It's been a deeply humiliating few months for Glasgow. Ridicule and scorn from near and far has been heaped on the city because of the continuing George Square debacle. First, following a deeply-flawed survey of less than 50 Glaswegians, Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson informed us that all the statues were to be removed from our beloved civic square. Then, after a hugely costly and controversial international design competition to revamp the square, the council leader announced that a winner had been decided upon... only to take the expensive scheme off the table in favour of what he now calls a "substantial facelift".
The problem remains, though, that the council's latest £15 million facelift, although removing the unpopular red tarmac, is not intended to restore our beloved square to the verdant Victorian splendour which we enjoyed up until 1998. Instead of repairing the damage it inflicted unceremoniously 15 years ago – when flower beds, grassed areas and the square's famous Swedish white beam trees were removed – the council now plans to renovate George Square with a view to dramatically increasing the number of commercial events
which can be staged there.
Effectively, Glaswegians are to lose the civic heart of Glasgow – and arguably the heart of Scotland – to a plethora of pop concerts, sports events, product launches, and what some people think is a dire Christmas carnival. On the last point, Glaswegian journalist Kevin McKenna noted in the Observer at the weekend:
"Before the councillors wrecked it, George Square was a magical place to visit at Christmas. On the north side, towards Queen Street station, Mary and Joseph took up residence inside a lovingly constructed glass stable with the saviour of the world, three kings and some shepherds. Christmas decorations garlanded all four sides of the square and it was a happy and tranquil place to be in the season of peace and goodwill.Do you think George Square should be returned to how it was before – reintroducing the flower beds, greenery and trees – restoring the square to the people of Glasgow for a more tranquil usage? Or do you believe that George Square should be prepared for increased commercialisation in order to (according to the council) boost the number of visitors to the city centre who then might spend money in nearby shops and restaurants, thus helping sustain jobs in the city's service sector?
I couldn't tell you now if the manger has recently featured at Christmas in George Square simply because so much noise, cheap rouge and coconut shy malarkey goes on every December that the entire place should be given an asbo. A dirty, big white wheel becomes the centrepiece instead of a child born in a stable and instead of wise men bearing gifts there is an assortment of tawdry games and stalls. You won't hear carols now, only the implacable grinding of an electric generator. It is a charnel house."
The photo below was taken just after Remembrance Sunday, as preparations were made to transform the square for the Christmas carnival. Four large 'events' refuse bins were, for days, propped up against the Cenotaph, the memorial which honours the many thousands of Glaswegians who gave their lives so that we could be free.