OUR city centre has always been the beating heart of Glasgow. It’s not only the source of much of our vibrancy and vitality as an ambitious city but also the focal point for our prosperity.

But few can deny that it faces significant issues stemming from a number of social and economic challenges, not least the fall-out from the 2008 global economic crash.

In the weeks ahead the City Government will unveil its taskforce dedicated to eradicating rough sleeping. We have in recent weeks put ourselves in pole position for pioneering new measures to reduce pollution and make the city centre a more attractive environment to visit, to shop and to work in. Talks are also progressing around overhauling our retail and leisure offer, with the planned expansion of Buchanan Galleries.

But right now our recent economic performance is volatile. In the early years of the current decade we benefitted from all that flowed from the 2014 Commonwealth Games. We are lagging behind our competitor cities in the rest of the UK, from Bristol, to Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh, in attracting new investments.

I have said in the past that our revitalisation cannot be simply about shiny office blocks and shops and needs to impact upon people. I think that’s a pretty obvious statement.

But inward investment is an essential component in any city’s economic strategy, and when balanced with local business growth, can significantly add to the city’s prosperity, bringing new jobs, improved infrastructure, innovation and increased opportunities with those firms within the supply chain.

Last week I attended and spoke at ExpoReal in Munich, one of the Europe’s key events for investors and developers. It’s crucial for a city with the international aspirations of Glasgow that we have a voice and a presence at these events. Despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, Western Europe remains a one of the key sources of investment for Glasgow.

So what do we do? Well, we have plenty to build upon and figures released last week show jobs growth in Glasgow is around four times the Scottish average and our productivity is better than most of our competitors.

We can build upon our superior transport system which lends itself to a large, attractive, skilled and educated employment pool across both city and region. We go beyond the branding and marketing which has kept our city and its people in the investors’ sights and generate real scale and momentum all our citizens can benefit from.We try to develop our financial and business services, our digital technology and creative industries, sectors where employment growth is more than double that for the city.

Crucially, we need a planning system fit for purpose for the challenges ahead. Much of our available office space is within existing buildings, where changes of use are often limited due to a raft of constraints. We need to be creative, not just in our funding sources, but also in how to promote alternative uses for our existing buildings. Multi-occupancy buildings can house not just major employers but also niche sectors and small growth companies.

The Tontine Building, within the emerging Innovation District congregating around the Merchant City and Strathclyde University, is one example of how this potential can be realised.

And finally the City Deal can provide us with significant and welcome market support. We need to properly promote the potential this offers outwith the Glasgow region, ensure its projects can properly lever investment and also push locations for investment on the periphery of the city centre, most notably Clyde Gateway.

In the weeks ahead I will unveil details of the City Government’s economic agenda. It’s in the interests of all our citizens that we get this right.

FEW issues have made me as proud of Glasgow as the role the city played in the anti-apartheid movement and in particular the campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela.

It was hugely symbolic that Glasgow was should be the first city in the world to award ‘Madiba’ the Freedom of the City in 1981, triggering a global campaign for his release signed by 2500 mayors in 56 different countries.

In 1986, our city further embarrassed the apartheid regime, renaming St George’s Place Nelson Mandela Place and forcing the South African consulate, which was based there, to use the name of their world famous political prisoner in their address.

It was a huge honour that, after he was released following 27 years in prison, Mandela should Glasgow to accept the freedom of the 10 cities across the UK which gave him that honour.

Now, to celebrate the life of such an inspirational figure, an example for the whole world to follow, as Sir Alex Ferguson has recently said, a campaign is underway for permanent and public memorial.

Launched last night, it is being spearheaded by Brian Filling, who did so much throughout the 80s to keep Mandela in the public eye and later organised his visit to Glasgow.

I cannot disagree with Brian. Nelson Mandela Place is “historically, politically and functionally” the ideal location to site a statue of Madiba.

And like Brian, I too hope the people of Glasgow, Scotland, the UK and the world will respond generously to this fundraising campaign to honour one of the world’s greatest leaders.

It goes without saying the campaign has the political backing of myself and the City Government.