ON the first floor of the People’s Palace, the last time I visited, there was a brief video compilation about the history of protest in Glasgow, including footage of a Scottish CND “Die-In” that I helped organise in the 1980s. It is quite thrilling to have something in which you were involved deemed worth of inclusion in the city’s museum of social history, so my dismay about the possibility of the closure of the People’s Palace had an egotistical dimension.

It would now appear that a £350,000 sticking plaster solution to the problem, stemming from a rather larger maintenance bill falling due to make safe the adjacent Winter Gardens, will allow the museum to stay open, but the underlying question about the city’s ability to look after its cultural heritage remains to be resolved.

There has been much righteous indignation expressed about the concentration of government-funded National Galleries in Edinburgh and the use those living in districts surrounding Glasgow make of facilities for which they pay no council tax, but those arguments have been around since the era when I was asking people to lie down in George Square with paper bags on their heads as a way of illustrating the absurdity of the nuclear deterrence argument. Current commentators are only identifying the same vexed funding issues.

Rather more recent is a shift in the priorities of city councillors, sadly reflected in those of politicians at all levels of government and afflicting without regard for party allegiance. There is always a compulsive attraction to the shiny and new among politicians – even those of the Conservative Party, whose name might suggest otherwise. There is a qualitative difference between worthwhile shiny new things like the National Health Service or the Arts Council that created new levels of infrastructure to the benefit of all in the post-war years, and the matters on which politicians lavish so much of their attention today.

Not so long ago at a civic reception to launch that year’s Glasgow Jazz Festival, the Baillie chosen to represent the city spoke, at some length and to the amusement of all, about the great shopping experience to be enjoyed in the Dear Green Place. She had bought wholeheartedly into the entire Style Mile schtick, and the fact that it was irrelevant to the occasion was not about to divert her. But by comparison with the city’s longest-running arts festival, how valuable is a pedestrian precinct of boutiques as measure of civic worth?

The precariousness of the High Street scarcely needs pointing out in 2018, and to that obsession with retail could be added the regular quantifying of the city’s success in terms of hotel bed-nights, and in its attractiveness as a venue for conferences with substantial numbers of delegates.

While councillors focus on winning large-scale sporting events or showcases for popular music as a way of distinguishing their tenure, the actual cultural infrastructure, for which they are responsible, is neglected.

Buckets caught rainwater leaks at the Burrell long before anything was done to address their necessity. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, approaching its 30th birthday, is in a sorry state front-of-house and backstage. While the devastation of Glasgow School of Art is a tragedy, a comprehensive Mackintosh trail in the city would draw attention to many neglected works by the master-architect of Townhead, of which the Martyr’s School near his birthplace is one example in city council hands.

The undisputed greatness of a city lies in the maintenance of its fine buildings, old and new, a coherent approach to the public realm, and a year-round cultural vibrancy that is appreciated by residents as much as visitors. Those are the factors that attract the shiny new things that contemporary politicians seem determined to mistake for the substance of the city instead.