There's only one team in Glasgow/One team in Glasgow/One team in Gla-a-a-sgow/There's only one team in Gla-a-a-sgow. Fellow foot soldiers in Partick Thistle's red and yellow army will readily recognise this somewhat monotonous ditty that rings out from the Jackie Husband stand at Firhill on those occasions (sadly rare these days) when either half of the Old Firm pays us a visit.

Even hopelessly deluded Jaggies - a tautologous expression - don't actually believe it, of course. Well, not until yesterday when the "respected left-leaning think-tank" Demos finally gave birth to its much- trumpeted Glasgow 2020 Dreaming City report, which has been more than 18 months in gestation.

In the event, the notion that by that date Partick Thistle will be the most successful football team in the city, its ranks of fans swollen by a rainbow population of immigrants, turns out to be one of the less off-the-wall predictions. "Bizarre" was the most charitable response Glasgow City Council could come up with after an outbreak of head-scratching on a scale usually associated with lice.

Demos is an interesting organisation, run by very bright people and always willing to bring fresh thinking to persistent social problems. It has a reputation for pro- ducing eye-catching, media-friendly reports. Since it arrived on the scene in 1993, I've championed its work on a range of subjects, including British public parks, parental leave and grey power. In the autumn of 2005, Demos launched what it billed as "an experiment to open up Glasgow's future to the mass imagination of its citizens". Various groups of people were invited to attend public events. The publicity makes special mention of hairdressers and taxi drivers and also around 20 civic and public bodies, some of which supported the initiative financially. The final opus represents the views of more than 5000 Glaswegians, we are informed.

Demos is right. How we empower those who don't generally attend public meetings, write to the newspapers or raise issues with their councillor is one of the enduring challenges facing local democracy. Arguments about this have raged in Glasgow, and every other Scottish city, for years. The disappearance of all the Socialists and so many of the Greens from Holyrood represents a real loss in this respect because, in some ways, they represented that voice. Well-meaning consultation exercises often leave individuals feeling that decisions have already been made, that the debate is being artificially constrained and that the council (or whoever) is just "going through the motions". Unfortunately, although Demos may have made some of those involved in its "investigations" feel their voices have been heard, its agenda was so open-ended that the result is virtually meaningless.

It also overstates vastly its democratic credentials. Five-thousand people represent 1% of Glasgow's population, and that proportion of probing in-depth interviews would certainly carry some weight. As it turns out, 5000 is the head count of those who put in an appearance at any one of its events, including one attended by 700 people.

The results are sometimes quirky and often predictable. For example, inviting a group of people to indulge their dreams about the city's future can be entertaining. I once organised a children's competition for the Evening Times on the same theme and elicited some of the same fluffy fantasies, including the unlikely prospect of gondolas on the Clyde, strangely enough. Harmless fun. Such exercises also tune into concerns, such as fear of crime, and petty preoccupations, such as graffiti, litter and dog mess, that are universal. So what?

Where it turns nasty is in the way that, having invited negative comments, it then sweeps them up and recycles them into slingshots to pitch at Glasgow City Council. En route it makes some truly monstrous generalisations about the way "high profile regeneration programmes are failing to improve the day-to-day quality of life of people living in Britain's major cities". This, one suspects, is the canoe it is really paddling. The city fathers are accused of "running on empty in terms of ideas" and producing a "formulaic" version of regeneration. It is true that some parts of Glasgow are lagging behind the city's new prosperity. It is also true that in Glasgow, as in every other corner of Britain, there is less social mobility in 2007 than there was in 1957. But that has more to do with the nature of globalised capitalism than the council.

The report boasts of its "innovative public participation methodology" - no tedious consultation exercises here. This turns out to have included sending teams on to trains to "capture" ideas from weary commuters on the hoof. Groups were invited to participate in what were termed "Socratic" dialogues. A colleague who attended some of these reports that, far from the intelligent intellectual sparring exercise implied by this term, it quickly degenerated into a low-grade caricature in which an upbeat interpretation of the city's history was immediately shouted down by those on the unreconstructed doom-and-gloom side of the argument.

Some participants gave their all and some of these events were worthwhile per se, but as a piece of policy research, it is self-serving. It lambasts rightly the corporate-style mission statements adopted by councils such as Glasgow but merely replaces them with its own platitudes. Demos attacks the civic jargon of "step-changes" and "social inclusion", then proceeds to substitute its own arcane gobbledygook: "alchemy", "assemblies of hope", "disruptive spaces". In the final report, the voice of the people it puts such store by is drowned out by such think-tank claptrap. Rather than empowering the people of Glasgow, it becomes merely a platform for those gifted the task of interpreting this mass vox pop.

The most accurate description of this exercise is one Demos uses itself: kaleidoscope. This traditional children's toy takes a random variety of brightly coloured bits and uses a clever configuration of mirrors to turn them into a neat clever pattern. Quite. Despite the participation of one or two Scots in the Demos team, this report smacks of a London-based institution trying to tell us what to think. When I arrived in this city 30 years ago there was rising unemployment, black buildings and thousands of homes with no inside toilets.

Glasgow has come a long way, not through "alchemy and imagineering" or through carbon-copy urban renaissance, but through a strategy built on the exploitation of service industries and tourism, beautiful Victorian architecture, housing regeneration, outstanding cultural assets and the friendliness of the people. It still has a long way to go. It will get there by investing in schools, getting more people into work and regenerating communities. Not by putting gondolas on the Clyde. Of course, we can always dream. No harm in that. How does that song go again? "There's a well-known Glasgow football team. They don't play in blue, don't play in green "