Kevin McKenna; Why is Glasgow handing its green future to those who created the climate crisis?

TO what extent has the Climate Emergency also become a global rescue service for governments who fail in their day job? Glasgow City Council, which will host November’s Cop26 Climate Summit seem fully alive to the posturing opportunities it will provide. Council leaders have revealed they’ll put the city’s climate response in the hands of global capitalists. We can all relax now.  

Thus, our climate recovery is being entrusted to the sector chiefly responsible for creating it. No part of the natural world has been free of the planet’s chief pollutant: global capitalism. In its unquenchable thirst for profit by any means capitalism seeks to exploit all resources available. All that’s required is the acquiescence of complacent governments eager to balance the books.

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Karl Marx described the relationship between humans and the environment as a ‘metabolism’. It’s a sacred and natural algorithm which maintains the delicate balance of our interactions with nature. For millions of years, until recently, this equilibrium was maintained. But the surrender of what we affectionately call liberal democracy to neo-liberalism has seen natural cycles and rhythms of the earth’s elements distorted by the predation of unregulated production.

That this proceeds by enslaving indigenous populations with subsistence wages; insecure employment and the absence of dignified living (houses; rest; recreation) barely registers with governments who become contaminated in the process.

Inevitably, the Cop26 summit will occur to the accompanying din of boutique protest. Now, I don’t know if anyone ever conducts a postcode analysis of those who blow their whistles and ring their bells at these chi-chi parades. I’ll guarantee you this, though: in Glasgow in November they won’t feature many of the residents of Possilpark, Easterhouse, Shettleston, or any of those other familiar signposts that figure near the top of Scotland’s multiple deprivation statistics.

This isn’t because the residents of these places don’t also care about the natural world. It’s because they are continually struggling with the daily effects of the Existence Emergency that stalks them and their children. Much of it is caused by the inhuman practices of the globalists that Glasgow City Council wants to fund their cute fantasy of making Glasgow a “global green flagship city”.

They’ve even contrived a slogan that infantilises what’s actually going on here. Thus, the project to gift-wrap Glasgow’s Green revolution to the scavengers of global capitalism in return for £30bn is to be called a – get this – “Greenprint for Investment”.

The Herald on Sunday broke this news yesterday in a story that included this priceless gem: “Private finance will be looking for a return.” In order to vitiate the uncharitable thoughts that immediately rise in your soul at this sentence the Council has produced another novel idiom: “patient capital”. Thus we’ll ask the financiers not to expect an early return on their outlay: 50 years, say rather than the normal 20.

In the entire history of Big Capital the concept of patience has never been known to feature prominently; not unless conditions are attached. Here, I’ll supply my own locution: “sweeteners”. I wonder what these will look like.

I wonder too what the city will demand of these financiers as their “Greenprint for Investment” proceeds. Will they attach financial penalties for late delivery? What assurances will be provided in the event of these investors encountering financial turbulence? Perhaps it’s just my suspicious mind but I expect Covid soon to be playing havoc with the world economy, and we all know who’s left to foot the bill when that happens.

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Will the local authority have any control over the running of the Glasgow Metro system or the Green M8 Cap (a new connected urban environment over the motorway junction at Charing Cross, “reprioritising streets for people”), in case you were wondering. These are two of the projects in line to be financed.

Will the Council carry out checks to ensure its new business partners don’t profit from unethical projects in Third World Countries? Will the work be carried out by local labour being paid the Living Wage? Will the jobs be long-term ones and protected by trade unions?

The announcement that Glasgow is to become the world’s greenest city came just a few days after details surrounding another of its deals with global capital emerged. Carole Forrest, the second most senior executive at Glasgow City Council, pocketed a £95k pay-off this year before landing a ‘consultancy’ with CGI, the Canadian consulting giant which now controls most of Scotland’s local government IT infrastructure.

Ms Forrest was in situ four years ago when CGI secured a £350m contract to supply Glasgow’s digital services. The deal is due for renewal in less than three years. There is nothing here to suggest anything remotely untoward. Nothing whatsoever. There were, though some aspects which seemed questionable.

This firm had what can charitably be described as a lively trading history of delivering major projects. It had featured in the IT catastrophe which left around 20,000 Scottish farmers without their farm subsidy payments. At the time Audit Scotland said the incomplete £178m system, designed to process common agricultural policy annual payments of £688m a year, was at risk of running out of money before it had met the European Commission deadline.

Its criticism of the project highlighted “a significant conflict of interest held by a contractor on the programme”. Audit Scotland said that 97 staff employed by CGI had actually been hired by a senior CGI director through his own personal recruitment company. The deal was the last act of the outgoing Labour administration before the 2017 Council elections, thus making close inspection of it difficult.

Nor was there any public tender process, so Scotland’s indigenous IT sector was immediately marginalised. This is because the deal was fastened on to an existing one the firm had with Edinburgh Council and which had already been subject to a procurement process. Such are the levers that get pulled when politicians are eager to avoid scrutiny of their dealings with global capitalism.

I’m sure Glasgow’s Council officials will be keen to ensure that all business connected with its “Greenprint for Investment” will proceed on a higher plane. Good luck with that one.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992