Full Council meetings only come around every six weeks and just a few months out from local elections, most groups are naturally trying to get backing for their ‘big ticket’ policy ideas. 

This week, the Scottish Greens, led by my colleague Cllr Allan Young, won support for a free public transport pilot as a local legacy from hosting COP26. Campaigners like Get Glasgow Moving and Free Our City have been asking for this for years, and it could be a game changer for tackling the climate emergency and social inequality. Council will now call on the Scottish Government to back the scheme. 

The SNP minority administration argued for a community wealth building strategy to get more local impact for every pound we spend in Glasgow. Labour colleagues asked for consideration of how sensitive lighting could be introduced in parks without harming nocturnal animals. That could make public space safer and less exclusionary, for women in particular. I’m pleased Greens supported both of these proposals.

On the other hand, Glasgow’s Conservatives, predictably more interested in making personal attacks than policy, went with a motion expressing faux outrage at comments made by the Council Leader that she backed a car-free zone covering the city centre. There was, they claimed, no democratic mandate for such a policy.

Well, that backfired. If there wasn’t a mandate before, there is now, thanks to the backing of Green councillors.

In truth, there has already been basic consultation to support this idea. The Council’s Connecting Communities consultation last year asked for views on a proposal to transform the city centre, limiting access to the city centre for private cars, with no through trips. 76% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed, and only 13% disagreed.

We can now expect detailed plans to be drawn up so councillors can scrutinise them before they go for full public consultation.

Greens want those proposals to make the biggest possible potential benefit, looking to other cities that have led the way. Venice, Barcelona, Nuremberg and Ghent are examples of cities where transformative changes have ensured prosperity and quality of life.

We should look beyond the immediate centre. Charing Cross and High Street are regularly choked up with traffic. Complementary proposals could help reduce traffic impacts in these historic locations. We must certainly ensure they do not suffer from displacement of traffic. And what about the M8 motorway? Greens argued it should have been partly brought into the city’s Low Emission Zone to reduce traffic and pollution. A recent Scottish Parliament petition seeking an independent options study to rethink its central section attracted 1,500 signatures. 

We can also improve public transport connections at the same time as removing cars. Many cities, like Manchester and Southampton have free shuttle buses within their central areas. Pittsburgh has free light rail in its downtown area. Melbourne has free trams. The new Community Bus Fund, secured by Greens going into the Scottish Government, could fund a publicly-owned electric shuttle bus covering an enhanced car-free area as an immediate expansion of fare-free travel.

It’s time to redesign our city centre, so it is fairer, greener and meets more people’s needs. Removing most car traffic should be just the start.