ONE thing we’ve learned from dealing with the global pandemic is that when and where there’s a pressing need, cities can change faster than we’ve attempted in the past.

We’ve long known that there’s simply too much of a reliance on cars on Glasgow’s roads and that congestion has a detrimental impact on the city – and on our collective health.

And we’ve recognised that our high streets our changing. It’s no longer simply a case of town centres versus out-of-town malls. Online retail has changed everything. To attract people and, crucially, to help keep them there, traditional town centres have to be attractive in themselves. They have to be places people want to spend time in.

Whilst we’ve been pushing forward with our Avenues programme and expansion of cycling networks, change is often slower than we want or need, especially when cultures, attitudes and vested interests need shifting too.

Glasgow Times: George Square has been transformed in recent times George Square has been transformed in recent times

That catalyst for change came in the summer of 2020 when the need for safe physical distancing in the city centre and across our neighbourhoods, in addition to the increased interest in walking, cycling and wheeling, meant we had to intervene – and quickly.

We widened footways, closed off some roads to traffic and created segregated cycle lanes to facilitate this. In keeping citizens safe and responding to the need for people to exercise, we’ve really accelerated our efforts towards creating healthier and more attractive streets.

So I was delighted that the City Administration Committee voted a few days ago to retain the majority of the measures introduced through the Spaces For People programme. 

The programme, as promised at the outset, has been independently evaluated, part of which involved a public engagement exercise. Where issues and challenges have outweighed the benefits the measures were removed.

But the public response has been overwhelmingly positive and Spaces For People has allowed us to reimagine and, indeed, start preparing for a Glasgow with a different look and feel.

Take for example Kelvin Way. A beautiful tree-lined avenue connecting one of our most popular public parks, Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow University and some of our most popular pubs and restaurants, it served as little more than a West End short cut for cars.

But the decision to close it to traffic has created a vibrant, people-friendly thoroughfare with a real European feel that Glaswegians deserve. It has taken a bit of getting used to for drivers but it’s been worth it. Similarly, the closure of the east and west sections of George Square and the utilisation of part of the reclaimed space for eating and drinking.

In little over two years we’ll have transformed George Square from the glorified roundabout it once was to a genuine European-quality civic space.  Spaces for People addresses our immediate needs and starts that journey to a more modern and cosmopolitan Glasgow.

Glasgow Times: Kelvin WayKelvin Way

And it’s not just the West End and city centre. In Dennistoun, Shawlands and Pollokshields, the outcome of the consultation has been that the ‘People Friendly Streets’ measures remain in place.

On our road to COP26, cities from across the world have been interested in how Glasgow, a city which still lives with the very real challenges of its past, is adjusting to the Net Zero world. 

One of the things we talk about is how we’ve used Spaces for People to begin challenging the dominance of the car on our roads and streets. This is something so many of our peers have got to grips with long ago. Spaces for People won’t in itself deliver the transformation Glasgow city centre and our neighbourhoods require across the next decade. Of course it won’t.

But we can start to see that necessity can drive really positive change. And there are few things more necessary than addressing the climate emergency. As we start our transition for real, Glaswegians will see that climate change isn’t just about we have to give up but the benefits we can reap. With Spaces for People we can start to see that.

We are changing Glasgow's politics for the better 

WHEN the SNP became the first new political administration in Glasgow in 40 years we knew we had to change the culture of how the city engaged with its citizens. Decades of one-party unbroken rule can create ingrained ways of doing this and local governance needed freshening up.

Within the first few months we held a series of summits to inform our approach in several key areas, we rolled out pilots on how communities could determine some budget spend in their areas, and in the past month or so held a very successful Citizens’ Assembly on the impact of the climate emergency on Glasgow.

Last October, having spelt out our credentials and ambitions to be among the world’s most transparent local authorities, we were invited to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international initiative which promotes government bodies being more open to the people and organisations they serve.


As with almost everything across the world, our participation has been held up somewhat by the global pandemic. But I’m delighted that at last week’s City Administration Committee we agreed our Action Plan which will be submitted to the OGP.

The plan addresses the lack of access to information which can make it difficult for communities and third sector groups to understand how decisions are taken. We have to make it easier to share feedback, ideas and opinions on policies and decisions. 

It takes considerable time and effort to turn the tanker around but we’re getting there. Our efforts at improving transparency are now internationally recognised. Glaswegians are rarely short of offering an opinion on how their city is run. Our Open Government Action Plan will increase their role in our decision-making process.