IT’S Friday night; time for the pub quiz. Question one – when is a city a national park? Confused? Let me ask it another way. Name just one city that fits the national park city bill – the hybrid exists.

If you’re still perplexed, roll back the clock to 2013 when the National Park City idea was mooted. To date its Foundation has a membership of two: London and Adelaide. London was given the designation in 2019. Adelaide joined the club in 2021.

Dan Raven-Ellison, the man behind the London bid, and a talisman of the movement, hopes that, by 2025 at least 25 cities across the world will have boosted the ranks. Right now almost 30 cities are vying, among them Calgary, Cardiff, Seoul, Sacramento, Chattanooga and Manila. Fronting the pack is the Dear Green Place.

Glasgow, National Park City, it seems, is nipping at Adelaide’s heels. Check out the website, (, and you’ll read: “The idea is simple – to use the familiar idea of a National Park to inspire a shared vision for Glasgow as a greener, healthier and wilder City for everyone – where people, places and nature are better connected…a place where everyone is engaged with the outdoors…a place where everyone has access to green, healthy, sustainable travel… a city that’s reducing its ecological and environmental impact….a city nearing the top of health and wellbeing tables, instead of the bottom.”

Laudable aims. Who shouldn’t be cheering?

But bridging the indisputable gap, (some might argue, chasm), between reality and vision will be the challenge. How close is Glasgow right now to a bid that will gain approval by the NPC Foundation?

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At the end of last year, on a trip to Adelaide, I saw and learned at first hand, and on the ground, the difference National Park City status can actually make to the lives of people.

With ocean-front sand hills strewn the length of its eastern rim and a wine making hinterland all around it, South Australia’s prosperous capital is a stunningly elegant, largely low-rise city ringed by almost 30 parklands, graced by the softly flowing, tree-lined River Torrens, and lived in by 1.3 million people, a size not dissimilar to Glasgow. It is the latter – the people themselves – who make the difference.

One sunny lunchtime I walked the Torrens, alongside cycle paths and wild flowers, witnessed a ranger with groups of school kids giving a demo of how Aboriginal peoples, (the stewards of this terrain), made fire from resin, creating axes sharper than glass.

I passed a thronged fete in Elder Park, (which, incidentally, boasts a rotunda made at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, shipped out in 1882), spotted a warning sign stating ‘Pelicans May Bite’, and met Chris Daniels, CEO of Green Adelaide, who spearheads the team of National Park City activists. He chatted with non-stop zeal, displaying the city’s ‘can do’ energy and attitude.

Afterwards, I hopped aboard an EcoCaddy, (a rickshaw trike), for a pedal-powered ride around Adelaide’s many parkways, gardens and footpaths on a unique, eco-friendly city tour. Next day I was munching the ‘Forager’s Lunch’ at the Topiary Café close to the city’s north eastern hills and the plunging waterfalls of spectacular Morialta Conservation Park, a long-established recreational refuge for Adelaide residents. Lunch was delicious, starring ingredients picked by the chef, and the place was packed.

Adelaide’s strength as a National Park City lies without doubt in the depth and variety of its projects – the planting of trees, engaging schools, and other volunteer organisations, enthusing and backing neighbourhood activists in their garden projects, successfully re-wilding the environment, (although its ‘platypus in the Torrens scheme’ has yet to fulfil its dream), and running events to beef up awareness (all these are on-going). Two years ago a nature festival attracted 10,000 participants. “This is at heart an education project,” says Daniels. How was it funded? “Mainly by government,” is the answer. “A five dollar levy on every household.” Taxing the punter it seems, so far, is gaining approval rather than protest from Adelaide’s citizens.

The Herald: Walkers in Pollok Park in GlasgowWalkers in Pollok Park in Glasgow (Image: free)

London’s philosophy is similar – the promotion of widespread involvement – reaching out to “artists, sports clubs, schools, writers, housing associations, all working together,” to drive advances.

More than 90 projects are presently underway across London’s expanse, a bottom-up model that relies on volunteer rangers to co-ordinate and energise its projects. It chases support from like-minded businesses such as Timberland. Success breeds success; word gets around and politicians pay attention. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, an instinctive backer of the movement, has boosted its coffers with a grant of £9 million.

So, whither Glasgow? When will its bid see the light of day? What achievements has it scored? And will it succeed? Led by volunteer convenor Dominic Hall, plus a small committee – penny poor, but rich in commitment to, and belief in their stated objectives – the Glasgow initiative has been rolling for three or more years.

To date an online promotional video and a Glasgow Urban Nature Map have resulted and, says Hall, “starting last Christmas”, an online campaign to muster signatures for its Charter has come on-stream, (you can sign online). “We have about 50 signatures so far”, he says, and adds “we need a minimum of 200 (in order) to begin our application.”

Like Adelaide’s Daniels, Hall is focused: “There are fantastic projects happening already across the city, initiatives like the Clyde Climate Forest, Yorkhill Green Spaces…Hamilton Claypits”.

He might have added North Kelvin Meadow or The Lost Woods, all of which have advanced the objective of enhancing the city’s wilding as well as greening. He’s proud of the project’s pop-up photo exhibition. “We ran the online gallery during Covid and for under £1000….were able to connect many passionate people around the city.”

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Connectivity and passion are vital currencies in promoting the NPC message. But for Glasgow, available funds and a ready cash flow are – and are likely to continue to be – a somewhat more urgent issue.

At last year’s February AGM, Hall and his management committee had only £25 in the bank. Is this important? Put bluntly, yes. The National Park City Foundation requires a one-off fee of £10,000 at the point when a city’s bid goes forward, and, according to Hall that moment might come soon – “we are aiming for this Autumn”.

Yet lack of funds and NPC rules leave him undismayed. “The National Park City are still developing their application approach,” he says. “So the actual application cost has still to be confirmed. We are working closely with them,” he adds. Not for nothing can he be seen on the Glasgow NPC video wearing a T-shirt proclaiming ‘Optimist’. For, to fall at the final hurdle, would be to miss an open goal.

The fact is Glasgow’s existing ‘greenness’ (its actual acreage of open green spaces), is encouraging. And already its NPC movement has enlisted 40-plus activist groups to put shoulders to the wheel. National Park City status would give the city astral visibility, added kudos, and a brand that could surely appeal to more and more climate-conscious international tourists keen to see how the dear green place lives up to its billing.

One year ago, one of Glasgow City Council’s key committees gave the National Park City venture its approval. Realpolitik suggests that surely the moment has come to put some money, serious money, where the sentiment lies, a momentum boost that could push it over the line.