In the fight against apartheid Glasgow did what was right

THE death of Nelson Mandela almost two weeks ago was a moment of enormous sadness - for his loved ones, for South Africa and for the entire world.

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I can think of no other single individual, in my lifetime, who has made such a positive impact on the world we live in or who has been more inspirational. He personified the triumph of good over evil and love over hate. His death leaves the world darker than it was before, but his life - and the sacrifices he made - has left it a much better place for this and future generations. It is hard to imagine a better legacy than that.

We should all seek to honour it by striving to live up to his ideals and to follow his example.

His essential lesson is that what unites us as human beings will always be so much more important than those factors - race, religion, social circumstances - that seem to make us different from each other. We should never lose sight of that, no matter where in the world we live.

Of course, Mandela's death came at the end of a week that had already been immensely sad for Glasgow. But, like the response to the Clutha tragedy, the death of this world statesman also served as a reminder of some of the qualities that make this imperfect but nevertheless wonderful city so special - resilience, compassion, solidarity and a deep commitment to justice.

THE first ever political demonstration I attended, at the tender age of 18, was the one in Glasgow to mark Mandela's 70th birthday and demand his release from prison.

And I consider the day in 1993 when I -along with many others - had the privilege of being in the Royal Concert Hall to hear him thank the people of Glasgow for their solidarity in the fight against apartheid, as one of the most memorable of my life.

The truth is that Glasgow - led by the City Council - can be justifiably proud of the part it played in the anti-apartheid struggle over many years. From being the first city to grant Nelson Mandela its freedom- while he was still behind bars -to the decision to rename the street that housed the South African consulate, Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow stood shoulder to shoulder with those battling apartheid.

It is worth remembering for the future that these kinds of decisions - which can seem small at the time and which were written off by many as mere gesture politics - can have a big impact on the course of history.

In the fight against apartheid, Glasgow not only did what was right - it took the lead in doing what was right.

So, tragic events, both local and global, have conspired in these last few weeks to remind us of Glasgow's essential strengths.

The city is far from perfect - we have many challenges to overcome. But, while we all wish we could change the circumstances that have brought this about, there is no doubt that Glasgow will enter 2014 - a big year for the city- having reminded the world of just how much we have to be proud of.

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