Glasgow promotes new look, but deprivation festers

Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:34am EST
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By Hannah Vinter

GLASGOW (Reuters) - Showy entertainment venues, museums and new housing blocks have replaced many of the shipyards that once lined Glasgow's River Clyde.

Long gone are the days when the area was an industrial powerhouse producing around a fifth of the world's ships - now Scotland's largest city promotes itself instead as a financial and commercial hub, soon to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

But although billions of pounds of investment have given Glasgow a shining new waterfront and growth in sectors like financial services, the city is struggling with an unemployment rate that rose sharply during the recession from 7 percent in 2008 to 11.7 percent in 2012.

"Glasgow seems to be doing a pretty good job cosmetically, it all looks great, but if the people don't have the pound in their pocket in order to participate in the things that are being brought into the city, what good is it to the poor people of the city," said Paul McLaughlin, Vice Chair of the Glasgow-based poverty charity WestGAP.

High levels of unemployment and deprivation in such a key city could be a worry for the Scottish government as it seeks to prove its economic viability ahead of a September independence referendum.

Yet tangible benefits have come from regeneration. Some 23,500 jobs have been created by new investment since 2003, according to Clyde Waterfront, a government partnership that has been facilitating a wide range of projects.

In the event of independence, "as Scotland's largest city should be a driver of prosperity," said Paul Swinney, senior economist at the think-tank Centre for Cities.

"But as with its counterparts south of the border, it punches well below its weight in terms of its contribution to the economy," he said.   Continued...

Cranes are seen at BAE Systems Govan yard during a misty morning in Glasgow, Scotland January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth