Pulling down Red Road flats sends out wrong message

This week, the plan to choreograph the demolition of the Red Road flats in Glasgow, took a new twist.

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It had been planned, that the demolition of these high rise flats, would be sequenced into the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. The audience at the opening ceremony which is scheduled to be held at Celtic Park, would have watched on giant screens, as the demolition took place.

Originally there were eight tower blocks built at the Red Road site in the early 1960s. Since then, two of the original blocks have been demolished, leaving six still in place. It is intended to demolish five of the six remaining blocks. The remaining sixth block will be demolished at a later stage and still houses asylum seekers.

At their peak, the Red Road flats accommodated some 4000 people. The flats, were among many hundreds constructed throughout the Greater Glasgow area during the 60s and 70s. The planning concept of the vertical village was, in the eyes of many, something of a disaster. The human living environment which they created was an experiment, which in truth, failed rather miserably.

As a young fire officer working in Glasgow at the time and based at Springburn fire station, I would have had the experience of responding to many incidents in the Red Road flats. These incidents would have included serious fires, suicides and many deaths. In my experience, the Red Road flats had many good residents and many fine families. However, they were also a melting pot for the difficulties that Glasgow experienced for many decades with alcohol, drugs, violence and deprivation. Eventually, many families moved away, while many others harboured the ambition to do so.

A petition has now been submitted with the signatures of some 12,000 people objecting to the demolition of the flats as part of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. There will be many people who agree that this symbolic act of regeneration will sit well within the context of the opening ceremony. There will also however, be many, who see it as an ill-conceived and somewhat distorted representation of Glasgow and all that is good about this great city.

I have to confess to being somewhat uneasy with the concept of the demolition of these flats being perceived as entertainment during an opening ceremony. I am also uncomfortable with the idea that some 900 surrounding homes would be evacuated as part of the safety plan for the demolition. Where will these families watch the opening ceremony? I think that the demolition of the blocks shown live around the world, would act as something of an insult to those asylum seekers and new communities coming to Glasgow, who will require to be evacuated and then to re-occupy the sixth block. What's the message? We have moved on, but it's still good enough for you.

Staging the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is a wonderful opportunity.

An opportunity to chart the progress we have made over the last 50 years. A chance to showcase all that is good about Glasgow and how it might be further developed in the next half century to come.

I can just envisage as the huge, 50-year-old tower blocks are demolished, a massive dust cloud, carried on a south easterly breeze, which blows across the M8 motorway, covering the opening ceremony at Celtic Park, just a few miles away, a dust cloud that takes forever to disperse.

Glasgow, a city so rich in culture, so beautiful in its diversity, that the destruction of its past, obscures the vision of its future.

THIS week, archaeologists have revealed that the first human inhabitants in Scotland, probably settled in South Lanarkshire some 14,000 years ago.

After four years of archaeological excavation, they have revealed some 5000 flint objects, including cutting tools and arrow heads. The flint tools, are remarkably similar to finds in northern Germany and southern Denmark. The findings further reinforce historical assertions of a potential land bridge to the rest of Europe, across the area now occupied by the North Sea.

Just as the Shetland Islands have a long and historic association with Scandinavia, so too it seems, does the rest of the country with both Scandinavia and mainland Europe. It is always fascinating to consider exactly where we came from, and who we are? It also causes us to reflect upon the forthcoming independence referendum, where we are ostensibly being asked to consider whether we feel more Scottish or British. Perhaps the question should be more Danish than German?


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