The Highs and Lows Of Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council
With the recent news Gordon Matheson CBE announced his intention to stand down as head of Glasgow City Council. After five years at the helm, he had decided to relinquish his post and it is believed Mr Matheson will stand as a candidate in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.
GlasgowLiving takes a look back at some of the highest of highs and lowest of lows Matheson faced whilst captaining the ship that is the city of Glasgow.
It’s fair to say that for all the triumph and tears that Glasgow has faced, Matheson during his five year tenure sought to ensure Glasgow continued its progression from “sick man of Europe” to “cosmopolitan city of culture”
What were some of the high points and low points of his five years in charge?
1. High. MTV Music Awards, Commonwealth Games, Radio1 Big Weekend
There’s no denying that Glasgow surfed an epic wave of culture in 2014, MTV Awards brought in £10m to the local economy, Radio 1 Big Weekend brought in an extra £3.6m and the Commonwealth Games is projected to bring in £750m within the next decade. In total almost £90m pounds extra to the Glasgow economy in 2014.
Low. Buchanan Galleries Indecision
With the news that the Buchanan Galleries modernisation has been put on hiatus for an unannounced period of time, it has raised the hackles (and hopes) of dedicated campaigners, battling to stop the dismantling of the Royal Concert Hall stairs. It was discovered that because of an ongoing and simultaneous upgrade to the Edinburgh to Glasgow rail line, it was unsafe to commence both.
2. High. The Queen Visiting Celtic Park
It might not seem significant however, the Queen visiting Celtic Park is probably one of the biggest achievements in Scotland’s battle against sectarianism. Could you imagine 25 years ago the possibility of the Queen driving around Celtic Park? Never. Strides have been made.
Low. Orangefest in George Square
After the high of bringing Scotland together as one, during the Commonwealth Games, less than a year later Orangefest almost single handedly tore Glasgow apart. The problem with festivals such as Orangefest or Republican and Orange walks is they immediately segregate and divide the country. Scotland should be looking to the future not clinging onto a turbulent past.
3. High. Free WiFi in Glasgow City Centre
Glasgow became the first city in Scotland to offer free 24 hour Wi-Fi throughout the city centre. Integrated prior to the Commonwealth Games, it cemented Glasgow’s place at the forefront of Scotland’s digital technology revolution and continues Glasgow’s aim to be a world leading digital city by 2017.
Low. Controversy Surrounding Red Road Flat Destruction
Can you imagine how the Commonwealth Games Brain Trust chat went? “Hmm what can we do to really impress the billion or so television audience watching around the world? Danny Boyle had the Queen jumping out of a plane, well we’ve got her doing a lap of Celtic Park.”
“What about blowing up the Red Road Flats? (Glasgow’s rushed, poorly constructed and ultimately failed attempt at a community in the sky? Don’t forget it was an equally lazy attempt at depopulating the city after W.W.2.) “Genius”, the board room yelled. Who cares that millions and millions of people throughout the Commonwealth countries barely have running water, never mind a house, let’s destroy buildings still inhabited by thousands of families.
4. High. 2012 Elections
After many experts predicted a complete Glasgow whitewash against Labour in the 2012 local elections, voters instead voted with Labour, increasing their share of the vote by 3.4% per cent, granting Labour an overall majority in Glasgow.
Low. 2015 General Election
The total destruction of the Labour Party in Scotland, the SNP actually won 56 out of a possible 59 seats. Labour survived in Edinburgh South. The SNP also won every one of the seven seats available in Glasgow.
5. High. City Deal & Glasgow Airport Rail Link
The announcement of the City Deal estimated to be worth £1.13 billion pounds to Glasgow and expected to create tens of thousands of jobs was fantastic for the city. In conjunction with this, Glasgow City Council also announced that the ambitious Glasgow Airport Rail Link could now be financed and completed. It was halted after the Scottish Government revealed that the finance needed to complete it could not be found. (*Cough* billion pound Edinburgh tram fiasco *Cough*)
Low. Unemployment in Glasgow
Although unemployment in Glasgow has steadily been falling it still outweighs the rest of Scotland. If you add in savage cuts by the Scottish Government, and George Osborne’s destruction of social care in Britain, it could actually be commended that unemployment on average seems to be falling.
6. High. Education & Exam Success
2015 witnessed Glasgow secondary school pupils achieve their best exam results since the beginnings of the Higher programme envisioned by John Howie in 1994. Statistics also revealed that nearly a third of Glasgow’s school leavers are continuing into further education. A decade ago it was less than a fifth.
Low. Teenage Pregnancy
Although teenage pregnancies have been decreasing, in England, especially the major cities, teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest since record began in 1969. The most deprived areas, several being in Glasgow, still have some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Scotland.
It is undeniable, that Gordon Matheson in charge of Glasgow City Council has improved almost every aspect of life in the city. Education, health, culture, transport etc.
When you take into consideration the magnitude of the responsibility of leading Scotland’s biggest council and dealing with the day to day running. It’s fair to say that the next leader of Glasgow City Council has enormous shoes to fill.