Whenever you hear “stakeholder”, somebody’s doing something awful

Glasgow’s famous George Square is going to get a £15 million makeover. On the one hand that’s great, because it’s not as nice as it used to be. On the other hand it’s terrible, and not just because the council’s spending 15 million quid during a recession in a city well known for its terrible poverty and ill-health. It’s beginning to look like a terrible act of vandalism is going to happen.

The council’s plans include removing all the statues – statues that council leader Gordon Matheson calls “unknown, lifeless relics from a bygone era” – preventing people from assembling in the square and generally turning it into a giant paved area. And of course the proposed designs are all truly awful.

Incidentally, the “unknown” figures Cllr Matheson was talking about include Robert Burns, Queen Victoria, James Watt and Sir Walter Scott. 

Here’s what the square looked like around 1900 (click for bigger):


Here’s what it looks like now, on the rare occasions when it isn’t covered in marquees and security fencing for some event or other:

normal_George Square

And here’s one of the shortlisted new designs.

George square design entries

The public are appalled, but “stakeholders were less concerned” about issues such as the removal of statues. Stakeholders include the police, hoteliers, restaurateurs, the chamber of commerce, a concert promoter and the Glasgow Marketing Bureau – but not the general public.

Plans to consult Glaswegians on the proposals appear to have been abandoned, because the council hired pollsters Ipsos MORI to conduct a massive survey of public opinion. How massive? The council says:

We carried out an exercise last year involving resident focus groups and in-depth stakeholder interviews. This played a role in establishing what the future vision of the square should be, as well as priorities in terms of the redevelopment.

How many of the 600,000-odd Glaswegians did the exercise involve?


I’m not being funny. That’s from the council’s own report. The council spoke to just 42 residents.

In comments after a Guardian article by Allan Massie, Owen Duffy suggests that:

the intention is to turn the square into a single flat surface which can accommodate larger structures, making it more attractive to anyone who wants to hire the square and allowing it to accommodate larger and more lucrative events. Pesky inconveniences like statues, flower beds, grass and statues make this difficult.

This is part of an ongoing and controversial programme which is ripping the history and character out of Glasgow. See also the replacement of Clydeside industrial buildings with lego-brick yuppie flats and the proposal to attach a jarring ten-storey glass and steel shop and office complex to the facade of the beautiful art-deco cinema on Renfield Street.

Still, at least the council has promised to listen to the views of the public, and it will give them plenty of time to come and see the proposed designs and submit their feedback, and that feedback will be carefully considered before making a final decision.

The shortlisted designs were unveiled on the 9th of January 2013. The winner will be announced on…

…the 18th of January 2013.

There’s much, much more about the whole sorry saga at Restore George Square.

Update, 21 Jan: game’s a bogey. The redevelopment plans have been scrapped, the statues are staying, and the horrible red tarmac’s going.





0 responses to “Whenever you hear “stakeholder”, somebody’s doing something awful”

  1. CavalierOfEon

    I visited Edinburgh last year, and it reminded me of Dublin in old pictures, before the council tore down the beautiful Georgian and Victorian architecture and replaced it with hideous “70s-modern” concrete shit-piles. It would be an unbelievable tragedy if the same thing happens in Edinburgh.

  2. hunnymonster

    Glasgow City Council isn’t doing anything unusual (for a local authority) – and no doubt when it comes to fruition (whatever “it” is) will spin more than a 1600rpm spin dryer that it was someone else that did it and ran away.

    My own council here devolved the responsibility for naming my street to the community council – a group of old duffers that had no clue which direction was which with the direct consequences that two streets named “North” and “South” are actually east and west of each other… and contain the name of the street off which they sit – causing confusion and anguish for all concerned and some previously not concerned at the other end of the “old” road… including (non-exhaustive) missed deliveries, stolen mail, returned mail, gas & electricity being cut off, …

    Council solution: Write to all of us (illegally using the Electoral Roll in doing so) in the new streets and in words that belittle all of us like 5 year olds tells us how to write our addresses. It was naturally addressed automatically by the council using the very format that caused confusion in the first place… and ignoring the fact that many suppliers rely on you entering a postcode then presenting you with an address as a fait accompli (much like their own).

    When challenged the council of course blamed the community council despite being the “competent” body under the Civic Government Act (Scotland) 1982…

    I expect no different here – the council, despite being the “competent” body will undoubtedly blame the George Square Renovation Committee… There’ll be an enquiry that ends up published as a single hard copy, placed in a locked filing cabinet in an unlit, disused lavatory in the basement of Council HQ behind a door bearing a warning sign “Beware of the Leopard”.

    Could be worse though – it could be on rails from “near the Airport” to the city centre ;)

  3. Nottingham has been through a similar exercise with our Market Square and they did actually improve both it’s appearance and utility. There were complaints, of course, but it’s turned out to be very useful for events throughout the year.

    We didn’t have quite the history in that area as Glasgow, though, and I don’t think any old statues were removed – just some flower beds and steps. I’ve been to George Square and enjoyed it’s Victorian feel and slightly shabby-around-the-edges appeal. It’d be bloody awful if it was modernised beyond recognition.

    It’s a tricky task balancing out modernisation with historical importance. It doesn’t look like they’re doing a particularly good job with this

  4. mupwangle

    >>I’ve been to George Square and enjoyed it’s Victorian feel and slightly shabby-around-the-edges appeal. It’d be bloody awful if it was modernised beyond recognition.

    They lost that when it was painted red (see gary’s pic above)

    Glasgow council are making something like £50 million in cuts over the next wee while. This will mean lost jobs and cutting back of services. One estimate was over 1000 jobs going, through redundancy or natural wastage. Spending £15 million on this, this year, is obscene.