Martin Hannan: Olympic parade should go west

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As someone who was born in Glasgow and raised on the west coast but who has lived here more than 
 half his life, I have been chortling about the latest spat between the two cities over the parade to welcome home Scotland’s Olympic stars.

Now let me get this out straight away – of course the parade should be held in Glasgow. The city needs all the help it can get to boost the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and in any case we are going to have a ceremony to honour Sir Chris Hoy and present him with the Freedom of the City, at which time we can also salute the other Olympians.

We should be magnanimous and congratulate Glasgow on being chosen for the parade then work behind the scenes to see how we can capitalise on this as a city because that’s what the establishments of both cities always do.

Stuff all that Treaty of Harthill nonsense. Sure, both cities work together when it is to their mutual benefit, but behind the scenes it’s always been Them and Us – and always will be.

Unlike other dewy-eyed commentators, I have seen over the years that there is a lot of genuine competition between ourselves and Glasgow. It’s healthy competition, mostly, but also deadly serious – inward investment in property and industry and activities such as conferences have to be competed for in the global market, and Edinburgh and Glasgow are up against each other to get the best deals possible.

Edinburgh does have some in-built advantages with our wonderful history. The Castle, Royal Mile and the many museums and monuments make us irresistible to tourists and conference organisers, for example.

The Conference Centre, our hotels, universities and many other establishments depend on incoming trade and, this year, I have not heard many complaints about falling visitor figures.

It would be entirely typical of smug Edinburgh arrogance to dismiss 
Glasgow’s achievements, and no sane person in this city does so.

From being a tiny town of no importance except as a religious settlement, with a cathedral but no castle of note, Glasgow used the River Clyde to build itself. The trade to the US brought Glasgow prosperity, mainly due to the tobacco trade. Manchester got cotton, Bristol got slaves, Glasgow got the ciggies and did rather well out of the original weed.

It is a myth to say that the Industrial Revolution only grew Glasgow, just as it is a myth to say that only Edinburgh hosted the Scottish Enlightenment. Adam Smith, after all, was a professor at Glasgow University.

Glasgow far outstripped Edinburgh in terms of size in the 19th century thanks to shipbuilding and heavy industries. It became truly the Second City of the Empire and, at one time, one-third of all the ships in the world were Clyde-built, but there is no doubt which city has prospered most in recent years.

The Edinburgh Festival’s growth has mirrored other developments in the Capital and we are now the leading city outside London for financial services, while the return of the Scottish Parliament has made us 
Scotland’s political epicentre for ever.

Both cities have done spectacularly well in such fields as education-based research and light industries spun out of the universities.

Yet no objective comparison could ignore the collapse of heavy industry in and around Glasgow which has led to depopulation at a steady rate. Slums have been cleared and the population dispersed so that the city of Glasgow now has considerably less than 600,000 inhabitants, while Edinburgh is heading to the 500,000 mark.

You can only admire Glasgow, however, for its reinvention through culture and a “can do” attitude exemplified by the brilliant Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign that knocks our lame Inspiring Capital into a cocked hat.

The Garden Festival of 1988 and the year as City of Culture in 1990 put Glasgow on the road to recovery, and the Burrell Collection, the SECC buildings and new media complex are all symbols of the Glaswegian revival.

Out west, they are jealous of one thing – Glasgow knows it will never be the festival city, though I thoroughly expect the Commonwealth Games in 2014 to put our Festival in the shade.

Has no-one noticed that there will be a slight overlap in dates in two years’ time? What an opportunity for the Fringe in particular to capitalise on all those extra people in Glasgow.

It is a point that won’t be lost on the head of marketing for the Games – Martin Reynolds was, after all, previously the head of marketing for Edinburgh’s festivals.

And there’s the rub. Martin’s move west, like mine east, shows that our two cities will always be interdependent because too many people have shared heritage and ancestry in both.

We are stuck with each other, albeit at either end of the M8, and we should recognise that both cities have their own attractions and own qualities which make them distinct.

Politics, humour, the arts, even football – all the aspects of culture and sub-culture are different in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I say vive la difference and “gerintaerrum”.

Personally, I love them both, but Edinburgh is the place I prefer, for which I make no apology.