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Thousands oppose Red Road demolition at Games opening

MORE than 2000 people have said a plan to demolish Glasgow's Red Road towers as part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games should be abandoned amid a growing public backlash.

Five of the remaining six tower blocks, which have been part of the city's skyline for 50 years, will be blown up, with pictures beamed live to giant screens in Celtic Park as the Games officially get under way on July 23.

Last night, an online petition calling on the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to block the demolition during the opening ceremony was set to hit its target of 2500 signatures less than 48 hours after it was set up.

While organisers said the ­demolition, the brainchild of ­creative teams within the ­organising committee, will make an "unforgettable statement" about Glasgow's history and future, destroying buildings that were once home to thousands to provide a spectacle has been described as crass and offensive by critics.

Signatories to the petition have described the idea as vulgar, callous, arrogant and ghastly. Nicola Page, who spent her childhood in Red Road, wrote: "The world is now invited to laugh at and applaud the final death of the home that so many will mourn."

The petition states that the demolition should instead be carried out "with dignity" and that the current plan would send out a message to asylum seekers in the one remaining tower that "they are not human enough to deserve decent housing".

It also states that safety ­problems had been reported with carrying out controlled explosions at high-rise tower blocks in the past.

The concern was echoed by a source with experience of carrying out large demolitions, who told The Herald the process "was not a spectator sport" and that the public should be actively discouraged from congregating nearby.

He also cast doubt over the capacity to designate an exact time for any explosion, claiming they were almost always delayed, required major security operations and were often postponed at the slightest hitch or concern.

He said: "Problems in this context are more than just theoretical and a delay is often the least of your concerns. Members of the public have died in demolitions in Glasgow. That underpins everything. You're taking major security operations, paranoia about breaches, dust clouds choking those within hundreds of metres." The plan is the first real test of the goodwill the Games have enjoyed to date.

A senior figure in one of the Games partners said the flats were not the centrepiece or an integral part of the opening ceremony, adding it could proceed unaffected at Celtic Park if there were issues at Red Road.

The source said a U-turn was currently not an issue, adding it was unlikely any further details of the ceremony would be released to allay public concerns.

The Herald has also been told of political and officer unease at the plans within the council, while Glasgow Housing Association, which owns the blocks and is paying for the demolition, has claimed disruption can be curtailed with one blow down rather than five.

A Glasgow 2014 spokeswoman said the project would make the most of an already planned demolition and would provide an opportunity to showcase Glasgow's regeneration and "housing revolution" to the world.

"The demolition is planned to happen live during a key moment of the ceremony, serving as an unforgettable statement of how Glasgow is confidently embracing the future and changing for the better," she added.

A Scottish Government ­spokesman said: "Glasgow 2014 are responsible for the content of the opening and closing ceremonies. Through the strategic group meetings, ministers have been informed of plans and proposals for ceremonies. Ministers were informed of plans to include the Red Road element at this month's meeting."

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