Would it be an underestimation to suggest the George Square fiasco has shone a light on a general malaise in local Glasgow politics?

The Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games were shrouded in controversy and with just over 500 days until the games come to Glasgow, it is difficult to feel any confidence in those running our local government and some of the key organisations which help form their decisions.

Tom Gordon’s piece in the Herald (with unnamed council sources) may have accurately reflected Gordon Matheson’s worrying personality traits or represented more political power-plays and infighting within the current council administration. Either way it is immensely embarrassing for the city:

“a f***ing disaster… It was all vanity stuff. Matheson probably wanted his name in George Square somewhere. It’s like Carry On Council sometimes. You couldn’t make it up.”

“Cllr Matheson had an idea, included it in his manifesto, and then decided that it was his way or not at all. It’s a flagrant waste of public money.”

At the 15th State of the City Economy Conference at the end of last year Matheson told the audience:

“You may recall that I ended my speech in 2011 by saying that I’ll see you all next year. Well here I am. Following a decisive election victory in May, which has secured a very stable 5-year majority for my administration.”

Gordon Matheson won his seat in the Anderston/City ward with barely over 1 in 20 of the electorate voting for him. The turnout reflected very poorly on all parties, with a turnout of just 23.6% (apologies for the wiki source, GCC have yet to update their website…). These diabolical figures barely improved in other wards with an overall turnout of just 33%.

Since their election victory in May the Glasgow Labour website appears to have disappeared completely. The @glasgowlabour twitter account has not been updated since September.

According to one follower of facebook.com/restoregeorgesquare, Councillor Archie Graham has been justifying prioritising George Square’s use as an events space:

“Although 4,000 people may have signed a petition to restore the square, the Council had to ‘bear in mind’ that 78,000 people applied for tickets to the Christmas light switch on last year, thus proving the existence of a clear preference amongst the people to see George Square maximised as an events space, per the administration’s agenda, as opposed to seeing the square restored.”

This sentiment is echoed by Jane Laiolo of Development and Regeneration Services, Glasgow City Council, who sits on the George Square Project Board:

“I would suggest that many thousands of Glaswegians do in fact care about George Square being used as an event space. Events like the Christmas Lights switch on are oversubscribed each year by many thousand.”

The Christmas Light switch on referred to here is now a largely commercial affair with those being directly involved including: Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Glasgow Life, Buchanan Galleries, St Enoch Centre, Argyll Arcade, Frasers, Hamleys, John Lewis and Princes Square. (More on GCMB and GCoC here)

The fact our councillors and members of of the George Square Project Board are now using ticket demand numbers for a one-off free Christmas retail-led event to justify ignoring public consultation and public petitions is the clearest indication yet that George Square is no longer considered a public space by those who have been entrusted with its care. It also lends weight to the theory expressed by council sources in the above Herald article that the reprieve for the statues was nothing to do with public pressure and everything to do with petty egos and party politics.

When we put our concerns to Jane Laiolo about the flaws in the argument of using retrospective usage/footfall figures to justify controversial developments and demolitions we were told:

“With regard to the M8 and St Enoch parallels you draw, I would only point out that not everyone in this city would agree with you.”

The natural progression of the prevailing ideology being employed by our councillors and influential organisations suggests that greenspaces and other public spaces and amenities are now in immediate threat. Heritage and greenspace, etc, do not convert easily into cash or footfall figures for businesses so are effectively worthless (unknown, lifeless relics, from a bygone era) to our councillors and the commercial interests they represent.

Email your councillor here