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The termination of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link could harm Britain's creative prospects

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We should all have an interest in Glasgow’s fortunes, the city which gave us Thompson, Mackintosh, Metztein and MacMillan and their epoch-defining architectural designs

It has always acted as a counterweight to London’s centre of power, in politics, art and design.

So news that the Scottish government has axed the Glasgow Airport rail link project (see previous story here) as part of its massive public sector cuts, should be met with shock - and a fair bit of anger by all of us.

Given that the rail link was an important part of Glasgow’s winning bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the SNP’s decision seems particularly mean – and dumb. A global spotlight will shine on Glasgow during that event, and the city’s – and Scotland’s – sustainable shortcomings will be clear for all to see.

This rail-link, though tiny in comparison, was Scotland’s Crossrail.

This rail-link, though tiny in comparison, was Scotland’s Crossrail. Without it Glasgow will struggle to compete with similar-sized cities around the world, each vying to be a regional hub and a creative capital of the emerging, global, techno-cultural economy.

What would have been a 15 minute – interruption-free - journey from the city centre will now remain a stop-start gamble on the forever-clogged motorway link.

Sometimes it can take 90 minutes for the nine-mile journey. Would you want to do business in a city like that? Would you want to base your practice in a city so dumbfoundedly inaccessible? No. you wouldn’t. You’d choose London instead.

Yet somehow, Glasgow keeps its spirit up. We at AJ regularly find, it is the Glaswegians who take the time to debate architecture online, always passionately, often with great insight, occasionally boorishly. This is a community that cares about architecture and urban design.

Glasgow is not just Scottish, or British, rather it is an international city, built, in fact, on transatlantic trade.

And as the recent brilliantly organised competition to design a new building for Glasgow School of Art has shown, there is renewed interest in Mackintosh’s work and therefore the city’s townscape (big-name architects were well represented among the submissions). Renowned American architect Steven Holl was named the winner and it is he who will build alongside his hero. This reinforces an outward-looking perpective. Glasgow is not just Scottish, or British, rather it is an international city, built, in fact, on transatlantic trade.

If as a nation, we want to present alternatives to London for the creative classes to do business – which surely we all do - the Glasgow Airport rail link must be built.


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