It is a long-held and cherished tradition that sets Glasgow apart from other cities, not just across the UK but world-wide.

Free entry to museums and galleries has been an enshrined right for both citizens and visitors to Scotland’s largest city for as long as they have been open.

However, this looks set to change under plans which opponents fear could have implications for other cultural institutions.

The council wants to introduce an entry fee at the Kibble Palace in the city's Botanic Gardens to help plug a £40 million budget black hole.

The last time the Gardens charged entry, more than 180 years ago, it cost a penny and visitors were only allowed in on weekends.

The local authority estimates charges could raise £185,000 annually for the council coffers.

The Herald:

The right to free entry to the city’s cultural attractions has been debated over the years amid ever-increasing budget deficits.

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A standard ticket to visit London’s Kew Gardens is £21.

Many European cities restrict free entry to museums and galleries for specific groups including the over-70s. 

However, Brian Atkinson, Chairman of the Friends of Botanic Gardens, said the group was firmly opposed to the “slipped through” change in policy.

He said: “To date, there has been absolutely no consultation with the Friends, who are major supporters of the Botanic Gardens including a very recent agreement to contribute financially to the upgrading of facilities in the Gardens.

The Herald:

“The Friends are implacably opposed to the introduction of any charges to this Internationally recognised centre of botanical and environmental excellence.

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“Only recently Glasgow’s Greenspaces were being described as “the Natural Health Service” due to the value placed on open spaces during the Covid pandemic. 

“To exclude unfettered access to the valuable plant collections and the demonstration of their globally economic value will strike a major blow to Glasgow’s promotion of environmental awareness and climate change information.”

Donny McIntyre, who lives in the west end, added: “Free entry to Glasgow museums and public buildings should be sacrosanct. 

“It’s part of Glasgow’s identity, a bit like the parking cone on the Wellington’s statue, like it or not it’s who we are. 

The Herald:

“The money raised from the glasshouse entry will be a spit in the ocean within the massive black hole of debt the city is in. 

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“There are many other ways to raise cash. Big business being one of them or how about a citizen’s lottery?  

"Free entry is a citizens' right. Let Glasgow flourish.”

However, others expressed support for the idea, saying entry charges could help safeguard cultural assets such as the Peoples’ Palace, which is currently closed. 

While galleries and museums are free to enter, charges for leading exhibitions have been in place for a number of years.

The Botanic Gardens looks after more than 9,000 plants with the greatest number growing in the temperate and tropical glasshouses.

Thomas Hopkirk, a distinguished Glasgow botanist, founded the Gardens in 1817 with the support of a number of local dignitaries and the University of Glasgow. 

The Herald:

According to research by Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens, they were originally laid out on an eight-acre site at Sandyford at the western end of Sauchiehall Street..

The Gardens flourished to such an extent that in 1839 a new site, to the west of the city on the banks of the River Kelvin, was purchased to house the rapidly expanding collections. 

In 1842 they opened on their present site. 

The Kibble Palace moved to its present site in 1873 and was first used as a concert hall and meeting place, hosting celebrated speakers such as Gladstone and Disraeli.

A council spokesman said: “This is a measure agreed by councillors as part of the council’s budget for 2023/24, which has required the council to identify almost £50m worth savings to cover a funding gap for this year.

“Further details on what this measure will mean in practice will be announced in due course.”