IT is the most visited civic museum service in the UK with more than four million visitors a year.

And through periods of boom and decline, Scotland’s largest city has grown through its cultural and social heritage and proudly rose to become known for its world-renowned art collections as well as its ability to put itself centre stage as host of major national and international events.

Glasgow Museums cares for the city’s extensive collections and archives - one of the UK’s largest and is of internationally recognised significance. As a result of both the quality of the collection and the museums themselves, Glasgow has the most visited civic museum service in the UK.

Read more: Who will step up to help fund Glasgow treasures and services?

In 2018/19, Glasgow Museums attracted almost 4.4m visitors including 2m international tourists. This represented almost half of Scotland’s 3.5m million international tourist visits to museums that year with an economic impact in the region of £47.5million.

The Herald: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is just one of the city's rich cultural assetsKelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is just one of the city's rich cultural assets

And for the past 14 years this cultural heart has been able to flourish through a unique funding model, which saw the creation of Glasgow City Council arms-length organisation, Glasgow Life. This charitable organisation has run key culture and leisure services for the city.

It has been able to deliver and fund its cultural programme, such as running flagship venues like Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Riverside Museum, through a revenue-based model – on a budget of £12million.

Its massive Glasgow Club leisure operation, which runs gyms and sporting facilities in communities across the city, is just one of the ways it has supported cultural services through generated income along with income from some of its concert venues such as the Royal Concert Hall or Fruitmarket.

The Herald: The People's Palace one of the venues which has been able to reopenThe People's Palace one of the venues which has been able to reopen

However, this model was simply broken when lockdown struck last March. Its facilities closed overnight and services were stopped. Glasgow Life lost £38million last year and with a slow recovery and limited ability to limp back to some kind of service with restrictions still in place, the culture and leisure at the heart of the city is in crisis.

While the city council has agreed a funding deal of £100m for the next four years, this year its predicted income is just £6.4m. It has opened 90 of its 171 venues post pandemic, but without further funding, Glasgow Life cannot reopen more of its facilities, impacting on it earning potential.

Read more: Glasgow culture chief in call for future funding agreement

This leaves art, sports, library and community services at risk.

It is why today we are launching our campaign, A Fair Deal for Glasgow, calling for a new funding model for Glasgow – one that it allows to move past the pandemic and secure its cultural assets for generations to come. A funding model which allows the city to thrive at local, national and international level while putting the health and wellbeing of its citizens at the very centre of it.

We are calling for the city’s cultural assets and venues of national significance to be recognised and receive a fair share of national funding from either governments at Holyrood or Westminster.

The Herald exclusively reported on Glasgow Life’s chairman and depute leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor David McDonald’s open letter in which he stated he believes that now is the time to work together with the Scottish Government and the NHS to agree new ways to fund the services which benefit physical, mental and economic health.

He said: “We know that getting the model right, one which provides easy access to culture and sport services widely across the city, is our best chance of reducing the burden on future generations and growing Glasgow’s wider economy. The impact of inaction on the health and wellbeing of our city and its people could be profound.

“We are ready to make the changes required to support everyone to live a great Glasgow life. Who will step forward to help us?”

Today The Herald is answering with A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign and we are asking for:

  • Agreement for a new funding deal for Glasgow’s culture and leisure.
  • Commitment from both Scottish and UK governments to work with the city to achieve this.
  • Glasgow’s cultural assets and collections of national and international significance are recognised and funded at national level.

Like many cities across Scotland many of the services they provide or operate in communities were severely hit during the pandemic.

And for the culture and leisure sector in Glasgow, it had a devastating effect. It is only now with agreed funding from the city council that the charitable trust has been able to reach the stage of reopening 90 of its venues, but without further funding it cannot open any more.

This is why we believe the time is right to open up discussion on a new funding model to support and protect Glasgow’ s cultural heritage.

Donald Martin, editor of The Herald, said: “This is a critical time for Glasgow’s culture and leisure services as we emerge from the pandemic. Glasgow Life is a charitable organisation built on an income generating model, one which has helped this city flourish and through its flagship venues has attracted millions of people and helping to boost the economy.

“We recognise the devastating impact the pandemic has had on this sector and while Glasgow might not be alone, we believe there is now an argument for the city’s cultural assets and services to be funded differently, for its national collections to be funded fairly. We are calling on both Scottish and UK governments to recognise this.”

Read more: Glasgow’s cultural assets need to be re-prioritised to help aid nation’s recovery

Cllr McDonald said The Herald is to be congratulated for launching this campaign, which will be welcomed by everyone who has been trying to develop solutions to support Glasgow Life to reopen more venues.

The Herald: Councillor David McDonald congratulated The Herald on its campaignCouncillor David McDonald congratulated The Herald on its campaign

He said: “The £100 million budget agreed by Glasgow City Council is being used to the full reopening of more than 90 venues and restarting services, which are used and enjoyed by people in the city and across the country.

“Glasgow Life supports the physical, mental and economic wellbeing of the city and Scotland through cultural and sporting programmes, experiences and events that promote inclusion, happiness and health and has a significant role to play in recovery from the pandemic.

“We need to work with partners including the NHS and the Scottish and UK governments, to agree new ways to fund the services we all want for the benefit of everyone.”