Tories call for Glasgow council leader to apologise over car-free plans

Glasgow council leader Susan Aitken has been asked to apologise for announcing plans for a car-free zone in the city centre before consulting with businesses and residents.

Glasgow Tories have claimed she was trying to “boost her personal profile” by revealing the policy during a COP26 event, and said talks should have first been held with councillors and the community.

‘Policy aspiration’

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But the city’s SNP group said the council leader is “perfectly entitled” to state a “policy aspiration”.

An SNP spokesman added the Tories will get the opportunity to share their views on whether they support measures to “improve the long-term commercial viability and competitiveness of the city centre” and tackle climate change.

Cllr Aitken told a public event on November 11, during the United Nations climate conference, that, over the next five years, a core of Glasgow city centre would be given over to public transport and people moving actively.

She said the area would be from George Square, over to Hope Street and from Cathedral Street to the north to Argyle Street to the south, and there would be caveats for disabled access.

Condemn the leader

Bailie Kyle Thornton, a Conservative councillor, will bring a motion to Thursday’s full council meeting which calls on the council to “formally condemn” Cllr Aitken. He doesn’t support a car-free zone in the city centre, but said the decision will be for the whole council, not just the council leader.

Cllr Thornton said: “The announcement of a car free zone in the city centre was made with no consultation with anyone outside of the SNP minority administration.

“This is a policy that would have a substantial impact on city centre residents, businesses and visitors and any consideration of it would need significant time to allow the effects of it to be realised.

“My colleagues and I are firmly of the opinion that Cllr Aitken must apologise for trying to present her party’s policies as a ‘done deal’ ignoring the decision of the people of Glasgow in 2017 not to give any one party a majority on the council.”

His motion states that until a policy has the consent of the council, it is “the intention of the SNP group” and “has not been scrutinised by elected members”.

It also notes that Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow’s Chamber of Commerce, has expressed his disappointment that there was no prior consultation before the announcement.

The motion then calls for a “public written apology” to city centre residents, businesses and users” for the “complete absence” of any consultation.

Cllr Thornton added: “This incident is yet another reason why the people of Glasgow need to make sure the SNP stay in the minority.

“It’s clear that if they took full control of the council they would simply ignore due process and only consult within their own group about the city’s future rather than engaging with the full council and the people of Glasgow.”

SNP response

However, the SNP spokesman asked whether the Tories would be apologising for “hammering this city’s poorest with their hard-right austerity agenda and the sleaze and cronyism of their millionaire bosses”.

He added: “The democratically-elected leader of the council is perfectly entitled to state a policy aspiration of the city government, especially when addressing delegates at the most important conference every likely to be hosted by Glasgow. There is nothing remotely unusual about doing so.

“A paper outlining the scope of the proposal, the consultation with businesses and citizens, and impact assessments to be conducted before a recommended implementation over four years away will come before committee in early 2022.

“At that stage, the Tories can put forward their views on whether they believe measures to modernise Glasgow, bring it into line with other major European cities, and improve the long-term commercial viability and competitiveness of the city centre, while tackling climate change and health inequalities is something they support.”