GLASGOW Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive has highlighted his belief that rapid population growth in the city centre is achievable, on the back of a major increase in the employment base and demand for accommodation from under-35s.

Stuart Patrick declared: “There are a few milestones that are always worth repeating. We were told the population of Glasgow and the west of Scotland was in inevitable decline. Well, it isn’t. It is back into growth so start planning the infrastructure for future growth. We were told it was going to be very tough to diversify the Glasgow economy away from heavy engineering.”

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Boris Johnson acts the goat on Brexit as the grim cost keeps on rising

Asked who had talked about the “inevitable decline”, Mr Patrick replied: “It would have been before devolution, but I’d be inclined to say the message was coming more from the civil service than it was from the politicians. I’m not sure the colour of any particular administration was the issue. It was a decades-long ingrained assumption about the relative role Glasgow should expect to play in the future of Scotland.”

In terms of the make-up of the economy, Mr Patrick highlighted Glasgow’s success in building its presence in the software and broader technology sector, highlighting the number of specialists working for the likes of JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley in this field in the city.

He highlighted Glasgow’s place as “one of the world’s leading events and festival cities”, flagging its progress in the tourism sector.

Commenting on a recent draft strategy report by Glasgow City Council, citing an aim of doubling the city-centre population from about 20,000 to around 40,000 over the next 15 years, Mr Patrick said: “We have an opportunity to realise this largely because of employment growth of the core city.”

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Paris metro poster for slapstick British farce evokes Brexit metaphor

He highlighted a major expansion by Barclays in Glasgow, JP Morgan’s move to larger offices, consolidation of operations in the city centre by ScottishPower and Scotch whisky distiller Edrington, and expansion by accountancy firm KPMG.

Mr Patrick added: “That has been gradually establishing the demand rate for the sort of developments the [likes of] Moda Living and Get Living have been proposing but we have been uncertain of demand.”

He flagged in particular growing demand among under-35s for housing in the city centre.

Mr Patrick noted that increasing the city-centre population could also reduce the need for transport, against the backdrop of the sharpening focus on tackling climate change.

He said: “There is a coalition of interests between the city’s growth strategy and climate change.”

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: Government fails to grasp Brexit gravity as it panders to populism

Mr Patrick added: “We have moved Glasgow on from being a city with a declining population. We now have a growing population. There is every reason to think that could start growing faster.”

He observed that both the city-centre and broader Glasgow population had been growing.

Mr Patrick flagged growth of about 30% in Glasgow’s city-centre population between 1996 and 2012, according to data based on the last census.

He noted Glasgow had, at one stage, been one of the fastest-declining population areas in Europe.

Mr Patrick highlighted decentralisation in the 1950s and 1960s which had seen factories and jobs move to new towns such as Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Livingston.

He declared that Glasgow Chamber would this year be asking more “vigorously” for certain types of investment than it had in the past.

Mr Patrick added that this would include looking at “what public transport investments there have to be to support a growing city, a growing employment base”.

He called for investment to create the proposed metro network, and to extend Glasgow Central station with an expansion across the river to accommodate high-speed rail.

And he highlighted the need for measures to improve bus services between Glasgow city centre and areas such as the east end of the city, including Shettleston, and Easterhouse.

Mr Patrick said: “Bus services, particularly to the poorest parts of the city, are under real pressure or are gradually diminishing.”

Highlighting the need for a “city that is delivering for everyone”, against the backdrop of a strong Glasgow labour market, he added: “The opportunity to tackle skills shortages by connecting people from Shettleston [and] Easterhouse is as good as it has been since the eighties. You can’t do it if you can’t get there.”

Mr Patrick praised the regeneration work of the Clyde Gateway programme.

He meanwhile flagged a surge in recent years in the number of registered private-sector businesses in the Glasgow City local authority area to more than 20,000, after a long period of stagnation. He highlighted this in the context of the development of several major innovation districts in and around Glasgow.

Mr Patrick said: “I think that is why we are so excited about the innovation districts.”

The University of Strathclyde is a key player in the Glasgow City Innovation District. The University of Glasgow is a key partner in the Glasgow Riverside Innovation District. The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland is being developed at a site next to Glasgow Airport.

Mr Patrick cited Glasgow’s presence in space-sector technologies, and in the fields of quantum engineering and medical devices.

He highlighted research showing that, among Glasgow’s base of innovative businesses, the city has a disproportionately high number operating in the health and life sciences, and low-carbon sectors.

Mr Patrick also flagged the high proportion of people in Glasgow with a degree-level qualification, and the city’s success in retaining graduates.

He noted a recent report from commercial property consultancy CBRE showing Glasgow was, outside London, the second-top tech city in the UK, behind Manchester. Edinburgh was in third place.

Mr Patrick said he had been “getting sick to the back teeth” of people telling him that all of the action in the technology sector was in Edinburgh.

He declared that, while he was pleased to see lots of activity in Edinburgh, he believed there was a “tendency” for what was happening in Glasgow to be “overlooked”.

Mr Patrick cited the importance of planning for investment in economic development, including support of the innovation districts, as well as in transport and digital infrastructure, and in tackling contaminated land.

He highlighted his view that it was important to progress a “second round of investment” in the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre complex, which includes the SSE Hydro and now comes under the Scottish Event Campus banner.

Mr Patrick flagged Glasgow’s huge success in recent years in hosting events and festivals, in the sporting and cultural spheres, and in attracting tourists.

He said: “It is a world-leading case study of how a city puts itself out into the world markets.”

Mr Patrick highlighted the dampening impact of Brexit-related uncertainty on business investment.

He said: “Brexit is having an effect – we know that from the stats – the wall of cash that has been gathering up waiting for resolution.”

Mr Patrick declared business and economic growth and responses to climate change could go hand-in-hand, hammering home his view that innovative businesses could play a key role in coming up with solutions.

He said: “I think we have to have a sustainable economic proposition to sit alongside the sustainable climate-change response.”

Mr Patrick also cited the importance of the “COP26” United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow next year to the city.