Glasgow's winding river of fortunes

Allan Little took a trip along the River Clyde with Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council

The best way to see the city of Glasgow is from the River Clyde. From here, there are two Glasgows that stare back at you.

There is the bright promising shine of tomorrow's Glasgow: of conference venues and science parks, of leisure and tourism, the BBC's new Glasgow headquarters and the Hydro concert venue - already the third busiest music venue in the world, up there with Madison Square Gardens in New York City and the O2 in London.

But yesterday's Glasgow is there too - the shipyards, the docklands, the warehouses, the crashing industrial turmoil that once connected this city to the wealth of the world. The dereliction of this Glasgow is stark.

But the civic identity and pride of Glasgow, through its sudden and brutal decline as an industrial powerhouse in the 1970s and 80s, is remarkably resilient.

"You can't keep a great city down," Gordon Matheson, the leader of the city council told me, "It's a wonderful place to live.

"Glasgow has always made things, including our own future. So we reinvented ourselves, and now there are more people working in the tourism sector in Glasgow than have worked in the shipyards in my life time.

"There are more people working in financial services in Glasgow now than there were before the collapse of Lehman brothers.

"We now have more people working in finance than Edinburgh - that's a very special satisfaction to me as you can imagine!"

River Clyde in 1950 The River Clyde in 1950. Finnieston Crane, Queens Dock, now the SECC (upper left). Cargo ships moored at Meadowside Quay (lower left). Fairfield Shipyard and Wanlock Street tenements (right). Govan ferry (lower right)

The river has always been key to Glasgow's character and condition. In the 18th Century it was Glasgow's highway to the wide open seas and the trade wealth of the British Empire. In the 19th Century it was the home of Glasgow's industrial might - the Second City of the Empire.

"30,000 locomotives were hauled from Springburn, where they were made, through the city centre, pulled by Clydesdale horses," says Councillor Matheson, "and loaded onto ships bound for every corner of the world."

And now as Glasgow reinvents itself, the river is again at the heart of its 21st Century identity - and it fortunes.

But it is not all reinvention. In Govan, you see the enduring legacy of the de-industrialisation that was, in Matheson's words, "unnecessarily rapid". Just a short walk from much of the shining new regeneration projects, Govan lost most of its shipbuilding and has never found a new purpose.

GalGael is a voluntary woodworking project that tries to encourage, in the long-term unemployed, the habit and routine of work. For one in three Glasgow households has no-one in a job - the highest concentration of worklessness in Britain.

GalGael carpenter at work GalGael participants at the work benches

"It demoralises you," says Johnnie Millar, who's been unemployed for nearly a decade after working for the same firm for 36 years.

"You feel you're worthless because you're chapping on doors and the only words you're getting is no. Would you be able to live on £68 a week? No you can't. Well that's what I've got to live on. £68 a week."

But slowly, the wheel of industry is turning again. Glacier Energy Services which services North Sea oil and gas, moved to the old east end two years ago and has doubled in size since, increasing its workforce from 38 to more than 60.

It is hardly the return of the mass industrial employment that once made Glasgow what it was. But even so, a lucky few are re-acquiring industrial skills their grandparents' generation lost.

"Everybody knows there is a skills shortage," says George Leggate, Glacier's managing director of engineering, "and this is what we're trying to tackle."

"We're giving our younger people here in the area the opportunity to learn a skill, learn a trade, so absolutely. I can see Glasgow, even the east end, getting a resurgence of manufacturing capability."

Reminders of Glasgow's lost industrial greatness remain, In the shape of a few handsome red brick Victorian warehouses and former factories that stand out against what is otherwise a port-industrial wasteland.

Fairfield Shipyard offices, derelict for 10 years, have now been refurbished Fairfield Shipyard offices in Govan, derelict for 10 years, have now been refurbished

On the banks of the river, not much more than a mile from the city centre, there is a 20-acre site that has been derelict for more than 40 years. It's been toxic too, poisoned by waste from a chemical plant that has long since disappeared.

But a 20-year regeneration project has begun to try to attract 20,000 new jobs - and breathe industrious new life into the old east end.

"We've already attracted 2,500 new jobs," says Ian Manson, chief executive of the Clyde Gateway Regeneration Project.

"But in 10 to 15 years from now you'll see factories and offices, you'll see the amenities around that, and you'll see people living close by as well in very sustainable housing. In short you'll see a successful district close to the city centre on the banks of the river."

Glasgow's river remains its fortune - in decline and regeneration. The city's resilient civic pride has never dimmed - in keeping with the motto on its crest: Let Glasgow Flourish.

More on This Story

Glasgow 2014

More Scotland stories


Scotland Live

    09:49: BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Southern and central areas will be cloudy with further outbreaks of rain, which will be heavy at times especially across Strathclyde and Dumfries and Galloway where there is a continued risk of flooding.

    A brighter day further north, with showers in the north west and Northern Isles turning wintry on the hills, while much of the north east will stay dry with some sunshine.

    During the afternoon, Argyll and the central belt will become drier.

    A mild day in the south with temperatures up to 10C but colder in the north.

    09:35: River search

    A major search and rescue operation is continuing along the banks of the River Nith in Dumfries.

    River Nith

    It follows reports of a man having gone into the water close to the Nithsdale Rowing Club boathouse.

    The alarm was raised in the early hours.

    The operation has involved a Royal Navy helicopter, the Nith Inshore lifeboat team, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland.

    09:26: Rangers share issue plan

    Rangers hope to be given the go-ahead to launch a new share issue at the club's AGM today.

    Rangers chairman David Somers

    Chairman David Somers will read a statement in which he will say fund-raising efforts in 2014 fell short of the amount the club had hoped for.

    "We are requesting permission to enable us to issue shares to improve the long term financial stability of the club," Somers' statement reads.

    Rangers had asked existing shareholders for fresh investment in the past year.

    09:11: Flooding strands 35 in supermarket

    Firefighters said 35 people have been stranded in a supermarket by floodwater after a river burst its banks.

    queens drive kilmarnock

    Water rescue crews are in attendance at the Asda supermarket in Queen's Drive, Kilmarnock, where members of staff and customers are stranded by floodwater.

    The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said there were no injuries to report.

    Emergency services have been working through the night to tackle several incidents of serious flooding after heavy rain in Ayrshire.

    The Queen's Drive Retail Park was flooded after the River Irvine burst its banks.

    09:00: Meet RoboCyclist David Miller BBC Scotland transport correspondent

    On a bitterly cold winter's day, I am sitting on a bench in Edinburgh's Inverleith Park having a curious device designed to monitor my stress levels fitted to my head.

    David Miller

    I'm already wearing Google Glass and I'm beginning to feel like Scotland's uncool answer to RoboCop. In a hi-vis jacket.

    But there's a good reason for my ignominy.

    I'm about to take part in research designed to find ways of increasing confidence amongst reluctant cyclists.

    08:54: Treasure hunter Rachel Massie BBC Scotland reporter

    Metal detectorist Alistair McPherson has a nose for finding treasure.

    Alistair McPherson

    "I seem to have a third sense when it comes to fields", he said.

    "Several of my friends call me The Magnet."

    Together with a team of archaeologists, Mr McPherson discovered a hoard of Roman and Pictish silver in a farmer's field. It has been hailed as the most northern of its kind in Europe.

    Rangers AGM Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    #Rangers chairman: taken 1st steps to effective engagement w fan base. "I think that we'd all agree we still have work to do in this area"

    Morning Call

    BBC Radio Scotland tweets: On Morning Call from 0850 with @kayeadams.

    Morning Call graphic
    A720 queues

    Traffic Scotland tweets: #edintravel: #A720 W/B Baberton to Dreghorn - traffic very heavy due to possible RTC. More info to follow #planahead

    08:30: On the back pages

    Billy Davies is in the frame for the Rangers job, while one Celtic defender could be on his way out of Parkhead.

    Billy Davies

    Check out all the latest sports gossip.

    08:21: We will remember them Graham Fraser BBC Scotland

    Thirty-one Scottish international rugby players died in World War One, more than any other country. Discover their story.

    Scotland rugby team from 1914
    08:17: Motorway crash death

    Police confirm that a woman died in the crash on the A74 (M) this morning. The road remains closed.

    They are also looking for a man who was given a lift north from the scene of the crash to the motorway services at Johnstonebridge.

    He may have a head injury.

    Police said the man was about 30, of Asian appearance, about 6ft tall with dark hair and long sideburns.

    The man was last seen at the petrol pumps and then the main building at the services between 06:00 and 06:30 hours.

    08:14: Lockerbie guilt

    Over the weekend, Scotland's top prosecutor Frank Mulholland said he continued to believe Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was guilty of carrying out the Lockerbie bombing 26 years ago. He was responding to pressure from those who think the case against the Libyan was flawed.

    Lockerbie bombing

    Frank Duggan, the president of the Victims of Pan AM Flight 103, told Good Morning Scotland that the US victims of the atrocity were not as concerned by these "conspiracy mavens".

    He said: "One of the reasons that does not trouble us here in the United States is that that view is simply not credible."

    He added: "We know there are people there (in the UK) who are like a dog with a bone. No matter how much evidence is presented to show that this man was guilty they are not going to change their position and that is not going to affect us one way or the other."

    Rangers AGM Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    #Rangers chairman David Somers to spell out need for cost-cutting at AGM today. His speech has conspicuous lack of thanks to Ally McCoist

    08:00: Today's papers

    Many of today's newspaper front pages feature the story of Ally McCoist, who has left his job as Rangers manager and has been put on gardening leave for the next year.


    The Scottish Sun headlines the story "Ally put out to grass".

    The Daily Record leads with the story of a foodbank over Christmas, while the Scottish Daily Mail highlights the last minute dash of shoppers for the festive season.

    07:54: Doctor training

    BMA chairman Dr Peter Bennie told Good Morning Scotland that new proposals were expected soon on the training of junior doctors.

    He said: "We've yet to see exactly what will come out of that but the current proposals would lead to junior doctors training for a shorter period of time that they do just now and therefore to consultants having less experience and less breadth than they do just now.

    "That has an obvious knock-on effect for patient care."

    07:44: One dead in M74 crash

    One person has died in a two-vehicle crash on the M74 motorway in Dumfriesshire, police have said.

    The collision involved a car and a van on the northbound carriageway between junction 20 Eaglesfield and junction 19 Ecclefechan.

    The motorway was closed in the area of the accident at about 06:30 and traffic was being diverted on to the B7076.

    Police were appealing for witnesses.

    07:43: Rangers latest Chris McLaughlin BBC Sport

    Covering Rangers, you learn to expect the unexpected. I think most people though expected this.

    Ally McCoist

    McCoist handed in his resignation last Friday and was then told by the board that he can work his 12-month notice period but I understand he was called into a meeting at Ibrox last night and the chief executive and former managing director of Newcastle FC Derek Llambias basically told him things couldn't carry on and he was being put on gardening leave.

    It means he will be paid until his contract runs out and his assistant Kenny McDowall is now in charge until the end of the season.

    07:32: NHS targets

    BMA chairman Dr Peter Bennie told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland that "targets" for the NHS measured "whatever is in the target rather than necessarily the quality of patient care".

    He said: "For example, the target for maximum four-hour waits in A&E puts the pressure on to move patients out of A&E and into the main part of the hospital. However, that does not cover what happens thereafter.

    "For some of those patients they would have been better treated if they could have stayed a little longer in A&E, got all the necessary results and gone home again."

    07:20: More apprentices needed

    Scottish construction firms have called for increased funding to help recruit and train more apprentices.


    The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) said employers had highlighted critical skills shortages in a number of key trades and managerial positions.

    They were raised in the group's latest quarterly Construction Monitor, which also found industry confidence at its highest since the survey began in 2008.

    SBF said it was now time to review funding for recruitment and training.

    07:14: McCoist leaves Rangers

    Last night, it emerged Ally McCoist has left his position as Rangers manager and the Scottish Championship club said he is now "on gardening leave".

    Ally McCoist

    The 52-year-old handed in his resignation earlier this month and had started his 12-month notice period.

    McCoist remained in charge of the team for the defeat by Queen of the South and Saturday's win against Livingston.

    A club statement said assistant manager Kenny McDowall (pictured left) will take over as manager until the end of the season.

    07:08: 'Real change' needed in NHS

    The body that represents doctors has said real change is needed to tackle the challenges facing the NHS in Scotland.

    hospital ward

    Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said the health service must learn from past "mistakes and missed opportunities".

    He said there had been huge reliance on the goodwill of staff, but that this was not a sustainable solution.

    The Scottish government said it agreed that the way health and social care is delivered in Scotland must change.

    07:01: Rise and shine Graham Fraser BBC Scotland

    Good morning, and welcome to today's Scotland Live blog. We will bring you all the latest news, sport, weather and travel throughout the day.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.