MORE than 4,400 people – including a growing number of celebrities – are demanding a rethink over controversial plans to blow up five tower blocks in Glasgow as part of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Pressure is mounting on the organisers of the sporting extravaganza, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to call a halt to the 15-second destruction, due to be beamed on to a giant screen during the curtain-raiser at Celtic Park.
The plans for the Red Road flats in the north-east of the city have been attracting a barrage of criticism since being unveiled at a press conference last Thursday and mounting questions over who approved the stunt and how safety concerns can be overcome.
Alexander Stoddart, the Queen’s official sculptor in Scotland, Still Game star Greg Hemphill and architectural critic Jonathan Meades are among the latest high-profile critics to emerge. Singer-songwriter Pat Kane, authors Denise Mina and Gordon Ferris, and playwrights Kieran Hurley and David Greig have spoken out over the removal of five of the six remaining blocks in Barlarnock. Asylum seekers are currently housed in the final block, due for demolition at a later date.
The plans have been branded crass, insensitive, morally wrong and offensive to Glaswegians, particularly to those who have lived in the blocks and families who are still there, by presenting the demolition of homes as a form of entertainment.
Some 900 people will have to be relocated from a demolition zone on the night to allow the blocks to be blown up safely, either on Glasgow Green or at nearby “welfare facilities”.
Games organisers hailed the removal of the tower blocks as part of the opening ceremony as “a bold and dramatic statement of intent from a city focused on regeneration and a positive future for its people.”
However, a petition organised by former Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie, targeting Scottish sports minister Shona Robison, who is on the Glasgow 2014 organising committee, calls for the plan to be ditched, stating: “The homes should be demolished with dignity.”
Paisley-born Stoddart described the demolition plan as “the hallmark of barbarism”.
He added: “Of course these towers are monsters, but something infinitely more monstrous seeks their destruction.
“Do we, for whom Glasgow is our most beloved city, finally despair? I think we might.”
Meades said: “Instead of committing yet another act of municipal vandalism, Glasgow’s appalling council (which has a lot of form in this area) might have asked itself why it didn’t maintain the structures it built.
“High rise works well in the private sector for the rich and even the modestly well off – their buildings are defended, serviced, cleaned.”
Hemphill told his Twitter followers: “Red Road. End of the day you’re still destroying something, which seems the wrong message. Build something.”
Playwright Hurley described the proposal as “nauseating”, adding that he found “the whole thing creepy in the extreme”.
Hue & Cry star Kane tweeted: “Blowing up Red Road seems like spectacle on the cheap.”
Playwright Greig said: “Opening ceremonies need to channel simple feelings into deep pools of emotion. This is confusing and upsetting … all wrong.”
When they were built between 1964 and 1969, the flats were welcomed as modern accommodation for 4,700 people in the north east of Glasgow. After decades of decline the estate became associated with anti-social behaviour and crime.
Greg Hemphill, who plays Glaswegian Victor in Still Game, has joined a petition against plans to blow up five tower blocks for the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony