• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Matheson unscathed by 'whitewash' review

THE row over the aborted revamp of Glasgow's George Square has flared up again after an official post mortem was branded a political whitewash.

The "lesson learned" review, carried out by Glasgow City Council auditors and called for by public sector watchdogs, is accused of failing to even mention the pivotal role played by the authority's leader in the design competition and the abandoning of the plan.

Architecture specialists and officials who worked on the competition to redesign the famous square claim they were not interviewed as part of the review, which is also criticised for avoiding the impact of the exercise on the council's public reputation.

However, senior council sources said the allegations were being driven by a "sad little band of obsessives".

The overhaul of George Square was a pledge in Glasgow Labour's 2012 local election manifesto, with early suggestions including the removal of the iconic statues before a design competition was then launched to find a blueprint for a revamp.

However, after a panel of experts selected a winning design, by acclaimed Scots architect John McAslan, the competition was scrapped by council leader Gordon Matheson.

The review details the positives and negatives of the process up until the completion of the design contest but not the reasons for the unexpected cancellation.

Kerr Robertson, the council's former lead architect, who made public allegations about the process, said: "The problem with the report is that it only deals with peripheral issues. It completely avoids the key concern, which was how to deal with political interference in legally binding procurement exercises.

"It was Gordon Matheson's decision to go down the road of a design contest. To carry out such a selective review and divorce him from the procurement process shows there are lessons yet to be learned."

Neil Baxter, chief executive of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, was involved as an advisor on the project.

He said: "What went wrong with George Square was Gordon Matheson. This 'Lesson Learned' report is clearly an attempt to distance him from a situation entirely of his making. It was a disaster of his invention.

"Given that the whole process was driven by politicians, it's spot-on to call this report a whitewash."

The SNP's Graeme Hendry said: "This report completely fails to examine the role of elected members and will leave the public wondering what was the point."

A council source said: "This has been investigated four times and at every turn their campaign to undermine Gordon has been thwarted."

A spokesman added: "Officers working on the project didn't identify any issues relating to elected members."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

237118