MY first column of 2018 so a belated Happy New Year to all readers and a reminder to us all how the festivities are already a distant blur. The business of the City Council really did start early after the turn of the year with one of the most significant decisions taken by this authority in quite some time.

After many years of litigation Glasgow City Council unanimously backed the SNP City Government position to end the current legal action on equal pay and instead focus on resolving this protracted and often bitter dispute through negotiation. It is a decision which will have many consequences for individuals and the local authority. Crucially, it is a major step forward in delivering fairness, fairness for the low-paid female workers who are the backbone to so much what we do and deliver the vital, cherished services so many citizens rely upon. When caught up in such a complex and long-drawn out issue like Equal Pay it is easy to get sucked into seeing something purely through the prism of legal arguments or indeed party politics. But the issue of gender equality is again a global issue, from Hollywood to the BBC, and equal pay is very much part of this. Glasgow City Council is part of this.

As I have already stated, the issue of equal pay has been ferociously complicated but a little reminder of how we arrived at the historic decision earlier this month may be useful. The authority’s pay and grading scheme had been under increasing pressure for some time. The Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2016 found the Council had failed to justify what are known as pay protection arrangements, a legacy of a previous attempt to resolve the issue over a decade ago. A year later the Court of Session agreed and in August of this year, it also found the Council had not established that its pay and grading scheme was a valid job evaluation scheme. Then last month the Court rejected Glasgow’s request for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The legal avenues the SNP City Government inherited were fast hitting brick walls and becoming costlier by the day. Other parts of our pay structure which hadn’t been litigated on were at risk of becoming so. And we also had to consider the cost to the council’s reputation and future ability to engage in constructive relations with our staff.

It was a source of some huge personal satisfaction that all the parties represented on the City Council agreed and voted unanimously to end litigation and opt for negotiation. We could spend another decade arguing about how we got here but what came through from our meeting is that that collective spirit will continue as we seek a solution with our staff and their representatives.

The solution might very well be difficult for the Council but that is no excuse for allowing inequality to go unchallenged.

Right now no-one, neither the Council nor those representing staff, can quantify what the cost of any potential settlements will be. This is the point of negotiation and it may be a year to 18 months before we know that. But justice comes with a price. In the meantime, our officers have been instructed to begin work now to explore all financial options available to us. Other local authorities in Scotland and across the UK have been in this position and found solutions, so we are not doing this work in a vacuum. But throughout our quest for a just and lasting solution and however we meet the final costs, our commitment to protecting frontline jobs and services will be absolute. Since inheriting this issue I have stated repeatedly, that whatever the bill, the cost of not negotiating a settlement, of not pursuing justice, and of undervaluing and discriminating against the women who deliver lifeline services to our citizens, is much greater. I remain steadfastly of that view.

Glasgow last week had the honour of hosting the Holocaust Memorial National Event. The focus of Glasgow’s commemorations this year was the events of 11 and 12 August 1942 in our Russian twin city of Rostov on Don, when the Nazis murdered 27,000 people, most of them the city’s Jewish population who were not away fighting in the Red Army - mainly women, children and elderly people.

Julia Atlas is a proud Glaswegian now, who runs Cafe Cossachok, Glasgow’s Russian Cultural Centre, but a Rostovian by birth and upbringing, who has direct relatives buried in the mass grave in Rostov. She told the Memorial Event though that she counts every one of those 27,000 as her family, connected to her - and to us all - by common humanity.

Hearing from Julia and meeting the Rostovian representatives who had travelled to attend the event was a humbling and deeply moving experience, which brought home not only the scale of the Nazi atrocity but also how close our connections remain to it today.

Soon though, there will be no one left to tell these stories who has direct memories of them. That’s why it’s so important that so many of the speakers and performers at the event were school pupils from across the city. These young people will be the ones who pick up the baton of remembrance and ensure that future generations keep learning the lessons of the Holocaust – perhaps the most important lessons they will ever learn.