Scotland With Style?

Scotland With Style?

The George Square situation has moved quickly since Friday (18th Jan) morning. Design 2 for the square’s redesign by John McAslan & Partners was picked by the competition jury, only for it to be announced that there was to be a ‘facelift’ for the square instead.

This facelift according to Gordon Matheson will involve the retention of the statues and the remaining greenspace in the east of the square.

“They also want us to keep the statues where they are, and they like the grass. However, they clearly want rid of the red Tarmac. … I am proud to say that I am listening to them.”

£15m is still going to be spent, this time without outsourcing the designer. The money is still coming through the controversial TIF scheme (according to the Herald in 2011 “the TIF scheme allows councils to fund projects that are expected to improve the environment for business by borrowing from a public loan fund”). A council spokesman told STV:

“The Tax Incremental Finance agreement with the Scottish Government for the Buchanan Quarter means we cannot spend this money on anything other than new capital projects in the vicinity of the Buchanan Quarter.”

The same council spokesman also mentioned people wanted more events in the square:

“The research we did was entirely appropriate and told us what people wanted to have in the square.”

“They wanted a square that was nice to look at and sit in, had more staged events and had statues.”

We assume the spokesman is referring to the now infamous Ipos Mori non-quantitative ‘poll’ of 42 people.

So, citizens want more events? In quantitative poll by Urban Realm of almost 200 people 90% of respondents felt greenspace should be a priority, with only 11% prioritising events. This is also reflected in the thousands of online discussions – Glaswegians want fewer events in the square, if any. When George Square was bulldozed to make way for events in 1998, the general public then were also far from happy:

“People were sickened to see the scenes of devastation.

Yesterday, McAveety said: ‘We’ll have an upgraded surface and permanent entertainment space. We will replace the trees which have Dutch Elm Disease.

‘This is a reasonable upgrading, but any substantial change to the square would involve all the citizens of Glasgow.'”

The continued emphasis on events (and the tents, portaloos and crush barriers that go with them) and the same funding source suggests the plan is generally the same: improve the events infrastructure of the square with a view to herding as many people as possible into the square in the hope they empty their pockets, particularly in Land Securities’, Buchanan Quarter, who are providing much of the cash for the development.

Whilst investment in the city is to be welcomed – does it need to be at the expense of a famous public space? Is the design of the square relevant if it is covered in giant marquees for half of the year and a construction site for the rest? There are several areas in the city centre that are crying out for investment: The Selfridges site in the Merchant City and the King Street car park are two areas that would benefit immensely from events, without damaging the fabric of the city.

Apparently councillors will make a decision on George Square on the 7th of February. Businesses will always covet our valuable public space, we need strong councillors to stand in their way. We would hope they grasp this opportunity to right the wrongs of 1998 and give the square back to the citizens of Glasgow – for good.

You can email your councillor here