Martin Hannan: By George, it’s a ludicrous idea

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If there is one major feature which Edinburgh lacks, then it is the sort of civic square which adorns many European cities. You could argue that the area around St Giles’ Cathedral or the Esplanade fulfils that need, but they are not really of the same class as, say Merrion Square in Dublin, the Piazza del Campo in Siena, or Dam Square in Amsterdam, to name but three with which I’m familiar.

We also have nothing to compare with George Square in Glasgow. That is because no other city in Scotland has anything like the magnificent 
centrepiece of Glasgow.

As a child I used to go with my family to see the Christmas lights in George Square, and I have many happy memories of those special trips. In later life, when working in Glasgow, George Square was where I and so many other workers gathered at lunchtimes.

In those years it really was a dear green place in the heart of the dear green place. There were grassy areas and plenty of benches where you could sit and pass the time of day, wondering what the elected leaders of the city were up to in their ornate Chambers across the road.

Usually they were up to no good, and yet again the civic apparatchiks of Glasgow are about to engage in something which, in my opinion, is quite diabolical.

The city council is going to borrow £15 million to rip up the red tarmacadam and the ornate sculptures of George Square so that some no doubt glitzy firm of architects can come in and make a dog’s dinner of the place.

The scheme is being championed by the New Labour leaders of the council, and is being rushed through with indecent haste, the excuse being that they want to have the changes made to the square in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Now, you may ask why an Edinburgh columnist is getting his pantaloons in a fankle over something that is happening in Glasgow. The answer is that the supine press in that city, who have mostly been in bed – though not literally, I presume – with the city’s Labour leaders for many years, are not reflecting the groundswell of opinion against the modernisation scheme for George Square.

So if it takes an Edinburgh columnist to speak out against this utter nonsense, then so be it. And at least I can claim to have some constituency because I was born in Glasgow, and as a proud Scot I very much care about what happens to one of the very best features of any city in the land.

Everyone in Edinburgh should join me in protesting about this harebrained scheme because this is a 
Scotland-wide issue. When I tell you that the transformation process has been made the subject of an architectural competition, I hope you will join me in screaming out loud – no, no, no!

That sort of contest – fix, really – is what got us our Holyrood parliament, and yet again the winner is to be judged by a so-called expert panel. Does anyone doubt that the judges will inflict a horrendous hotch-potch upon Glasgow?

Now, of course, there are a couple of statues in George Square which could be lost to another part of the city without anyone really complaining. After all, do you know who Thomas Campbell and James Oswald were? Nope, neither did I.

But the principle must remain that George Square is the People’s Square, just as it was on that infamous day in 1919 when the British Government sent tanks and fully armed soldiers to quell the unrest in Glasgow, fearing that a Russian-style revolution was about to happen on Red Clydeside.

That’s why George Square is imprinted on the soul of Scotland. It is hallowed ground and sacrosanct. Only the people can decide its fate.

The contest should be this – who can best restore the garden areas of the square. Leave it to the architects and we’ll get something thoroughly modern and completely tasteless. They will disfigure George Square and the people of Glasgow will deserve it because they have failed to rise up en masse and stop the desecration of their city.

As was reported recently, the population of Edinburgh is set to soar while that of Glasgow, as opposed to the greater Glasgow area, is seemingly in decline.

I have no hesitation in saying that Edinburgh is already the first city of Scotland in all but numbers, and that far from being the second city of the Empire, Glasgow is simply the second city of this nation.

And if George Square is indeed trashed then Glasgow will forever have forfeited the right to proclaim itself as the leading city of Scotland.

In reality, it has not been so for many years in all the important facets, and the destruction of George Square proves why – the city has been led by nincompoops and idiots, some of them quite corrupt, for decades, and the current crop are even worse because they are New Labour to the core and have forgotten their socialist roots.

Apart from restoring the grass, there should be only one addition to George Square and that is a statue of the great Red Clydesiders such as James Maxton, John Wheatley, David Kirkwood and the legendary John Maclean, all pointing at the City Chambers as if to say “shame on you”.