JUST as it flows straight at the heart of Glasgow’s East End, the Clyde almost turns back on itself.

The West’s great river, heavy as it nears the sea, meanders through what was once one of Scotland’s most industrialised landscapes.

Its dramatic switchback, between Dalmarnock and Rutherglen, almost encircles one patch of that blighted land: the Cuningar Loop.

For decades this was effectively wasteland, an abandoned waterworks loved only by fly-tippers. Now it is an urban wood, a park, a place for picnics and dog walks.

Glasgow fancies more of this. It’s not alone. Scotland – its hills once almost entirely bared of their natural tree covering – is gradually reforesting. And not just in the Highlands.

Urban authorities are increasingly seeing trees as a fix for a whole range of problems. That includes land, even poisoned land, in neighbourhoods not too far from the Cuningar Loop.

Just 15 per cent of Glasgow is wooded. That includes the gardens of the leafier parts of the West End or South Side.

City officials in the Dear Green Place have long aimed for a higher figure.

There has been talk of turning some of its gap sites into parks. But now planners are thinking more about woods, often wild ones. Sometimes they can just let nature take over.

But they want targets.

The Herald:

A view of the Clyde river walkway at Cuningar Loop during a come-and-try event at the woodland park.

In a formal response to the Scottish Government’s recently completed consultation on reforestation, the city said: “Consideration could be given to an indicator relating to the amount of vacant and/or derelict land taken up by forestry planting.

“In urban areas, in particular, vacant/derelict land can be a blight on people’s immediate environments and uptake for forestry can help contribute to a healthy and high-quality environment and help improve people’s health, well-being and life chances.”

That is music to the ears of George Anderson of the Woodland Trust. He reckons trees – even temporarily – could clean land. This process is often called phyto-remediation.

“Scandinavian countries have the concept of ‘temporary greening’,” he explained. “If land is lying unused it is better to plant a wood even if it is only for a few years.

“If you decide to build houses later you can clear some of the trees, but have a head start on the landscaping in between.

“No more sterile-feeling new housing developments, you get an attractive woodland setting without having to wait.

“Desirable housing estates are called “leafy” for a reason. So let’s not just have leafy suburbs.

“Let’s have leafy whole cities.”

Every party in Scotland has signed up to more urban trees. Speaking last year, Rural Economy Secretary and Highland MSP Fergus Ewing backed a Woodland Trust campaign to that end.

He said: “I want planting and maintaining trees and woodlands to be a shared national endeavour.

“That applies to our towns and cities as much as it does to rural areas. There is a role for local authorities, public agencies, communities and individuals all to play in this regard and I look forward to working with Woodland Trust Scotland and other partners to ensure that everyone gets to benefit from the positive contribution that trees can make to urban life.”

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw MSP – who represents a leafier suburb, Eastwood to the south of the city – said: “As someone who regularly enjoys walking in the countryside, I encourage everyone to experience the benefits of an energising good walk.

“Initiatives such as this are a welcome step to ensuring that more people have access to trees and forests in their local area.”

Scientists have long argued for more urban trees. They do not just turn CO2 into oxygen to breathe, but their canopies trap particulates that poison our air.

A study in Chicago found trees removed nearly 11 tonnes of pollutants every day. Some 24,000 people in the UK die early because of air pollution, according to some estimates.

Another study, in Tokyo suggested that the presence of spaces such as tree-lined streets was associated with the longevity of senior citizens, as it promoted walking.

As the Clyde bends round the Cunigar Loop, there is a now a boardwalk.

It is routinely filled with East Enders.