Author Archives: Susannah Radford

30,000 people attend last weekend’s Southside Festival

Around 30,000 people enjoyed the weather and entertainment at last weekend’s Southside Festival held in the Queen’s Park Recreation Grounds.

The weekend’s festivities kicked off with a procession at 11am, led out by the St Francis Pipe Band.  The parade, which included members of the local community and a series of vintage buses, started from Newlandsfield Road, then proceeded down Kilmarnock and Pollokshaws Road, Allison Street, Victoria Road and Queen’s Drive before ending at the Queen’s Park Recreation Grounds where a series of bands entertained crowds into the evening.  A Picnic in the Park was held in the Recreation Grounds on Sunday 27 May.

Andrew Montgomery, a member of the Southside Festival steering group, was thrilled with the turnout.  He said:-  “At the recreation grounds on Saturday we attracted 25,000 people, which is the largest festival we’ve had by a long shot.  Our previous best was 15,000 back in 2010.   This year, the police estimate was in excess of 25,000 on Saturday and on Sunday was in the region of 4 – 5000.”

“So in the course of the weekend we’ve attracted 30,000 people and the fantastic thing was every part of the community was represented.  There was a great spectrum of people, no doubt buoyed on by the fantastic weather that we had.  It was absolutely glorious.”

Montgomery highlighted the work of those involved.  He said the weekend was: “incredibly successful and to think that it was produced entirely by 10 volunteers with a budget of £30,000; incredible, absolutely incredible.”

A free bus service made up of vintage buses that were part of the procession ran on the Saturday from George Square to the Queen’s Park Recreation Grounds as well as serving the Southside with the free Southside Circular which ran between Pollokshaws, Pollokshields, Shawlands and the Recreation Grounds.

Members of the steering group will meet with the Council’s Licensing Authority in the next couple of weeks for a formal debriefing before they consider planning for next year’s festival.

Glasgow City Council approves £3.3million for Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan

The Glasgow City Council Executive Committee approved spending capital funds of £3.3million towards the Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan this week.

The sum is to be spent over the next five years and the council hopes it might be supplemented by other avenues of funding.

The Glasgow Reporter talked with a delighted Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council Chair Andrew Montgomery, about his reaction to the news.  Montgomery said:-  “It’s absolutely great for all of us who have worked so long and so hard to get this approval.  It’s great to now be at the stage where we at least now know that the future for Shawlands is on the way up rather than the way down.”

Montgomery acknowledged the work of Councillor Archie Graham in ensuring the plan reached the Executive Committee.  “We are grateful to Archie Graham, the councillor for Langside, and the Deputy Leader of the Council, for pushing the Town Centre Action Plan forward, and getting it on the Executive Committee agenda so early in the new year for the administration.”

Last night the Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council held a scheduled meeting to discuss how to progress the Town Centre Action Plan which coincidentally fell the same day the news that the funding was approved.

The Community Council plans to make an application to Awards for All to get some grant money and then apply for other funding from the local Area Committees so they can start making improvements to the community.  Last night they defined potential short term and medium to long term action plans.

Short term ideas include transforming the wall that supports the walkway to the Shawlands Arcade into a mural which Montgomery says is similar to what they have done underneath the Kingston Bridge.  Another idea was to fund the replacement of the telephone box outside the Granary at Shawlands Cross with an old traditional telephone box which can be bought second hand.  The Community Council were also keen to discuss installing hanging flower baskets along Pollokshaws and Kilmarnock Roads with the Shawlands Business Association to beautify the area.

The lack of public toilets in the area was also raised.  Montgomery said:-  “One of the key things that we discussed  was that as representatives of the community and as members of the community we really need to feed into that plan at the very early stages so that the voices of residents are heard.  It  constantly came up that there are no public toilets in Shawlands.”

He pointed out that the are has no baby changing facilities either and added:- “if Shawlands is to have a vibrant daytime and evening economy, then we think the provision of public toilets is something that’s crucial. Again it could be something that in the early stages of the plan could be provided, on the basis that it’s not going to be something that would be wasted money, because it is something that in every survey has constantly come up.”

One medium to longer term potential improvement the Community Council discussed at their meeting was the refurbishment of the area in front of Langside Hall; by removing the trees outside and relocating the taxi rank a public square with raised seating could be created, which could also double as a stage for any public events.  Montgomery said:-  “If that could be done in the next couple of years, as we come into the Commonwealth Games year in 2014,  it would create a potential area where events could happen and visiting fans could gather and things could go on there.”

Montgomery is mindful that the money will need to be spent carefully.  He said:- “We can step back from the kind of idea that £3.3 million pounds is a welcome amount of money, but it’s not a pot of gold.  We will need to certainly be very careful of how that money is spent.”

The Town Centre Action Plan proposes the creation of a Shawlands Partnership which will bring together key local partners and stakeholders including the Community Council.  Montgomery expects that there will be another Town Centre Action Plan meeting which will set about establishing the Shawlands Partnership and he is looking forward to working with other organisations to implement the Plan.

He said:-  “It is absolutely critical now that plan has been approved, that funding has been allocated and we now need to motor on and work with the local councillors, the council, the Shawlands Business Association.  We all need to work together to see what significant improvements can be made in the area and that obviously includes AWG who have such a strong holding in the form of the Shawlands Arcade.”

Bailie Liz Cameron, Executive Member for Jobs and the Economy at Glasgow City Council, said on the Glasgow City Council website:- “Shawlands Town Centre is undoubtedly one of our premier civic centres, a favourite destination for both shoppers and those using its renowned bars and restaurants.  The council has joined with local people and businesses in recent times to create a plan that can take Shawlands forward over the next five years, and I believe this Action Plan marks the beginning of a very exciting period for the area.”

Local resident urges council to resurrect Friends of Queen’s Park Group

As Queen’s Park gets set to celebrate its 150th anniversary, one concerned resident has been engaging with the Glasgow City Council calling for short and long term improvements to the park, including the reinvigoration of its Friends Group, which has not been active for almost 10 years.

Resident Tony Halifax first raised his concerns about Queen’s Park with Glasgow City Council in February this year.  He is now set to point out these concerns to Glasgow City Council Assistant Area Manager Douglas Gellan in a walk around the park to be scheduled quite soon.  If Land and Environmental Services (LES) approve, we understand that Gellan has also said he will consider how the Council can support a Friends of Queen’s Park group which Halifax is keen to start.  Additionally, the two men have been discussing how Glasgow Community Reparation teams could undertake remedial work which would improve the standard of the park for everyone.

Halifax said:-“They are only offers at the moment, they’ve not been set in stone. But if they are, if there was help to get us a Friends of Queen’s Park set up, I’m sure we could actually make that work.  If we could get the Reparation teams in place, then that would actually address some of the backlog of work and then after that the Friends of Queen’s Park working with LES might just actually be able to get a better path forward than we’ve had to date.”

While Halifax already knows about eight people who would be interested in restarting the Friends of Queen’s Park he’s keen to engage with the wider community.  He said:- “In terms of the community spirit, I think it would be nicer to open up to a wider community and get a greater involvement if we can.”  If the council were to allocate some funds to the Friends Group he would set about finding out what the wider community would want from a Friends Group and Queen’s Park itself.

He is hopeful that the local community will voice its opinion about the park though he is concerned that Glasgow has “a very large silent majority.”  Response to his recent actions to engage with the Council from those he has spoken with “state very clearly that they’re saddened by the deterioration of the park; that it’s actually been going on over a long time and nothing’s being done about it.  They also actually cite how dirty the Shawlands area and the park location are.  That’s come up at two meetings now: the first about the Shawlands development plan which actually took place in early February and more recently at an East Strathbungo meeting which Nicola Sturgeon MSP attended, as well as regular notations at the Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council meetings.”

Halifax is realistic about the impact of Council budget restrictions, and believes the community needs to step in to fill the gap.  He would like to understand what the council’s planned maintenance programme is for the park.  “From that,” he said, “we can work with the council to find out how the community feels about it via the Friends of Queen’s Park.  Then the Friends of Queen’s Park can contribute to the vision and the work plan.  And the second aspect is to get supporters of the park who will become workers.  So the community takes up some of the slack on behalf of LES.”

The Glasgow Reporter first walked around Queen’s Park with Halifax in the middle of March when he initially raised a number of his concerns.  Top of his list was the amount of fallen leaves.  The leaves, when left to rot, he said, develop acidity which destroys the grass.  There are many stretches in the park where this is evident.  The park has since been mown and many of the leaves have actually been removed.

Halifax cites tree maintenance as another concern.  He said:- “In terms of general maintenance the trees here are over 150 years old.  There are some fantastic specimens but there is very little tree maintenance taking place.  Without it the branches get heavier and heavier, and eventually when we get a strong wind, lo and behold the trees fall down.  We’ve seen evidence of lots of trees actually falling down within the park area, none of them being replaced, some of them not actually being removed.  Now with some better maintenance I think we could address that.”

The walk around the park revealed other concerns.  Fences, damaged by the falling trees, have been left unrepaired, grass verges are not maintained and there are a number of areas in the park with drainage problems.  The Council in a letter of response to Halifax said that fencing repairs had been noted and passed to the department’s internal blacksmiths.

Halifax describes the Victoria Road entrance to Queen’s Park as “shockingly bad.”   There’s a light missing from the right hand side of the park gate.  Behind it is a sign that fell down which has not been repaired, and there are cones covering a hole that has been there for over a month.  The whole effect is a rather tired welcome to the popular Southside park.

Halifax is clearly enthusiastic about the area.  He said:-“I think being a newcomer to Glasgow by choice, I have clearly a passion for the city, and for Scotland.  I recognise the parks of Glasgow as being an intrinsic part of the city, particularly in the way that they work with the communities; providing leisure, recreation and social contribution.  Now within that, Queen’s Park is of particular interest because of its historical value.  I think its design, its use and its social benefit is of such importance that to see the decay that’s actually occurring at the moment and the lack of maintenance is worrying.  And I think that’s why I feel so passionately about it; seeing such a wonderful asset falling into disrepute.”  He would like Queen’s Park, currently a district park, to achieve City Park status but is unsure why it doesn’t already fulfil City Park status criteria.

Photos courtesy of Tony Halifax

The Glasgow Reporter contacted the four councillors representing Glasgow’s Southside ward, regarding the complaint Halifax had raised about Queen’s Park.  Councillor Anne Marie Millar said she had not received any complaints about the park recently, but confirmed that she would raise it with LES.  While she was aware that there currently was no Friends of Queen’s Park group she subsequently said:-“LES is liaising with a constituent who is trying to form a group.  LES have stated they will fully support this, and I’m advised they have arranged a meeting in two weeks time.”

Regarding the anniversary of Queen’s Park, Councillor Millar said:- “150 years is, in my opinion, something worth celebrating and I will discuss with LES and the relevant interested parties to see how we can celebrate this.”  She had been further advised that “LES have started work in the park to prepare it.”

Councillor Millar added:- “I think Queen’s Park is a valuable asset not just to the surrounding community but to the City.  It is a park that I took my own children to and now my grandchildren, weather permitting, and they all have enjoyed this park over the years and still do.”

Named after Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen’s Park was opened on the 18th September 1862.  It was designed by landscape architect Sir Joseph Paxton (who also designed Kelvingrove), with some design modifications from city architect John Carrick.  Falling within the Southside ward, it is bordered by Pollokshaws Road, Langside Avenue, Landside Road and Queen’s Drive.  Its 148 acres include the well known Glasshouse, a boating and a nature pond, play parks, a golf course, tennis courts and plenty of land to explore.  Around 300,000 people visit the park each year.

If you are interested in becoming a Friend of Queen’s Park, please contact us at

Push to get Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan moved forward

There is still hope that the Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan will be included in this month’s Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee agenda, it was reported at the Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council Meeting held at Langside Hall on Thursday 5 April 2012.

The Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan Steering Group met on Monday 19 March 2012 to discuss the Action Plan.  Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council Chair, Andrew Montgomery, who attended the meeting, reported that there was cross party support for the plan being submitted to the Executive Committee.  Glasgow City Council Deputy Leader Councillor Archie Graham (Langside Ward) was charged with the task of getting it on the agenda.

Montgomery said: – “It is difficult to know whether it will make the final Executive Committee.”

If it is approved by the Executive Committee, who will meet for the last time before the local election on 26 April 2012, a budget will be allocated to the Action Plan.  The bid will then go to the Capital Expenditure fund, and it would be unlikely that it would be refused if already approved by the Executive Committee.

Montgomery again encouraged council candidates about their commitment to Shawlands.  Concerns for the Shawlands community were first raised by businesses and residents in 2008, and having funds allocated to the Town Centre Action Plan would signify real progress.

Montgomery said that he was very pleased to report that the Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan Steering Group will continue to meet despite initial plans to replace it with a Shawlands Partnership.

Much discussion during this month’s meeting centred on how useful the police report was for this Community Council.  The police report statistics for April showed an increase on last month in the total number of incidents of assaults and vandalism in the Strathbungo and Shawlands areas but a decrease in the number of street drinkers and theft in Strathbungo.  Also noted was an increase in the number of incidents of drugs, street drinkers, theft and theft from a motor vehicle in the Queen’s Park area.

It was highlighted that the police report focussed on ‘main street’ crimes and left no room for other more minor offences, such as washing being stolen from back lanes, to be reported.  Community Council member Tony Halifax added:-  “It doesn’t tell us whether the police are concerned, or whether we should be concerned.”

Montgomery agreed.  He said:- “Raw numbers aren’t really helpful.  It kind of leaves us to draw our own conclusions.  There’s no background to it.”  He also thought that a clearer definition of assault and vandalism was needed.   He resolved to follow this up, and planned to contact the police and invite an inspector to join the next Community Council meeting.

Councillor Danny Alderslowe presented his Councillor’s Report.  In addition to attending the last full Glasgow City Council meeting he had attended a number of residents meetings and had been liaising with private landlords on behalf of residents.  He had been trying to get in touch with the landlord of a Niddrie Road flat which had experienced flooding three times and was now affected by dampness.  He had also been working on behalf of residents who had to move out of their Allison Street flats and had ended up paying Council Tax on two properties.  Councillor Alderslowe had been working to ensure they were reimbursed.

Councillor Alderslowe will not be standing at this year’s Glasgow City Council elections. Mr Montgomery said after his report:-“You have been an excellent councillor.  Danny, you go with grateful thanks and absolute best wishes.” Elected for Southside Central Ward in 2007, Councillor Alderslowe has served on seven Committees during his term, including Southside Central Area Committee, Education Children and Families Policy Development Committee and the Sustainability and the Environmental Policy Development Committee.  He is also a board member of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust.

Two local candidates standing in this year’s Council elections attended the Community Council meeting and were given an opportunity to speak.  Those present heard from Scottish National Party candidate for Pollokshields Norman Macleod and Scottish Labour candidate for the Southside ward Soryia Siddique.  Glasgow City Council’s elections will be held next month on Thursday 3 May.

Due to Shawlands Academy being closed for the Easter weekend, April’s meeting of the Community Council was held in a meeting room at Langside Hall on Langside Avenue.

The next Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council Meeting will be held 7pm on Thursday 10 May 2012 at Shawlands Academy.

Future of Shawlands key topic for recent Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council meeting

Progressing last month’s ‘Future of Shawlands’ meeting was of high importance for the members and residents who met at this month’s Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council meeting held last week at Shawlands Academy.

Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council Chair Andrew Montgomery proposed making use of the upcoming Glasgow City Council elections to achieve this goal.  There was unanimous agreement to his suggestion that the Community Council write to all parties and individuals running for office asking them what their manifesto would say about Shawlands and the Shawland’s Town Centre.

Montgomery was pleased with the support for last month’s meeting but was keen to maintain the focus on finding a solution.  The Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan is due to be finalised by May but there was discussion at last week’s meeting suggesting that the Glasgow City Council early May elections would delay the final document.

Shawlands has been categorised as a Tier 2 or ‘major’ town centre by Glasgow City Council.  Montgomery said:- “When you look at it, in the last 10 years Shawlands is the only Tier 2 Town Centre that has had no investment.”  He compared it to other Tier 2 town centres in Glasgow which had seen considerable amounts of money invested.

Other people attending the meeting echoed this need for investment.  One person didn’t think Shawlands was going to survive without immediate action.  Last week three shops shut and three more are set to close soon.  Rates and footfall were said to be contributing factors.

A local resident commented that Shawlands was ‘a fantastic area’ and it was ‘what a vibrant urban area should be.’  She had already taken part in many community activities to enhance and clean up the area.

A number of ideas on how to improve Shawlands were said to have come out of February’s meeting.  Held on 9 February at Shawlands Academy, the ‘Future of Shawlands’ meeting was attended by Glasgow City Councillors, representatives from Development and Regeneration Services (DRS) and around 90 members of the public.  The meeting provided a forum for public concerns and was a chance for the public to comment on the draft Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan.  It is thought that DRS are working to distribute the ideas contributed from members of the community.

In addition to Councillor David Meikle‘s report, local police officers delivered the police reports on the Strathbungo, Shawlands and Queen’s Park areas.  In response to a resident’s concern regarding the armed robbery at Jim Blair Insurance in late February, the officers said that  CCTV footage images had been circulated and they were trying to get a positive identification.  They highlighted that there were more officers in the area of Shawlands as a result of this armed robbery and they hoped this would reassure the public.

As part of the Licensing Report an application by Peckham’s V & V Limited was discussed.  Peckhams have applied for on and off sales licenced hours in the old Bank of Scotland building at the top of Skirving Street.  While there were a couple of people in opposition to this application, many thought that it was a brand that would add value to the area.  It was voted that the Community Council would raise no objection to this application.

The next Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council Meeting will be held on Thursday 5 April, 7pm at Shawlands Academy.

Ticket sales move quickly for Cumming’s role of a lifetime

Tickets for the National Theatre of Scotland’s Glasgow season of Macbeth starring Alan Cumming are selling fast.

The ticket sales, which opened in early February at the Tramway, have proved popular.

National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) Executive Producer Neil Murray said:-  “You always hope you are going to sell out.  I think early indications are that it’s going to be very busy.  Alan Cumming brings a little bit of stardust and the piece, Macbeth, in Scotland, is always an attractive title. But yeah, we’re very optimistic it’s going to do well.”

Macbeth is the first Shakespeare that NTS have staged in their six year history.  The play reunites the burgeoning creative partnership of actor Alan Cumming and director John Tiffany, who previously worked together on the NTS production of The Bacchae which premiered at The Edinburgh International Festival in 2007.

Murray continued:-  “We wanted to have a really good reason for doing Shakespeare.”  When Cumming approached the NTS with the idea that he would play all the characters in ‘The Scottish play’ it was the perfect marriage of performer and play for them.  Murray added:  “It had to be the right idea, it had to be the right person, it had to be the right time and all those things have conspired together, which is great.”

The NTS has chosen to premiere their radical reimagining of Macbeth at the Tramway, rather than in a more conventional theatre.  This exciting and experimental South side space has seen many seminal productions staged there, including Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata in 1988.  Murray said:  “There’s something more exciting on this occasion to do it at that big, rough, kind of hewn space, maybe play with that, play with the dynamics of it.”

Macbeth will open this June and the tone of the production is big and bold.  Murray said:  “We’re not making a small intimate piece.  It’s going to be a big statement in terms of the design of it and the space we’re using.  Partly because the Tramway is a big wide performance space; you need to really fill and take ownership of that space.

“And then similarly, when we go to the Lincoln Centre in New York, that’s a very big stage, so although the piece is really Alan with two other performers as well, it’s not going to be populated by lots of actors.  So the concept of the show has got to be really big and bold I think: that’s what we’re aiming to do.”

Cumming is now in training for this role.  Murray said:-  “He’s excited and terrified in equal measure, I think.  He’s getting himself very physically fit to do it.  Macbeth is a demanding part if you do it as part of a big company, but when you do all that text yourself and all those roles, who knows what it will do to him.  He’s kind of up for it.  The great thing about Alan is he’s an amazingly brave and committed performer.”

The NTS Glasgow season of Macbeth starring Alan Cumming runs from 13 – 30 June, 2012 at the Tramway Theatre.

Photography for National Theatre of Scotland from:
Colin Hattersley Photography
07974 957 388
©: National Theatre of Scotland

Working together towards a bulletproof future

By Susannah Radford

On the day that the week long International Arms Trade Treaty conference began in New York, three charities in Glasgow presented a united front in the same battle supporting regulated arms control.  Amnesty Scotland launched their campaign for a global Arms Trade Treaty  at Glasgow University arm in arm with Oxfam Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council.

In front of the media and a group of activists, Amnesty Scotland launched their Arms Trade Treaty Briefing document.  With 1500 people dying each day as a result of armed violence and enough bullets produced each year to kill every person on the planet twice, Amnesty Scotland is keen to ensure that talks underway at the UN this week contribute to a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty.  They encourage all Scots to take part by writing to UK leaders, urging them to show ‘strong leadership in Arms Trade Treaty negotiations.’

Joining Amnesty Scotland today in a panel discussion were Scottish arms control campaigner David Grimason, Head of Oxfam Scotland Judith Robertson and Head of Policy and Communications at the Scottish Refugee Council Gary Christie.

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty in Scotland was pleased with the event.  “I thought today was a very successful event in terms of bringing together various voices in support of an International Arms Trade Treaty.  It demonstrates that there is a lot of interest out there, there’s a lot of support out there and we’re all calling for the same action at the end of the day which is a robust Arms Trade Treaty with Human Rights at the heart of it.”

The links between the various groups were made in 2003 when the Control Arms campaign was set up, Mustapha said. “I felt that it was absolutely vital that we didn’t exclude those [other] voices just because it’s an Amnesty Event.  And I thought they all contributed fantastically to today’s event.  Judith talked about poverty and suffering around the world from an Oxfam perspective.  Scottish Refugee Council talked about having had to pick up the human consequences of, for example, the harrowing story that was being described today of women being raped at gunpoint overseas and then coming here to seek asylum and refugee status.

“And also we’re delighted,” Mustapha continued, “that David Grimason, a parent himself, who lost a child who was shot dead while on holiday in Turkey – he’s backing our campaign and it’s very much from a human perspective.  It’s coming from the heart and we’re all calling for the same message at the end of the day.”

Oxfam Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council illustrated how the current arms trade set up impacts on the work they do.  “Because of the unregulated supply of arms in communities all over the world people are not able to engage in basic life sustaining activities,” said Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland.  “People are frightened to go to the fields.  They aren’t able to trade properly.  When there are too many arms in an area that people’s lives are very vulnerable and subject to violence, then people don’t take part in what would be considered normal everyday activities.  Their livelihoods suffer, what happens in their lives takes on a very different perspective.”  The poverty and misery this causes people is the reason Oxfam is involved.

Like Amnesty, Oxfam too is lobbying the government to take a strong leadership role in current negotiations.  “Our interest,” said Robertson “is in ensuring that the UK government’s leadership is maintained in the issue.  We’re concerned that they are weakening their position and their commitment.”  Oxfam and its partners have representatives in New York this week who will be there Robertson said, “trying to lobby an issue that the interests of people in developing countries are held up at the talks to make a legally binding treaty.”

Both Amnesty Scotland and Oxfam Scotland have launched an e-action or e-petition to call on the UK’s party leaders to show strong leadership.  Ed Miliband, who has received over 7000 emails on the subject, recently wrote a statement in support of a ‘robust and effective global Arms Trade Treaty’.

The Glasgow University Amnesty International (GUAI) group, will also be supporting the Scottish campaign.  Catherine Wright from GUAI plans to use this event as a springboard to further campaigning.  “To have something like this, to have it launched on campus gives us a really good basis to then use it for our campaigns in the next couple of weeks.”  In addition to a visual campaign including gravestones with statistic about the arms trade, they will be collecting petitions on campus.

Following this week’s meetings in New York, the UN will meet again in July 2012 to finalise the treaty.  Mustapha today emphasised the importance of this week’s negotiations.  “If you’re not going to get the parameters right this week you’re not going to get the right treaty at the end of July, so this week is very crucial.”

To take part in Amnesty Scotland’s e-action click here

There are no plans to close Glasgow Railway stations

By Susannah Radford

The future of nine Glasgow Railway stations was at the heart of the debate at the Glasgow City Council Meeting in the Council Chambers last week.

In the first motion of the meeting, Councillor Alistair Watson called on The Scottish Government “to instruct its Transport Agency to withdraw the consultation document on the future of Rail and engage in meaningful consultation that will support the growth of the Rail Network in Glasgow.”

His motion follows the huge public response to the Transport Scotland fact sheet published in December 2011.  This fact sheet listed a number of railway stations in Glasgow located within a mile of each other, heightening fears that some might be closed.

Labour Councillor Watson was highly critical of the Rail 2014 consultation document which examines the way that train services will be delivered from 2014 onwards, saying the consultation was ” flawed.”

SNP Councillor Craig Mackay proposing an amendment to the motion, highlighted there were “no plans to close stations in Glasgow,” and accused Labour of “scaremongering.”  Bailie John McLaughlin, seconding the SNP amendment, also highlighted in his speech that there were no proposals to close any stations.

Councillor James Dornan defended the consultation, saying that it was about asking questions and again reiterated that the consultation “will not close any stations.”

Lib Dem Councillor Christopher Mason, warned against the phrase “there are no plans” while providing a few historical examples of when politicians had gone back on their word.

Councillor Watson summing up the motion said that this was “an issue important to Glasgow.”  He was happy to accept Scottish Green Party Councillor Kieran Wild’s amendment as an addendum.  Watson’s motion was voted in favour of the SNP amendment 55 – 18, with 1 abstention.

Councillor John Flanagan

Councillor John Flanagan raised a motion to set up a Cross Party Working group to engage with the carers of people with Alzheimers.  This group would ensure that carers were supported and listened to.

Councillor Flanagan was inspired by the efforts of Tommy Whitelaw whose ‘Tommy on Tour‘ campaign raised awareness of dementia throughout Scotland, particularly the challenges faced by the carers of those with dementia.

Seconded by Councillor Glass, a number of councillors lent their support to this cause.  Councillor David McDonald said he “was humbled” to read some of the carer’s letters collected by Tommy Whitelaw.

Just before a unanimous council vote to set up a Cross Party Working Group, Councillor Flanagan praised Tommy Whitelaw:-  “He is a real true life hero to Glasgow.”

Councillor Mary Paris

Prison Visiting Committees also came under the spotlight when Councillor Mary Paris called on The Scottish Government to “oppose the abolition of Prison Visiting Committees and to support instead their strengthening.”  Prison Visiting Committees provide an independent monitoring of prisons and committee members are made up of volunteers.

There was strong support for Councillor Paris’s motion.  Councillor Mason urged MSPs not to approve the consultation document.   He said that Prison Visiting Committees were fundamental.  Representing the citizen in the prison service, he said:- “They are there on behalf of us to make sure standards in prison reflect community aspiration.”

The motion was voted for by 50 – 12.

Click here for the full Council agenda for the meeting held on 16 February 2012.

Click here for The Edinburgh Reporter’s coverage of The City of Edinburgh Council’s motion regarding the abolition of Prison Visiting Committees

Passionate public debate about future of Shawlands Town Centre

Around 90 members of the public gathered for a passionate debate on the ‘Future of Shawlands’ and the Shawlands Draft Town Centre Action Plan at Shawlands Academy last night.

Litter was discussed again and again by those present at the meeting.  Shawlands was called ‘filthy,’ ‘manky,’ and ‘a dump’ by residents upset with the amount of litter being left in the town centre.

Led by the former Chair of Shawlands & Strathbungo Community Council, Scott Mackay, the meeting was also attended by Councillors Kahlil Malik, Archie Graham, David Meikle and Paul Coleshill.   Council Planning Officers Tim Mitchell and David Dunlop were also there and they outlined the history of research and consultation which has led to the current draft Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan.

The Town Centre Action Plan seeks ‘to re-establish Shawlands as the Heart of the Southside, by balancing the needs of place, people, businesses and sustainable living’.  Using a holistic approach to address the challenges the district faces, it hopes to ‘ensure that Shawlands is  desirable place in which people can choose to live and invest.’  One sobering fact from the plan was ‘of the 20,990 residents in the catchment area, only 3000 consider Shawlands to be their main centre.’

Last night was a chance for public concerns to be heard and debate concentrated on the more visible issues facing Shawlands, such as litter, the vacant shop fronts, parking fees and the Shawlands Arcade, long considered to be an eyesore.  While Arcade management were said to be trying to attract investment, with Sainsbury’s potentially planning to open a shop there once more, opinion was divided on what should be done to address this ‘anchor’ of the town centre.

Andrew Montgomery, Chair of Shawlands & Strathbungo Community Council, was very pleased with how the meeting went.  “I thought it was really good.  There were a good number of people here.  People are really passionate about Shawlands; I think that again came across.   But there are some fundamental basic things.  People have said the streets are dirty, they need to be cleaned. People have been saying that for years.  What do you need to do to get that message across to the Council?  I mean how often do people need to say the streets are filthy?”

He is keen to see how the Action Plan develops.  “The really important thing,” he said, “is that the Draft Action Plan is there, the consultation is just finishing.  We’ve got to see an Action Plan that comes out with action points.”

He would like to see specific commitments on service delivery met.  “We’d like to see a service delivery for cleansing.  So the streets will be swept by 8 o’clock each morning.  There’ll be a further sweep at 3 o’clock on the afternoon on these days.  We’ll monitor that for six months and see what standard that sets.  We’ll revisit it and see whether it’s the right standard.”  He also believes that the street furniture and signage in Shawlands needs to be looked at, and that local businesses must play a part.  “The Businesses Association are talking with  firms to say ‘well if we all put a hanging basket up each, it will cost us £30 each but what a difference it would make to the street.’

David Dunlop, from the Council’s Development and Regeneration Department, thought the meeting was very positive. He said:=”Litter’s clearly a major issue.  But we moved beyond that.  We started to talk about the nitty gritty issues, the challenges that it faces, so it was very positive.”

Dunlop has high hopes for the Town Centre Action Plan and wants the Shawlands one to “set the standard” for future action plans in Scotland.  He continued:- “I want to go beyond simply physical regeneration and think about it in a holistic way.  Nice pavements won’t solve anything.  Litter won’t solve everything.  It’s about looking at the broader sense, trying to tackle it across all the series of different mechanisms. And that’s what is important.”

There is still time for those interested in the future of Shawlands to comment and contribute to the final Action Plan which might be published by May, if not before.  Dunlop strongly encourages involvement:- “We urge people to take the time to try to go through the Action Plan.  I know it’s a big read.  And I know that the supporting documents are even longer.  But it’s worth taking the time.  We want you to criticise.  We want you to take it apart.  You know, it’s too important.”

The meeting ended on a positive note and those present were able to talk further with the City Planners and local Councillors.

Referring to a point made earlier in the meeting when a member of the community encouraged the people of Shawlands to ‘take control, ‘Montgomery agreed, and said:- “We are community; we all need to come together.  I’m very much looking forward to get a shot of the power cleaner to clean the streets!  So I’ll be applying to get that on a Saturday morning and that will keep me busy on Saturday morning.”

The Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council meets the first Thursday of every month at 7.00pm at the Shawlands Academy.  The next meeting will be on Thursday 1 March 2012.

For a copy of the Shawlands Draft Town Centre Action Plan click here.

For a copy of the Shawlands Retail Study click here

For a copy of the Shawlands Town Centre Action Plan – Health Check click here and then select ‘Completed consultations’ under Your Council.  The Health Check is listed there.

Click here for a copy of the 2009 Shawlands survey.

Glasgow City Council Finance and Audit Scrutiny Committee meet

Members of Glasgow City Council’s Finance and Audit Scrutiny Committee met on Tuesday afternoon at the City Chambers.

The first item on the agenda related to costs from the Common Good Fund (CGF). Focusing on information which was requested at last month’s committee meeting, members discussed travel costs incurred by officers and members of the council.   At today’s meeting it was estimated that £15,000 is spent annually on travel.  The CGF also covers costs of civic ceremonies and hospitality costs for distinguished guests visiting the city.

The meeting then discussed the 2012/2013 draft budget for ‘training (Council Buffet)’.  The proposed budget means a cut in funds available for this training provided by catering service provider, Cordia from £182,000 to £122,000.  Bailie James McNally expressed concern.  He said:-“It is a worry to take £60,000 out of the buffet budget; we’re talking about people’s jobs here.”

A few members however were dissatisfied with the answers received from Cordia about the number of apprentices trained.  Councillor Allison Hunter said:-“We  should push Cordia for more detailed explanation.”

A significant financial issue was raised in the report on Budget Monitoring of the Investment Programme 2011/12 Quarter 3.  The Scottish Government will not lend the council the £8.3m they have requested for voluntary severance costs.  The Scottish Government’s response to the request was that the Council had “sufficient reserve of funds.”

In addition to reports on the CGF and Investment Programme, budget monitoring reports for Quarter 3 of 2011/12 were presented for   Commonwealth Games related projects and the Capital Programmes for Development and Regeneration Services, Education Services, Land and Environment Services, Social Work Services and the Chief Executive’s Office and Corporate Services.

The National Indoor Sports Arena and Velodrome,  a Commonwealth Games related project, is nearing completion and is forecast to be completed within budget.  Work on the site was started early last year by the main contractor, Sir Robert McAlpine, and the project is scheduled to open in autumn this year.

Reports were also presented for the budget monitoring for period 10 (1 April to 21 December 2011) for Education Services, Social Work Services, Financial Services, Land and Environmental Services, Development and Regeneration Services and the Common Good Fund.

Reports on two internal audits were presented at the meeting.  Corporate Services and the Data Integrity of the SAP system were audited.  No major issues were found and the report recommended three improvements.

Social Work Services and their use of PECOS were also audited.  PECOS is a system the Council uses for the purchase of goods and supplies.  There was only one recommendation for improvement in this audit.  Updates on the implementation of the recommendations for both  of these audits will be reported back to the council in due course.

The next meeting for the Finance and Audit Scrutiny Committee is scheduled for the 7 March 2012.