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George Square: Matheson ditched contest after jury snubbed Burns + Nice

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson scrapped the George Square competition because the jury rejected his favourite scheme, it has been claimed

According to the Sunday Herald well-placed council sources said Matheson had ‘thrown his toys out the pram’ when the scheme he favoured, Burns + Nice’s flowerbed arrangement (entry 6) which in plan resembles a swirling Saltire cross – was rejected in favour of John McAslan’s proposal (entry 2). The scheme by the architects behind the Leciester Square revamp was placed fourth by the jury.

The London-based Scot’s proposal was named as winner last Monday (21 January) prior to Matheson’s decision to scrap the design overhaul and opt instead for a ‘facelift’, stating: ‘The people of Glasgow have made it clear that they do not want a radical redesign - I am proud that I am listening to them.’

It has also emerged that Matheson over-ruled jury chairman David Mackay of Barcelona-based MBM Architects, making it clear he was defacto chairman, because of his status as council leader and the fact that he considered the redesign to be his brainchild.

Yet when the jury chose the McAslan scheme as the winner, which Matheson had openly criticised, Matheson, the Sunday Herald reports, “had his head in his hands”. Within moments however, the council leader informed his fellow judges that his administration would not support the redesign, and outlined plans to conduct a modest ‘facelift’ instead.

‘It was disappointing, frustrating and a lost opportunity,’ said a well-placed source involved in the design contest. A senior council insider added: ‘Councillor Matheson had an idea, included it in his manifesto, and then decided that it was his way or not at all. It’s a flagrant waste of public money and of everyone else who was involved in the process. People should have been advising against this disregard of due process.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • Appalling behaviour, if these reports are accurate. Whatever the truth, the story is sadly entirely feasible, not with respect to the specific individuals but with a view to the opportunities that exist for individuals to regard their representation roles as personal powers.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • In favouring Entry 6 the disreputable Mr Matheson showed scant regard for the historic qualities of George Square, let alone for the informed opinions and advice of the distinguished jury.
    Perhaps his greatest contempt is for the people of Glasgow.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • After each comment you add "unsuitable or offensive?" but it's difficult to make clear, when I reply "yes" to both, that it is Burns + Nice which is unsuitable and Matheson who is offensive.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Our representatives on local and other Councils are democraticaly elected.

    I fail to understand how a Leader of any Council can take unilateral action, which appears to be independant of other Councillors who could and should have overruled him.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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