Police to probe Glasgow leader’s role in George Square fiasco
Scotland’s Major Crimes Unit is to investigate Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson over alleged misconduct during the £100,000 contest to redesign George Square
A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: ‘We are in receipt of a complaint and the matter will be looked into.’
The latest development comes after the RIAS complained to Scotland’s Public Standards Commissioner over Matheson’s handling of the controversial George Square competition
RIAS’s complaint that Matheson breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct included claims the Labour leader tried to sway the contest so his favourite scheme won and tampered with a legally binding procurement procedure.
An RIAS report leaked last month accused Matheson of derailing the international contest having, allegedly, already decided he wanted Burns + Nice to redesign the square.
The practice, which recently overhauled London’s Leicester Square, was voted the public’s favourite in an online poll but was beaten by John McAslan + Partners in the high-profile contest.
Glasgow’s SNP Group has submitted a motion to council’s next full meeting on 16 May calling for Audit Scotland to investigate whether councillors unduly influenced the procurement process concerning George Square.
SNP councillor Graeme Hendry said: ‘Matheson’s behaviour during the judging process seems to have been highly inappropriate and the council need to ensure procedures are in place to prevent this happening in the future whilst also asking Audit Scotland to fully review the resources wasted.’
Gordon Matheson responds over George Square claims
THERE has been a lot written in recent weeks about the George Square redevelopment, following the decision of the council not to proceed with a radical redesign earlier this year.
In January, the council established a five man panel to consider the designs of six architectural practices, which took a variety of different approaches.
At the same time, the designs were put on display in the Lighthouse and online on the council’s website and attracted a huge range of comment from across the city and beyond.
However, there were always two separate stages to the process.
Firstly, the panel would choose its winner. Following this, the council would decide whether or not to award the contract for the winning design to be implemented.
The council chose not to proceed due to the level of public opposition to the concept of a radical redesign of the square.
Throughout the judging, it had become increasingly clear to me that there was no consensus within the city in favour of a radical redesign.
For example, 4000 people submitted a petition asking us to return it to a Victorian garden, yet 78,000 people applied for tickets for the Christmas Lights switch-on last year, which requires the square to be able to host big crowds.
In addition, more than 1000 people contacted me directly with a huge variety of opinions. Being Glasgow, everybody had an opinion.
Rather than drive ahead without listening to the people and implement the scheme, we decided to think again and implement the changes which had widespread support - to retain the statues, keep the grass but remove the red Tarmac.
We have now brought forward proposals to do exactly this, and work will take place over the summer.
By the end of the competition, the council would not have implemented any radical redesign - no matter which design option the jury recommended.
This was not about one design being my choice or more popular than any other.
It was simply the case that the people of Glasgow had told us they did not want George Square to be radically redesigned. They just wanted it to be better.
A complaint has been made, but I am more than happy for this to be fully investigated and am extremely confident that the process was completely robust.
Indeed, even the complaint recognises that this was a well-run competition and that it was entirely lawful for the council to choose not to award the contract.
The simple truth is that the lack of public support for a radical redesign stopped the process.
I still believe it was better to listen to Glaswegians rather than plough on simply to save face.
When all’s said and done, the square belongs to the people of Glasgow.
- Matheson’s comment first featured in the The Evening Times on 30 April
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