Interesting proposal, this week, from Glasgow councillor Dr Nina Baker, who wants famous city street names such as Argyle, Ingram and Cochrane changed in honour of female civil rights activitists and suffragettes.
Her argument, that some Glasgow streets are named after men – sugar and tobacco barons - who made their fortunes on the back of the slave trade, has ignited fierce debate.
I put it to the panel of experts I live with – my children, aka the new generation, the keepers of the future, the people who will have to sort out the unholy mess we are leaving them with – for their opinions.
The sensible teenager reckoned: “History is important and changing the names of famous streets will be too expensive for all the businesses and shops – maybe instead they could put up plaques explaining who the people were, and erect statues of good people at the same time in the name of balance?”
The nine-year-old was more clear-cut. “Bad people who did bad things shouldn’t get honoured,” he said, flatly. “It’s no big deal to change a street sign.”
So, is it a big deal to change a street name? Who gets the final say? Adolf Hitler-inspired street signs in Germany and beyond were changed pretty sharpish after the war, and we did it in Glasgow in 1986, when St George’s Place became Nelson Mandela Place in honour of the activist and South African president.
I grew up in East Kilbride, where the townplanners, faced with solving the problem of Glasgow overcrowding by creating a New Town almost out of thin air, had a field day when it came to bonkers street names. There are areas named after everything from trees and Canadian provinces to scientists and Scottish lochs, glens and inches.
(The weirdness of my home town street names didn’t strike me, having been surrounded by it throughout my childhood, until colleagues in my first job fell about laughing at the idea the bloke living at 9 Inch Keith might feel a bit inferior to his friend living at 12 Inch Keith, but that’s another story.)
Councillor Baker’s idea comes hot on the heels of Spain’s decision to rename some roads after women, following protests that around 90 per cent of streets named after men, many of whom are regarded historically as fascist leaders. According to The Huffington Post, many of the country’s streets could be renamed after Spanish women targeted during Franco’s regime, including revolutionaries such as Soledad Cazorla, the first public prosecutor to specialise in gender violence.
And in Léon, where official street names are decided by popular vote, American civil rights activist Rosa Parks, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and English novelist Jane Austen are all in the mix to be honoured.
Opening it up to popular vote wouldn’t be my first suggestion (who wants a Streety McStreetface after all?) but as new housing developments are built and old areas of cities regenerated, it really wouldn’t hurt to have a few more pioneering Scottish women’s names in there, would it?
Barbour Road? Elder Avenue? Wark Place? That’s definitely right up my street….