Campaigners are calling for an emergency funding plan for Scotland’s largest city as key services and venues hit hard during the pandemic struggle to recover.
Glasgow Against Closures is taking its fight to Holyrood on Thursday and will be holding a rally outside the Scottish Parliament. City union leaders will also be attending and it coincides with First Minister’s Questions.
The group believes that Glasgow should receive its fair share of funding for services and facilities and is fighting for venues which have not reopened following lockdown to be able to become thriving community facilities once again.
Their calls echo The Herald’s A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign, which wants a new funding model for Glasgow – one that it allows to move past the pandemic and secure its cultural assets for generations to come. We are seeking a funding model which allows the city to thrive at local, national and international level while putting the health and wellbeing of its citizens at the very centre of it.
We are calling for the city’s cultural assets and venues of national significance to be recognised and receive a fair share of national funding from either governments at Holyrood or Westminster.
Callum MacKay, one of the Glasgow Against Closures campaigners, said: “We believe there needs to be an emergency plan for Glasgow. We want the city get the funds it needs to recover and address its issues.
“We know that local authorities are stretched up and down the country and we are not saying that Glasgow is more deserving over the likes of Aberdeen. We just want Glasgow to get its fair share of the funding it deserves. We want to see Glasgow flourish rather flounder.”
Glasgow Against Closures was launched in response to seeing a list of community venues which were not able to reopen when lockdown restrictions were lifted.
The city’s culture and leisure facilities are run by charitable trust, Glasgow Life. However, the arms-length organisation lost £38m in income last year due to the pandemic and predicted income for 2021/22 is around £6.4m. While Glasgow City Council has reached an agreement for it to receive a guaranteed £100m a year for the next three or four years, Glasgow Life has only been able to open 90 of its 171 venues. Without further funds, it cannot open any further sites. Among the facilities which haven’t reopened their doors are five libraries – Maryhill, Whiteinch, Couper, GoMA and Barmulloch.
Mr MacKay added: “One of our asks is that Glasgow Life is brought back in house with Glasgow City Council. In other areas, services which were once run by local authorities have been brought back under council control, so it is not impossible.
“We are also concerned about the People Make Glasgow Communities scheme which allows for bids from organisations for community facilities. However, if Glasgow Life is struggling to run facilities how are small community groups supposed to run them?”
The biggest trade union branch in the city will be joining community campaigners with William McMahon, Unison branch officer, reiterating the call for additional Glasgow funding.
He said: “We are calling on the Scottish Government to provide additional funding for Glasgow. The current funding arrangements fail to recognise the metropolitan status of Glasgow and the cost of running what are national venues like the Kelvingrove Museum or the Emirates Sports Arena. Glasgow is already disadvantaged in terms of funding from the Scottish Government due to several long-standing factors including the high levels of poverty in the city.
“Local communities should not have to pay the price for covid through the closure of their community services. We also oppose Glasgow City Council’s opportunistic use of the national community empowerment legislation to force local communities to run services, often on a on a volunteering basis.”
The union was told it would cost an additional £17m this year to open all the venues currently closed and we previously reported that around 500 jobs were at risk at Glasgow Life.
Mr McMahon added: “The loss of 500 jobs would be a huge blow. These jobs currently provide the services many communities rely on. If the need still exists, why should the services and jobs go? It also means fewer decent jobs in the city for our young people in the long run.
“We are demanding that Glasgow’s MSPs and the Scottish Government step-up and defend Glasgow’s services”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We know how difficult it has been throughout the pandemic for organisations such as Glasgow Life which are at the forefront of improving the physical and mental wellbeing of the community. We recognise the huge importance of the role Glasgow Life performs and the vital part which culture and leisure venues play in our society.
“Glasgow City Council will this year receive a total funding package of almost £1.5 billion to support local services, which includes an extra £29.8 million for important day to day services, equivalent to an increase of 2.2 per cent compared to 2020-21.
“To date, the council has been allocated an additional £221.7 million to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, through the local government settlement – over and above their regular grant payments.
“It is the responsibility of individual councils to manage their own budgets and to allocate the financial resources available to them on the basis of local needs and priorities.”