Brian Wilson: leadership urgently needed to prevent COP26 from becoming a national embarrassment

FIRST, the good news. According to my reliable weather forecast site, Glasgow G3 should benefit from fine autumn conditions next Monday and Tuesday. No rain, a flash of sunshine, hardly any wind and temperatures around five degrees crisp.

This will obviously mean Scotland’s legendary wind power, providing one hundred and some percent of our electricity, as we are wrongly told, contributing nothing to the comfort of COP26 delegates. That will be left to about 50 percent fossil fuels, 20 percent reliable old nuclear, and whatever interconnects choose to deliver.

On the plus side, that means delegates and various camp followers won’t have to deal with howling storms as they tiptoe around the trash. On sunny days, the city’s skyline should be bright. If that changes by Monday, Mrs Thatcher’s ghost will no doubt be held responsible.

I didn’t come late in the debate over Glasgow’s grimy lack of preparation. Months ago, I asked here why there was no city champion for COP26, a Michael Kelly these days? When was the cleanup going to start? Why has there been such a lack of effort to engage citizens of the beloved green space in the world’s largest environmental fair?

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Weeks and months have passed and none of this has happened. All the audience got was a belated announcement of traffic disruptions on an epic scale. Now with a week left, the main debate is whether Glasgow is dirtier and more rat infested than other cities and, if so, whether it is Ms Thatcher’s fault. It is all deeply humiliating and mediocre.

I heard a phone call from BBC Radio Scotland yesterday when Glasgow City Council was not represented by the head of the council, perhaps unsurprisingly after his exit in select committee, or any other SNP politician. Instead, we heard from a council official who had to push back on appeals about the state of the city, citing at one point the likelihood that things must have been worse during the 1975 garbage strike. , it is a comfort.

Frankly, when this type of fall was offered to the BBC, the answer should have been thank you but no thank you. Council officials do not play politics and most importantly they have not betrayed their political responsibility to Glasgow over the past decade as funding has been cut, cut and cut again by an SNP administration at St Andrew’s House . This is what the questions should really be about, if anyone dares to ask them.

If one wants to invoke the name of Mrs. Thatcher, then that is the appropriate context. It is unthinkable that the scale of the cuts Glasgow has suffered – 11%, or more than £ 200 per capita since 2013 – could have happened in the 1980s without mass protests led by unions and local government. Who decided that Glasgow’s social conditions deserved cuts, much less on this scale?

The Scottish Parliament’s own research center confirmed in 2018 that the Scottish government had cut city council budgets by more than four times the rate of reduction of its own budget over five years. Since then the Scottish budget has increased, but nothing has been done to reverse the treatment of advice, with Glasgow continuing to be one of the hardest hit.

It is this prolonged period of underfunding that is now coming home, not only in the state of the streets of Glasgow but in the general state of public services. Yet the city’s SNP leaders cannot moan because of their early loyalty.

Consider the state of Glasgow’s community facilities in some of its most disadvantaged areas. As the Herald reported yesterday, Glasgow Life has waited more than a year for a meeting with a minister over its funding crisis with five libraries still behind locked doors. As The Herald campaigns around a fair deal for Glasgow, its city leaders can’t even speak out when their letters go unanswered.

I don’t think a municipal worker wants to be on strike during COP26 or do anything that further diminishes the reputation of the city. However, one can hardly fault them for using the leverage the event provides to pressure barely exorbitant demands on people who provided life-saving services under the most demanding conditions during the pandemic.

Sometimes when employers are on a barrel, it’s best for them to recognize it and make the most of it. By allowing these conflicts to drift indefinitely, this situation has now been reached with municipal workers and also the railways where the only contribution of the Glasgow SNP MSPs was to insult the workforce by claiming that they are misled by the masters “of London”. How rude can you get?

Abellio is supposed to be such a horrible company that the Scottish government has cut its franchise short in order to nationalize Scotrail within a few months. In these conditions, he can hardly claim that the current negotiations do not concern him. It is time to have some political leadership in these two negotiations and it can only come from Edinburgh, which is holding the purse strings.

The opportunity to make COP26 a great publicity for Glasgow and Scotland has been largely wasted. Urgent leadership is now needed to prevent this from turning into a national embarrassment.

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