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Dear, Green Glasgow

We were asked to comment by the Scotsman newspaper on Glasgow’s proposals for a Sustainability plan.  Our response was that whilst everyone would appreciate ‘the dear green place’ being greener, no-one would appreciate it being dearer.  Why was that?

Scotman Article Jan 28th 2010

The origins of Glasgow as an established city derive ultimately from its medieval position as Scotland’s second largest bishopric. Glasgow increased in importance during the 10th and 11th centuries as the site of this bishopric, reorganised by King David I of Scotland and John, Bishop of Glasgow. There had been an earlier religious site established by Saint Mungo in the 6th century. The bishopric became one of the largest and wealthiest in the Kingdom of Scotland, bringing wealth and status to the town. Between 1175 and 1178 this position was strengthened even further when Bishop Jocelin obtained for the episcopal settlement the status of burgh from King William I of Scotland, allowing the settlement to expand with the benefits of trading monopolies and other legal guarantees. Sometime between 1189 and 1195 this status was supplemented by an annual fair, which survives to this day as the Glasgow Fair.

Glasgow, originally called Glas Cau since 6th century from the brythonic language of 4th century Brython, can take it’s translation directly from today’s spoken Welsh. Glas which means  Green  and Cau that means Close, Enclosure or Hollow. As Cau is an adjective in this instance the translation today means Green Hollow.

The brythonic language survives today, predominantly being spoken in Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Patagonia. Cumbric, which was once a brythonic dialect, and believed to be the source of the name Glas cau, is now extinct from use by Albions throughout Pritani.

With the later settlement of Gaelic in the region, the original name of Glasgow (Glas cau) was changed to Glaschu.

Mackay (2000) has a more romantic version of this translation, believing it should be “interpreted” as “dear, green place”.

But whichever translation one chooses, there can be no doubt that Glasgow has always been associated with being Green.

This image of Glasgow’s roots, has come under scrutiny from  the University of Strathclyde. Mr Richard Bellingham, a Senior Research Fellow at the University and Manager for Sustainable Glasgow has published findings showing that throughout the whole of Scotland, Glasgow with it’s 8% energy consumption, no longer lives up to it’s historic impression.

With Glasgows current needs in terms of earthly consumption, Mr Bellingham has offered a means of reformation of what he terms, radical ideas to ensure a sustainable Glasgow.

Mr Bellingham proposes that Glasgow should introduce and implement the following:-

The tram network. A tramway existed In Glasgow but was demolished. The new network will accommodate mixed passenger and freight use, in pedestrian areas – such as between Queen Street and Central stations at a cost of £90 million.  OK so we think Edinburgh tram is a difficult build?  Imagine how this will wreck Glasgow!  Not an easy solution.  Is this the case for Edinburgh has one, so we (Glasgow) must have one?

Congestion charges: Originally a military method on the road into the city to determine “friend or foe”, for those entering the city. The road was then given a gate and called a “Turnpike”. The “turnpike” was later adopted by government of the time to impose a “Toll” on those entering the city. This scheme has been used in London and found to not only reduce traffic but has benefitted the life of London’s inhabitants according to a BBC report.   So why would we want to disadvantage the City of Glasgow by making it more expensive than anywhere else? The result would be discriminatory.  Businesses would move beyond the periphery to avoid the charge, and a vacuum would be created instead of the much needed inner city development.  Also Glasgow has the highest rate of deprivation of any Scottish City.  So why would you want to encumber your poor further than they already are.

That’s why Edinburgh rejected these proposals 3:1 in the highest turnout seen in any election in living memory.

Of course there are health benefits.  Apart from increasing poverty!

BBC News – Congestion charge boosts health

The plan also suggests charges for the entry of commercial vehicles to the City.  Every product we need and use, and many services too have been delivered to us by road.  Accelerate the cost of delivery and you make products and services more expensive.  And your city more uncompetitive. Who’d vote for that?  With one of the highest deprivation rates in the UK the poor of Glasgow especially don’t need this.

Lower energy tariffs. This appears to be a two edged sword, as people are to be expected to embrace sustainable, renewable, green energy sources but will be penalised for its use. Therefore the use of electric vehicles and a family household will expect to pay a higher rate for their electricity usage than a single person with no vehicle. What an electricity bill does currently, is provides a non discriminatory method of paying for what is used. There is no mention of Dynamic tariffs for low energy usage or off peak usage.  Sigh – get real!

Electric vehicles. There are a wide array of benefits offered for using electric vehicles. Battery powered vehicles are still some way behind hybrids in terms of practicality and range. The Toyota Prius has a range of 10 – 20 miles on full battery power. However if the vehicle is used in Hybrid mode, or another vehicle such as the Honda FCX Clarity, that also uses a Hydrogen cell to create energy for the battery, the range and practical aspects are improved. And with only H2O emitted this also means zero emissions.

Also with Scotland being a pioneer in hydrogen technology, Hybrid useage also ensures a sustainable Scotland, in terms of employment.

Scotland’s own Ross Gazey (as seen on BBC Coast) may offer some insight into this aspect as the PURE developer of modern hydrogen powered vehicles which are capable of travelling around the Shetlands at 45mph and are the size of a small city vehicle today.

Great ideas but a ways to go yet guys!

Hydrogen Association

Telegraph – Shetlands’ Hydrogen Pioneers

Benefit & Barrier of Development of Renewable / Hydogen Systems

But with electric hook ups being provided for the electric vehicles in car parks, will the reduced congestion charge and lower parking fees offset the cost of recharging the vehicle in the city? The question of cost for vehicle recharging has not been clarified.

Wind Turbines and Water Power.  The opposition to the wind turbines in terms of public acceptance as a method of producing renewable energy, is not rooted in the public’s denial that the energy production is green. The opposition simply stems from the landscape intrusion in which this technology is currently being implemented.

Currently it requires a massive wind farm to produce enough electricity for this method to be viable. The man made Tin Forests that are erected as a result, generate opposition to this method of green renewable energy production.

BBC Scotland reported last week that the rejection by Berwick upon Tweed for three proposed Tin Forests has been upheld following an enquiry after plans were first rejected. To quote the Tin Foresters “We’ll have to go away and learn from our mistakes“.

The simple reason was that it was ugly, and a blot on the horizon. No amount of education will force acceptance to something that can only be perceived to impact on the aesthetic of the environment and surrounding areas.

The Glasgow report does suggest that “brownfield” sites will be used for the development of windfarms and that there will are 10 sites chosen around the city. 2 Robroyston South, 1 Queenslie, 1 Springhill, 2 Easterhouse, 1 Cuninger Loop, 1 Clydesbridge,1 Dolmarnock, 1 Polmadie.

No water power sites have been listed to date.  The idea that we might derive electricity from canals is bizarre and no explanation for how this might be achieved is given.  Tidal power in the Clyde is a possibility, but here the shallow waters are an obstacle.

A minimum energy efficiency in homes: This would also cover the phasing out of coal and oil for heating. Loans will be provided and repaid through council tax to enable improved energy systems for homes.  Such as making use of the proposed Biogas creation through recycling city sewerage.

Coal remains a massive resource and our withdrawal under the Thatcher regime is in hindsight missing the potential for energy supply to ensure energy security across many years.  The trick is to control emissions and we have the technology to do this available and in development.

Changes to current law designed to protect privacy: Privacy laws prevent sensitive information about us being published. The proposed scheme offers to change the law, in order to publish an individual’s energy use, as it is not currently legal to do so. On the surface this could be interpreted as a finger pointing exercise designed to shame an individual into compliance.

This is a rocky road to go. Once you open that door where do you stop. Diet, habit, sexual preferences? What else do you want publicised about you and your neighbours.  I’d say – nothing!

Urban development of vacant ground.

To provide woodland areas throughout the city, increased cycle paths and to work with local communities, business and schools to champion the improvements, may be a worthy ambition.

Green lungs for a city are hugely beneficial.  There may be resistance to committing unused land in this way, but why not.  You can always cut the trees down again if the land is needed for other purposes.  


Whilst the ideas are radical in terms of applying them to one city, there is nothing radical about them individually.  The ‘plan’ also lacks coherence as it has no explanation of the practicalities of delivery – engineering, financial or legal.

The one vital strand of Sustainable Glasgow that has not been covered is that of the people of Glasgow, and how their will is determined. Also, who will ultimately pay for the development, and how?

The cost is reported to be £1.5bn from private sector funding, Scottish Power being one such investor. However one can see that the cost will be met through penalties being imposed on those who can’t afford to modernise in both terms of finance and reputation.

With this being hailed as a blueprint for all Scottish towns. One might call this venture a guinea pig, some may wish to call it a prototype, but one would hope that this is a platform for learning from our mistakes.


We don’t live in a virtual world, we live in a real one.  If you want someone to tell your story well, employ a professional!

One thought on “Dear, Green Glasgow”

  1. Glasgow doesnt have to dig up its streets to get light rail into city centre,it can use some disused lines and tunnels not to mention cathcart circle being turned over to light rail which could link up to the city subway.also the low level staions of aueen st etc,so no need to move utilities as the mess now in edinburgh,

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