I’ll admit it. I was hoping for an SNP win in Glasgow.
Not for any strategic reasons, not because I saw it as a stepping stone to independence, but simply because I live in Glasgow, and it often makes me sad. Although I love its parks and ponds, there is so much else wrong with the city, and its decades-old Labour council seemed to have few ideas left for tackling it all.
Or does it? The fact is, Labour got in, against the expectations of just about everybody, possibly including themselves. They’re all we’ve got to work with, so I thought I ought to familiarise myself with their plans. What was actually in the Labour manifesto for Glasgow?
I found some surprises, but they are hidden: the top ten of Labour’s 100 pledges is exactly as I feared. Number 1 is the council tax freeze: hardly an inspirational start, given that it’s somebody else’s policy that Labour only converted to late in the day.
The manifesto continues with a lot of opposing this, campaigning for that and very little in the way of actual proposals that a city council can implement. Number six is the rather non-specific “Support the people of Glasgow when others walk away” while number seven is a statement of belief in bus regulation. But I don’t care what my local council believes, I want to know what it will actually do.
Number nine, and we’re on dog crap already, closely followed by litter. My heart was sinking, my upper lip was curling in contempt. But then I read on.
Promise number 11 pledges to make Glasgow a Co-operative Council, setting targets for co-operative start-up businesses, while number 12 is to introduce community budgeting. These are potentially transformative policies: and there’s more.
Pledge number 33 is to create a “happy hour” of free football for under-16s at all Council 5-a-side venues: a great recognition of the need to provide facilities for young people and of the impact of sport on physical and mental health. Though I don’t know how many 5-a-sde facilities the Council actually owns: if all but one have been sold off to Tesco, then I retract my enthusiasm.
On children and young people, there’s a promise of ten new family learning centres and the astonishing pledge that “Labour will rebuild or refurbish your local primary school”. What, all of them? Whether they need it or not? How much is this costing?
Other surprisingly welcome pledges include a promise to replace derelict land with greenspace across the city, build 3,500 new homes, establish a Factoring Commission for tenants, develop a network of charging points for electric cars and introduce a Smart Card across all forms of public transport.
And, cue a chorus of Hosannahs and a flock of bugling angels, “Labour will revamp and completely refurbish George Square”. Thank Christ. George Square is a dump, and I will happily report for revamping and refurbishing duty with a shovel and a song in my heart, on any day Gordon Matheson cares to name.
And then there are the properly ambitious pledges, the ones that made me go, “Really? Has anybody senior read this?”
Such as “Labour will make Glasgow the most sustainable city in Europe”. Or “Labour will make Glasgow a wireless city, providing a free wi-fi network across the city”.
And, inevitably, the utterly meaningless ones, like “Labour will tackle Glasgow’s health inequalities”. Sadly, there is not much detail on, you know, how.
However, it’s a lot better than I’d expected, and what’s fascinating is that the anodyne, party political shouty pledges are all at the start, while the interesting, thoughtful suggestions only start to appear later on. I like to think that, while the party leadership’s attention was focused on the all-important top 10, some upbeat backroom staff sneaked in a few innovative ideas towards the end.
The whole manifesto does prompt more questions than it answers. Primarily, where’s the costed version of this? But also, when we will see a timescale for introducing all of these new measures? I’d expect that the very first Council agenda will set out a plan, budget and designated lead officer for each of these pledges. I’ll be watching Council meetings with a great deal of interest over the next few months.
It’s easy to be cynical about Glasgow politics. All too often, Glasgow politicians make it so. But let’s be hopeful. Maybe this time we really will see Glasgow flourish.