MOST folk think those phoney street fronts in old Western movies were just a ruse thought up by Hollywood set designers to fool punters in the cheap seats. In fact, what’s known as "western false front architecture" has its roots in real life.

Historians of the Old West say that when pioneers built settlements, and the first local dignitaries arrived, they’d erect a fake town to “project an image of stability and success”.

Perhaps Glasgow City Council should do the same and build a fake Glasgow somewhere up the Clyde – because the real city, that world leaders will soon be descending on at COP26, is a filthy midden.

Glasgow is strewn with litter. Rubbish piles high under flyovers. There are rats in the city.

If Glasgow’s leaders – Susan Aitken and her SNP councillors – aren’t shamed to the roots of their hair by the state of the city they’re supposed to care for, then nothing could shame them.

Read more: A brave new Glasgow? Council leader outlines £30bn vision to transform the city

It’s not just filth and a failing city council in Glasgow, though. The city’s poverty stares the national Government of Nicola Sturgeon straight in the eye demanding she act. Just a few days ago, children aged seven and eight were queuing at a soup kitchen in the city centre.

Journalistic rhetoric doesn’t do justice to this inequity. The words "disgrace" and "shaming" are inadequate. I’ll leave those on the ground to put into words what they saw. Colin McInnes, chairman of Homeless Project Scotland, said: “I’m a six foot two grown man and it hit me hard – I had to take a minute away because I couldn’t watch children collect food on the streets of Glasgow. It left us heartbroken.”

Time is up on the SNP and its endless claims of caring. It’s lies. For 14 years, the SNP has sat in Holyrood and mouthed platitudes, while on the streets today children ask for food from charities.

The SNP took over Glasgow from Labour in 2017. The city was a rubbish dump then and remains a rubbish dump today.

What does the SNP do in office but pontificate and virtue signal? Now the SNP will lecture the nation on the environment at Cop26, while presiding over environmental squalor. The hypocrisy is as rank as Glasgow’s rubbish tips.

Susan Aitken recently said of Glasgow: “I don’t believe the streets are filthy.” She’s playing people for fools. The city is a dump - Glaswegians see that for themselves.

In a recent conversation I had with Aitken, she said she wanted rid of old fashioned council ‘paternalism’ - she wants Glaswegians involved in running their own communities. Good. Most would agree. But Glaswegians aren’t the city’s free refuse service, we don’t own bin lorries. There is, of course, a responsibility on everyone to make sure Glasgow is clean and not to drop litter. But there’s also a responsibility - a huge one - on councillors to do their core job: keeping Glasgow clean.

Ms Aitken has big ideas for Glasgow – greening the city, using the Clyde for renewable energy. Again, great. But do the small stuff too. There’s no point building space rockets to the moon if you forget the oxygen cylinders.

She favours a council model like America where mayors – folk like her – are big-hitting elected officials. It’s an okay idea. But I doubt if she’d get elected on a standalone ticket given the anger across Glasgow over the state of this city.


Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken


The council will, it says, give Glasgow a "spruce-up" ahead of COP26. There’s so much that infuriates in this. For years, this city has been allowed to go to the dogs, but because the Pope, Joe Biden and Greta Thunberg are rolling into town, the great and the good at the City Chambers are going to deign to clean the place up.

How generous of them. Maybe they could have done that last year, or the year before, or the year before that? It’s so damn phoney; so sleekit. That’s why they may as well just build that fake old Wild West town up the Clyde a bit. It would be just as sincere.

How can you take a council seriously over anything it claims when it’s basically lifting up the living room carpet to sweep all the trash under because a rich auntie is coming round to visit? It would, frankly, make you throw up.

To be fair to Glasgow City Council, there are a few mitigating factors: clearly, Covid caused litter problems across the country, and hurt councils financially. However, those same problems beset all councils and not every town in Scotland has been allowed to turn into a festering mess like Glasgow. Glasgow Council also has more staff – 14 in total – earning more than £150k a year, than any other UK local authority.

This all feels like a top-down problem. The SNP is comfortable in power. The opposition is a shambles both nationally and locally. So why be hungry to make lives better, why do all that hard work, when you’ll get voted into office anyway?

Read more: Why Glasgow’s Imelda Marcos shames the city, the SNP and the Yes movement

This is a dilemma for the Scottish people nationally and Glaswegians locally. What’s better? A useless SNP or an even more useless Labour or Tory party?

If you ever get the feeling that somebody is taking you for a mug, then it’s probably because they are – and that’s what happening at a national and local level in terms of what the SNP says and what the SNP does. The party has mastered the art of prestidigitation. Look here, it says, flourishing some touchy-feely rhetoric, and whilst your eyes are diverted a child is begging for food or rats are running through the back closes.

There was talk the other say that Boris Johnson was cooking up another one of his awfully witty Eton wheezes, this time planning to sideline Ms Sturgeon at COP26.

If I were the First Minister I’d be grateful for getting elbowed out of the way, because if I were the political leader of this country I wouldn’t have the brass neck to arrive in Glasgow – amid the rubbish, the rats and the starving kids – and pretend that I was some beacon of hope for a better tomorrow, when the today I’d created was a rotten mess.

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