Tuesday 10 February 2015

The Battle for Middle Glasgow

Reality is often stranger than fiction.

Occasionally that is true, but, if I'm honest, I've seen some pretty wacky fiction that it would be hard to beat in reality.

Once in a while though something comes along that really rocks the boat. It's something so unreal that you really find it hard to believe that it isn't something that has been plucked out of some far fetched political satire type novel. 

The question is, is the following fact.....or fiction.......

Let's set the scene...

It is Glasgow circa 2015. The council (lets call the main party the Red Party) is run very dominantly by the Red Party. They have been in power in Glasgow for just about as long as people can remember. They have been voted in mainly because there wasn't a viable alternative, because of their strong connections to the trade unions, and an image that they cared for the people.

They may once have been a caring party, but power and the certainty of power over many, many years has corrupted their minds. They no longer care for the people of Glasgow, instead they care about their own standing within the council and how they can gain more power and more prestige. The people now are a hindrance.....and at best a payer of taxes....though certainly not enough.

Then comes along David. (No not me, I'm using David and Goliath imagery here!). In fact quite a lot of Davids. These Davids are cyclists. They cycle not because the city is wonderful for cycling, far from it. They cycle despite the terrible hostile conditions. However, the Davids, are sick and tired of cycling in such a horrible environment and they are actually quite keen not to be an outside minority any more. They want everyone to feel safe to cycle.

A bit more scene setting now...

Glasgow is a sick city. Yes it has pockets of wealth and health, but many areas within Glasgow have very low life expectancies and suffer from deprivation. There are a lot of historical reasons for this, but rather than look to the past, many feel it is time for the city to move forward, to regenerate and to prosper. The Red Party (OK, let's call them Goliath) think the way forward are big projects. They set up a Games for the people to encourage them to watch sports and perhaps take part in them. They build new sports centres and venues and they build really big roads to help get people to these venues. The focus is on BIG. Goliath in fact. Oh and the focus is also cars.

The Davids have different ideas. They think that cities shouldn't just be for cars, or big roads, they think it should be designed for people. They understand that in Glasgow about 50% of the people don't have access to cars and thus don't benefit from the BIG Goliath projects. So they start campaigning. They start asking for change. They go to demonstrations in the east of the country which in time might help, but they know they need change now and they need the local Goliaths to change. So they decide to visit the Goliaths and ask them, quite nicely, to invest in cycling and to set aside some budget for active travel.

NOOOOOOO! Bellows Goliath. We can never invest in cycling!!! More cars, more big roads! More congestion!!! We don't care what they are doing the east! This is the west and we know best!!

The Davids retreated with their tails between their legs. What to do? How can the Davids ever possibly beat the Goliaths.

Then, out of the blue, they spot a weakness. The Goliaths felt the need to pander to the masses. They thought they'd give them an illusion of democracy. They set up a petition site.

A petition site!?!

Yes, for the first time ever, Glaswegians could (online) directly petition their councillors (sorry, Goliaths....I keep dropping out of character) to do things differently. Yes, ok the Goliaths might laugh at the petitions, but it was a tiny chink in the armour of an otherwise unpenetrable mass. It was time to act.

Without further ado, and seeing the huge success in the east with their 80% of roads at 20mph thingy, a weary band of Davids set out to use the petition site to ask for default 20mph. If the east could do it, why not the west? So they filled the online form out, and waited......

It was a long wait but eventually the day arrived and an e-mail was received and opened.


The Goliaths had realised the threat from the Davids and decided to take the only action left to them..... refuse the petition!! It was a cruel blow. The Goliaths used the weapon of deceit. 'We canny do it, only them ministers at Holyrood can do it!'.

Lies, damn lies! The Goliaths parry was blocked when Transport Scotland corrected them. Damn. The Goliaths could no longer use deceit. They no longer had any lies to hide behind, or so the Davids thought....

The Goliaths brought out the ultimate weapon.....the biggest lie of all and it was delivered by their ultimate warrior, Alistair Watson....

The ultimate warrior with the ultimate weapon.

"Improving the safety of all road users in Glasgow remains a top priority for the council."

Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth and dramatic disaster music....

It was a disaster. Glasgow City Council ...umm I mean the Goliaths.... fell back on the weapon they knew the best. Tell everyone that actually, we are doing a damn fine job and we won't hear any of your negative nonsense.

Our heroes were in despair. The battle was surely lost now. How could you fight against such denial? What weapon on this earth (yes this is really set on this planet) could defeat such intransigence? All hope was lost......

But wait.....wait.....one David, who's name was actually Bob, had an idea. Perhaps there was one more option, one last gasp option that could perhaps, at the very least, provide a stay of execution. It was dirty, it was messy, and it came with great risk, but, when all hope was lost...it was worth trying. He went to the press!!

Lo and behold the internet lit up with cries of 'the end of democracy is nigh' and 'Goliath canny do that can eh?'. Bob's last ditch attempt to save the day appeared to have some legs.....Perhaps.....just perhaps......

And then it happened. The Goliaths quietly and quickly retreated. There was no shouting, screaming or trumpets, they just melted away back to the froth pit from whence (I love using words like that in a blog) they came. Goliaths whilst not very bright understand that the ideal of democracy, even if the ideal is never acrtually realised in reality, is the most powerful weapon of all. They had to give the Davids and the people who weren't fortunate enough to be called David, back their little petition so that they didn't all fall from grace in the next election. They decided retreat was their best option.

The Davids had got their petition back and saved the day! The battle was won and Ewoks were seen dancing on Endor.....

Everyone from Glasgow started signing the petition....go on, it's here!!

But wait....just before the credits started rolling.....the music changed from joyous to dark.....and the colours faded into the background......

Whilst the battle had been won, the war (there is no war on Britain's roads before you ask) was not yet over. For the Goliaths had only retreated back to their ivory towers. They were just regrouping. They knew that whilst the petition will get the required numbers and that they would probably have to allow the petitioners to go before the petition committee.......they knew that they still had their most powerful weapon, and the still had Alistair Watson...I mean Goliath, to deliver it.....

"Improving the safety of all road users in Glasgow remains a top priority for the council.
While not every road in the city is suitable for a 20mph limit, we continue to explore innovative methods to reduce speed within our communities.
We have already introduced 20mph zones in residential streets right across the city and will continue to do so where appropriate."
The story continues.......


  1. "innovative methods to reduce speed". Code for, 'do nothing, business as usual'.

    1. Yup. Nothing to see here... Move along....

  2. HI David
    I owe you a beer or 6 for that!
    Cheers David (aka Bob)

    1. David.... I mean Bob, I might hold you to that. :-)

  3. having 1st hand experience of trying to get GCC to give a toss implementing 20mph on my street there is no denying they are car-centric dinosaurs. safer neighbourhoods is a joke to these people. The best they can muster is 'advisory' 20 mph streets. It seems to me that every new 20mph limit streets are areas where no reasonable person would drive faster than 20mph, so all smoke and mirrors - something to investigate?

    1. I'm sure you're right John. They always look for easy options. Not the options that are actually needed.