LIKE a sad clown Glasgow is adept at concealing its despair with a happy face. Does anywhere else in the UK laugh in the face of adversity like Glasgow does? Here we are in the corner being typically Glasgow and paying for the drinks just after we’ve been escorted from the office with our belongings in a cardboard box. The house is being re-possessed and the car will also soon have to go but we’ll crack on nonetheless with a rueful grin. We don’t have any other choice really because to exhibit any sign of despair or defeat is considered an anathema in Glasgow; a betrayal of all that we think we ought to be. Glasgow’s Miles Better and we’re No Mean City. Aye, right.

And yet it must be true, mustn’t it? All those lifestyle surveys telling us that we’re the friendliest, rock n roll city on the planet: best for nightlife; top for student experience; best UK retail emporiums outside of London; cool restaurants around every corner and some of them vegan too. And look at Finnieston. Not long ago there was tumbleweed and empty golden Virginia packets blowing through the place; now you can’t get moving for hipsters and halloumi.

The honeyed encomiums of the consultants drip with per-diem optimism. According to Invest Glasgow, the city’s inward investment team, “Glasgow is at the centre of one the UK’s largest and most successful city regions. Scotland’s largest city and only metropolitan region generated £41.4billion GVA in 2017.” Last week this city found itself near the top of another cheeriness poll. This one surveyed the UK’s happiest places to live and work. Presumably, respondents all had a job and a roof over their heads.

Even in the most jocund fun factories there always lurks a wandering Jeremiah. Earlier this month, Gary Smith, secretary of the GMB Union in Scotland, expressed a rather less ecstatic tone. In an interview in The Herald on Sunday he said: “It feels like a city that is in decline. We’ve got public buildings in a state of decay – the Mitchell Library, the problems with the People’s Palace – the streets are absolutely filthy and we’ve got an epidemic of rats in large parts of the city. Too often the politicians are happy to hide behind this bluff and bluster about ‘people make Glasgow’. The people of Glasgow deserve better than they are getting.”

Mr Smith cited public spending cuts and stealth privatisation as factors in many of Glasgow’s challenges. “All of this leaves the city in a state that feels unkempt, unloved and, in a lot of areas, actually really filthy. It is a city that is in economic and political decline.”

Those of us who have spent most of our lives living and working in Glasgow know which version of Glasgow is the authentic one. Lifestyle surveys never extend to the sprawling neighbourhoods that lie to the north and east of the city. In these places multi-deprivation and health inequality remain among the worst in Europe, as they have been for more than a century. Many of Mr Smith’s union members live in these places. Until now the social challenges faced by these communities could be camouflaged in the breathless optimism of economic brochures selling an inward investment Xanadu to their fabled blue-chip companies.

If they are proclaiming more than 48,000 businesses (more than a quarter of Scottish companies) are located in the Glasgow city region and that they support more than 850,000 jobs (34 per cent of the Scottish total) then they inadvertently paint a bleak picture. Why do so many Glaswegian families remain locked out of this economic Klondyke? No matter how spectacular a city’s economic growth might be; no matter how optimistic its long-term projections, these are shallow and meaningless if tens of thousands of people in the same old communities are unable to share in the bounty. Real growth and not this sham facsimile of it would trickle down into these places instead of accumulating in the bank accounts of the same few.

Affluence and success can make you blind to the fact that Glaswegian men can lose 20 years of their life expectancy on a seven-mile stretch of the M8 from east to west. But when backdoor privatisation results in truncated essential services and a non-union workforce, the signs of decline begin to encroach on the city centre and the leafier neighbourhoods. Ultimately, tenants will pay more for additional services like bin collections. Rather than investing in these services they outsource to private firms, the least of whose concerns is the welfare of their workers and the cost to tenants. This is always how privatisation works.

Meanwhile, the meter on Glasgow’s equal pay scandal is still running. The entire fabric of the city has been mortgaged to meet the bill, but this extends only to 2018. The city will have to find more cash to pay those women who have been working since then at an unequal rate.

Meanwhile, the shift and concentration of economic and political power to boutique Edinburgh continues. What sort of country permits a much smaller city to operate twice as many flights and trains to London as the larger one in terms of population and business? Why does Glasgow Airport, which still resembles a brick port-a-cabin in places, still lack a rail link?

We learned too this week that Scotland has now become the worst country for drug deaths. This must surely be fake news. How can this be so when Glasgow, its biggest city, is so happy and cheery and friendly all the time? As surely as a broken tumbler follows a dirty look, the supporters of the Scottish Government blamed the Tories for not giving them the powers to address this. The worst rates of drug addiction are in Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods and form part of the pattern of deprivation and disadvantage in these places. We have devolved power in this area. You can’t begin to deal with drugs until you first address the chronic health inequalities in these communities.

Scotland’s future economic prosperity rests on the performance of its biggest and most important city. Glasgow needs a political, cultural and economic champion at the heart of government but you won’t find it in this Scottish cabinet.