Each day on the letters pages The Herald runs two photographs from our archives. It is a popular feature, not least because the pictures, many featuring Glasgow, are uniformly belters. One would expect nothing less from the city that gave the world Oscar Marzaroli.

Lately, however, I’ve found myself troubled by some of the shots, odd because the scenes featured are usually so joyful. Take a recent one, dated 1987. Photographed by John Young, it features a busker by the name of “The Incredible Hulk Wham Bam Boogie Man” doing his stuff on what looks like Argyle Street. Watching him are four young women who have chosen to express their appreciation of his efforts by laughing uproariously. It’s the Glasgow way.

The most amazing thing about the photo is what can be seen in the background: people. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of them, and almost as many buses. To use a non-technical term, the place is hoaching.

Walk along those same city centre streets today and the picture is woefully different. The place is close to empty, the people gone. Vanished. While it is hardly the opening scenes from the movie of I Am Legend, set in a post-apocalyptic New York City, it looks wrong. It feels wrong. It is wrong.

Our poor, dear, once beautiful city is in a bad way, and it is going to get worse if something is not done.

READ MORE: Cost of living crisis cited in restaurant's closure

That was the warning from Michael Bergson, owner of the Buck’s Bar chain. He spoke out after the closure at the weekend of Brian Maule at Le Chardon d’Or, on West Regent Street, after 22 years in business. The restaurant was in with the bricks of Glasgow, as much a part of the city scene as the traffic cone on Wellington’s head.

The announcement, made on social media, cited Covid, the cost of living crisis, working from home, plunging property values and “lack of support for the hospitality sector” among the reasons for shutting down. It was not the only restaurant suffering. Places that would usually have been full midweek have only a fraction of the custom they previously enjoyed. There was widespread shock at the news of Maule’s closure, and in Mr Bergson’s case this came with a side order of anger, directed at Humza Yousaf, the First Minister.

Describing Mr Maule as “one of my best friends and the hardest working, most talented person I know”, the businessman said the city was in a state of “filth and dilapidation”.

Asking what the First Minister could do to reverse this “carnage”, Mr Bergson provided a list of suggestions, including rates relief, subsidies for public transport, and help for small businesses to get started.

“But no,” he concluded. Referring to an event attended by the First Minister in Dundee on the same weekend Maule’s closed, he added: “He was on a skateboard launching ‘the summer of independence’. Says it all.”

READ MORE: Night bus axe an embarrassment for city

Glasgow is not alone in struggling post-Covid. The difficulties it is facing will be familiar to cities around the world. But while other places are back in the swim, Glasgow seems to be sinking further into the mire.

It is doing so for all the reasons outlined above, but in Glasgow’s case some extra burdens have been added, just for us. One might almost think a taskforce had been convened to find ways of making the place even more of a ghost town. Still have a few pesky motorists determined to come into the city rather than go to malls? Impose a low emission zone and watch the fines roll in. Not enough revellers and workers using the night buses? Scrap them (the service, not the workers, though the outcome will be the same).

It is the opposite of a regeneration strategy and you have to wonder why it is allowed to hold sway. After all, it is hardly in the interests of the city council and Scottish Government, both SNP-led, for Glasgow to go under. The city should be an advertisement for the best of Scotland has to offer, not a cautionary tale for urban planners.

If Glasgow is not being done down by accident, or design, is the problem sheer neglect? Local and national government too busy making other plans? They would disagree. According to the council leader, Susan Aitken, better days are on the way. Writing in our sister paper, the Glasgow Times, Ms Aitken said the Glasgow city region had been chosen by the Scottish and UK governments as an investment zone. “This means that we will receive £80 million over five years to help build on our economic potential, to stimulate business growth and to create more good quality, well-paid jobs.”

That £80 million cannot arrive a minute too soon. If and when it does it will be too late for many. Nor will it solve the city’s fundamental problems, chief among them the flight of taxpayers to the suburbs. As for the chronic poverty and ill health, built up over generations, where do you even begin?

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It is easy to look at Glasgow and feel its problems are overwhelming. So much to do and so little money. Yet this is a city with so much more to give. We have seen it go through bad times before and bounce back.

But there has to be a collective willingness to pull the same way and a balanced approach to recovery. To spend money Glasgow needs to make money, and that means making it a place people want to live and work. To adapt a phrase, if we don’t build it, “they” - the office workers, the shoppers, the tourists, the diners, the clubbers - won’t come.

The closure of one restaurant, much loved as it was, might not seem to amount to much in the greater sweep of things, but it does. Like any city, Glasgow is an ecosystem. It needs careful monitoring to see what’s going right and wrong. The litter and the empty shops should have been enough on their own to ring alarm bells but apparently not.

If nothing is done, Glasgow will slide further into decline, and then … what? The failure of a city the size of Glasgow is not an option, whatever part of the political spectrum you stand on. Glasgow’s recovery should be treated as what it is, a national emergency. And that means everyone doing their bit, starting with government at all levels. It won’t be possible to achieve everything, but actively avoiding doing any further harm - starting with maintaining a night bus service - would be a good beginning.