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Lights, cameras (even if not much action): we're now live from the City Chambers

THE footage was a touch grainy, with no audio at the start and middle-aged men in suits milling around aimlessly.

It could easily have been CCTV footage on Crimewatch, seconds before a masked gang crashes in forcing innocents to the floor.

Instead, they took their positions and respectfully stood as a ceremonial mace carried by a chap in a beadle coat followed by a lady in chains entered the room.

For Scotland's largest and highest-profile local authority it was a little bit of history in the making - democracy in action, broadcast live online for the first time.

Fulfilling a manifesto promise, from yesterday Glasgow's "full council" meetings, where issues from the Gorbals to global warming are discussed and debated by all 79 elected members, can be watched live by those interested in the cut-and-thrust of city hall politics.

There had been some warnings. Avoid moving unduly while speaking and using expansive hand gestures, remember to switch off the microphone when you have finished speaking, bear in mind you may still be on camera when not speaking and avoid brightly coloured clothes.

With its reputation for factionalism, party political sectarianism, boorishness, watchdog complaints and the odd legal threat, no doubt some closed-doors warnings on behaviour were also dished out in advance.

Perhaps they did not disappoint their political masters, but those tuning in will have found proceedings a tad subdued.

First up to debate, unsurprisingly, was council leader Gordon Matheson. Once mocked for his manic performance at a budget meeting, yesterday he certainly started with some calm and fluid pleading as Glasgow's ill-treatment at the hands of the Scottish Government was dusted down again.

Others had clearly been practising their performance. Matheson's party colleague and close ally Matt Kerr made a quip about "eight relief organists" (cue tumbleweed), fluffed some lines and flapped with some paperwork. However, he more than redeemed himself some time later with an impassioned speech about the impact of welfare reform in the city.

Always aware of an audience, veteran Liz Cameron confessed to breaking a vow of silence at the meeting with some theatrics around recycling, while Alistair Watson, no stranger to a bout of baiting, made a few references to "you lot" on the SNP benches.

Fellow Labour councillor and ex-Scottish executive minister Frank McAveety, perhaps most familiar with being on camera, was polished and bloke-ish.

On the opposition front, Susan Aitken made her debut as SNP leader and will be content with her performance, while colleague Norman MacLeod put his bluster to good effect in support of a Labour motion on controversial gaming machines.

Even seasoned observers of Glasgow politics would have had difficulty naming the largely anonymous new intake dominating both benches.

And a new viewer could be forgiven for wondering what remit Glasgow had over most of the things it was discussing.

For the occasion the SNP's Phil Greene even wore a kilt.

He explained: "I've been doing an interview with the media from Northern Ireland today and they're keen to see how democracy works in Glasgow.

"I'm delighted to say that today has been of a high standard. There's been a differing of opinions but done in good humour, and we've come to our views and opinions in a well-mannered way. So, if you're watching, Belfast - there's our lesson there for you."

Don't read too much into it, Belfast. They are not always like that.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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