THE callous glee with which Boris Johnson revelled in the devastation suffered in Scotland when his hero Margaret Thatcher shut Scotland’s coal mines was a timely reminder of the character of those who run the UK.

Older Glasgow Times readers will recall the disregard for entire communities as thousands of miners and many other industrial workers were thrown on the scrapheap with no thought given to how they would support their families.

For our Tory Prime Minister, a man who sees gross inequality as a virtue and gets off on the misery of others, this is the stuff of humour.

On his same trip to Scotland, Johnson rejected out of hand safe consumption facilities to help prevent the deaths of many of those ravaged by drug addiction. The Prime Minister said he was “instinctively” against a plan supported by Glasgow’s communities and leading medical professionals as a key tool to cut the number of deaths. We know safe consumption facilities are not the only way to address drug deaths but they keep people alive, the critical first stage in any road to recovery.

Once again the lives of hundreds of Glaswegians are not even a consideration when Tories have to play up to their Home Counties caricature of being ‘tough on crime’.

The trip also coincided with the publication of a report which starkly spelt out the impact of Johnson and his Tory predecessors’ policies in Glasgow.

The influential Glasgow Centre for Population Health found that, while the city has become relatively less deprived compared with the rest of Scotland, the life expectancy gap between the richest and poorest in Glasgow has widened over the past 20 years. We remain the Scottish city with the highest concentration of people living in deprivation, a fact the report attributed to austerity policies “that have exacerbated structural inequalities in society”.

Here in Glasgow we have Tory councillors and MSPs who hope we don’t notice these policies and their shameful disregard for lives and communities. But as the local prefects for the most amoral, hard-right and toxic group of political hucksters to ever govern in the UK, they own this. Boris’s boys in Glasgow City Chambers can attempt to hide behind gimmicks and soundbites but Glasgow Times readers will fully expect that I and others call them out for the brutal policies they’ve signed up for.

Glasgow’s challenges don’t exist in isolation. They’re the consequences of UK policies which have piled economic and social misery onto our communities. We in the Council can take action to combat poverty whether it’s extending free school meals, feeding children during the school holidays, or providing community-based services to boost the household incomes of Glaswegians from pensioners through to young families. But as long as we’re on the receiving end of UK austerity, we’re running to stand still.

Glasgow’s Tories are led by a man who infamously said he was prepared to let the bodies of the elderly “pile high” during the pandemic. It’s high time Johnson’s Glasgow foot soldiers were honest with our citizens about who they are and what they really stand for and held to account for it.


Recent weather is a climate change wake-up call

THE major new report by the United Nations about the effects of climate change should be a wake-up call for us all. Climate change and its impact is already happening and it’s happening here, in Glasgow. And the extreme weather of recent days has exposed the need for our city to accelerate the action needed to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

One of the challenges we face in communicating the urgency of the climate emergency is overcoming the overuse of distant dates, targets and jargon. All of this can give the impression of climate change as being something for the future, somewhere else and with little relevance to everyday lives.

The reality, as the UN report spells out, couldn’t be much different. Glasgow is getting warmer and wetter. Communities, which are home to tens of thousands, are at increased risk of flooding as water levels on the Clyde rise. And as it is with the rest of the world, it is our poorest, those who contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions, who are most at risk from climate change.

In the past week, the City Council has kicked off our Citizens’ Assembly on climate change, hearing city residents’ views about what it means to them. Some really quite profound changes to our communities, our economy, our homes and how we travel around are rapidly coming down the line and we have to have a meaningful conversation about what this means for ordinary Glaswegians in language we can all relate to.

And we’ve begun spelling out the big interventions Glasgow will need in the years ahead to be both ready for the impact of global warming and do our bit to reduce it. We estimate this could cost around £30billion and we’re in discussions with other cities about how we fund this modernisation of the very systems that cities like Glasgow depend on. This a race against climate and ecological disaster but also a race to provide safe communities, good homes, new jobs and a sustainable and fair economy.

In just over two months’ time our city hosts COP26, potentially the most significant diplomatic event of our generation - now given even more importance on the back of the UN report. It’s been said COP26 is humanity’s last chance. It is also the chance for Glasgow to propel itself into this new era, to use this opportunity to help us become a more equitable, more prosperous, more sustainable and safer city.


Pandemic highlights green space importance in Glasgow

I was delighted to be able to commit £1.5m to our city’s parks and green spaces last week. The pandemic has made us realise just how much we cherish our green spaces and we’ve listened to our communities who’ve told us they want us to invest more in them.

How the money is spent will be decided by area partnerships, which have strong community representation. They’re best placed to understand local priorities and where resource should be deployed.

We know there’s a strong link between high levels of deprivation and lack of access to quality open spaces, which is why the biggest amounts of money have gone to wards where deprivation levels are highest. That doesn’t mean areas with large amounts of parkland and green space are missing out, because by they already get the lion’s share of the existing parks budget. Rather this new funding will go some way to addressing one of the less well known impacts of inequality, but one that has become even more pressing during the last year and a half – making sure that everyone gets to experience the city as a Dear Green Place.