THERE were, perhaps predictably, more than a few negative responses to the news this week that Glasgow had been placed 61st in a list of the World's Best Cities.

The report, compiled by Resonance Consultancy, which specialises in destination, economic, and urban development, graded each metropolis for liveability, lovability, and prosperity. In all, more than 270 global cities, each with metropolitan populations in excess of one million) were assessed via core statistics, qualitative evaluations, and recommendations on such platforms as Tripadvisor and Instagram, before the final list of 100 emerged.

Glasgow soars up the rankings in latest World’s Best Cities Report

As expected, the top three cities were London, Paris, and New York City, with other major centres – Tokyo, Dubai, San Francisco, Barcelona, and Amsterdam – all in the Top 10. Glasgow has done well, finishing within sight of Miami, Las Vegas, Montreal and Brisbane, and ahead of Philadelphia, Shanghai, Denver, Valencia, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, New Orleans, Bilbao and Hanoi.

The report pointed to Glasgow's strengths in education, including "the planet’s eighth-most educated citizenry and its #36-ranked university". Inexpensive space and talent were attracting tech start-ups; culture and nightlife were also keeping their end up, with everything from the Sub Club to Celtic Connections, and the recent UCI cycling world championships, bringing in visitors and revenue, and elevating Glasgow's profile.

Kevin McKenna: Glasgow’s great soul is intact despite all the handwringing

Adverse reactions this week centred on the state of some of Glasgow’s streets. There were cutting remarks – by no means all of them from Edinburgh (some of them came from Glaswegians) - about homelessness, public transport, potholes, graffiti, boarded-up shops and stores, Sauchiehall Street, overflowing bins. Much of the comment centred on the city’s SNP administration.

Glasgow is far from perfect, as we have frequently acknowledged in these pages in news stories and opinion columns alike. And it’s easy to be sceptical of what columnist Kevin McKenna has referred to as “baubles” – the sort of accolades routinely sent Scotland’s way by travel surveys and tourist websites, all hastening to praise the country’s status as a mecca of cool despite grim levels of child poverty, urban deprivation and drug-related deaths. It was a point well made.

Glasgow airport link would lead to new routes for city

Last year, Time Out anointed Glasgow’s Great Western Road – specifically “the top bit between St George’s Cross and the Botanic Gardens”- as the world’s third coolest street, and Edinburgh as the best city in the world. In any event, Glasgow welcomed 2.65million visitors in 2022, each spending an average of three days and boosting the economy by £1.58 billion, so it is evidently doing something right.

Glasgow tourism plan will see 20 new hotels built by 2025

Plainly, however, it still has much to do in terms of transport. The Glasgow Tourism Partnership is outspoken on the need for a direct rail link to Glasgow Airport, saying its absence deters airlines from choosing the city for new routes. A transport link that does not rely on roads is vital, the partnership adds, and would mean greater certainty over timings for visitors and tourists. The group has launched a seven-year strategy to enhance the city’s tourism sector and believes that improvements to public transport are crucial if there is to be a 10 per cent increase in tourism revenue by the end of this decade. It's also worth mentioning, once again, that more could be done to develop the riverside.

Kevin McKenna: Glasgow’s great soul is intact despite all the handwringing

Meantime, conferences organisers continue to favour Glasgow. Hotels are being built and opened all the time – five in 2021, four last year. Of the 20 others that are planned by 2025, more than half will be four stars or five. Scottish Opera plans to transform the Speirs Wharf area with proposals for a development including student and commercial use premises. The OVO Hydro, ten years old this year, is one of the busiest live-entertainment venues in the world.

Glasgow has made considerable strides in reinventing itself and reversing shocking decades of neglect and decline. In 1988 a respected academic, Michael Keating, chronicled the efforts that had gone into tackling severe social, economic and environmental problems. His book's illuminating title: “The City That Refused to Die”.

Kevin McKenna: Glasgow: Is there hope for West End?

It is stating the obvious that much remains to be done in addressing social problems, but Glasgow can take encouragement from its inclusion in the list of the world’s best cities – not from the mere fact of this latest bauble but from influential recognition of its process of reinvention, and also because it might help lure more investors and visitors. Council leader Susan Aitken may be onto something when she said that such international recognition could be hugely important in the context of Glasgow’s place in a fast-changing global economy. 

Scotland travel: Edinburgh Castle ranked Europe's best castle

The Best Cities report usefully outlines ways in which cities with smaller metropolitan populations – Glasgow’s is 1,830,710 – can improve. Dublin (544,000) has its Silicon Docks, home to Google, Meta and other tech giants, to say nothing of a “pub-centric nightlife” and thriving cultural scene. Bilbao (1,048,966) has its formidable, Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Bilbao museum; Amsterdam (2,891,907) has generally played down its less salubrious side in favour of programmes focused on its “enviable livability” and Dutch history, to say nothing of an impressive range of shops and malls and museums. Food for thought for Glasgow in all of this? Perhaps.