18 Apr 2017
The local elections are upon us and we will have a new administration to work with after 4 May. It may be a variation of the current administration or something completely new. We await the voters’ decision.
Whatever the outcome may be, Glasgow Chamber will want to maintain a strong and positive relationship with the City Council. The Chamber’s governing body made a decision long ago that it was far more productive to invest the time and energy in understanding the aspirations set and the challenges faced by the city’s leadership than to lob critical grenades across George Square. We wanted to work constructively on establishing the common ground.
That common ground is certainly not difficult to find. We all want the city’s economy to grow. We all want to see economic success widely shared. We all want to see Glasgow attracting investment, bringing in visitors and expanding our business community.
Our members’ success is also the city’s success, delivering the job opportunities, the wealth and, one way or another, much of the finance for the public services upon which our fellow citizens rely. We know that politicians of many colours easily accept that message.
We offered to meet with all of the parties vying for voter support and we have held member sessions with almost every party. We have read the manifestos and we are absorbing the implications for our members.
Glasgow’s economy has come a long way from its lowest point some twenty years ago. We have a more diverse business base, with industries here like precision medicine, satellite applications, opto-electronics, renewable energy and financial technology that we would barely have mentioned back in the Nineties.
Some are small with great growth potential, others are already well-established and thriving. We have created a tourism industry almost from scratch, firstly through the successful development of the Scottish Events Campus and latterly through major events like the Commonwealth Games.
Our airport is growing fast, touching near to 10 million passengers a year and adding new direct flight connections almost every month. Our universities are improving their research rankings and packing their expanding campuses with new students, many from overseas.
But there are so many issues that we know we still have to tackle together. Our economy is recovering well after decades of decline, but we want to see more companies like Arnold Clark, Barrhead Travel and City Refrigeration, born in this city and bursting with ambition.
We want to see more Glaswegians sharing in success. Our educated talent base is strong but too many others are underqualified or suffering from ill health and constrained from sharing in the success of our city’s economy. Their constraints are also our constraints. Without their talents the city cannot grow as fast.
We will work with a new administration to maintain an ambitious strategy for growth but we will also pay heed to the basics. Our city streets need to be clean, our infrastructure, from roads and pavements to power and telecommunications, upgraded and well maintained.
We want a city centre that is genuinely world class, but we also want to see businesses springing up all across our city making products and designing services we can sell all across the world.
Glasgow has made good progress but we all know there is a way yet to go.