by GHA. The Gallowgate of 2021 is again a thriving community, experiencing a real sense of renewal.

Through working with our partners in the Wheatley Group – and, of course, with the local community on and around the Gallowgate - we will not only provide more much-needed affordable housing in the east end, but also take a further stride in the social and physical regeneration of our city. This is about so much more than bricks and mortar. It’s about improving people’s lives, providing fresh starts and closing a sad chapter of Glasgow’s history.


Investment in Early Years is a core commitment for the Glasgow City Government, as it has also been for the Scottish Government.

It’s been really encouraging to see approaches pioneered in Glasgow – such as expanding free school meals, holiday food programmes, and increasing free nursery care – not only complement the efforts of our SNP colleagues at Holyrood, but also be taken up as national policies. Meanwhile, new Scottish Government benefits such as Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payments are benefitting thousands of Glaswegian families.

But the wellbeing of our children and young people has rarely felt so precarious and fragile as it has throughout the pandemic. The restrictions we’ve lived under have denied them many of the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor play, exercise and socialisation. This has been particularly so in Glasgow, where many of our citizens don’t have access to a garden.

That’s why I was delighted to see the pledge by the First Minister to invest £60 million upgrading all of Scotland’s play parks, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Here in Glasgow, we’ve made it a priority to invest in places for playing. Our Street Play programme has been a brilliant low-tech but really effective way to create safe spaces for children to play in their local communities. Loads of neighbourhood groups have taken advantage of having the council close off streets to traffic, giving children, and indeed their parents, a real feeling of freedom.

We’ve invested millions of pounds to replace dozens of old red blaes sports pitches in our with new, state-of-the-art multi-use games areas and in the budget just passed by the Council, more funding has been put forward to implement local people’s ideas to improve their parks and green spaces, including play areas.

The funding announced by the First Minister will help us do even more, benefitting every community in the city. After the year Scotland’s children have experienced, investment in their right to play safely outside has never been more important.