No-one can accuse the Commonwealth Games organisers of not starting things off with a bang. As part of the opening ceremony, they plan to blow up blocks of high-rise flats that have been part of Glasgow’s skyline for almost 50 years.
It will be the biggest demolition of its kind ever seen in Europe and will be shown live to a huge TV audience.
The 30-storey structures were built in the mid-1960s, housed more than 4,000 people and were once the highest flats in Europe.
Now the Games are, after all, a great accolade for Glasgow and an opportunity for Scotland to stage an event that will show us at our best worldwide. The demolition is thought to provide not only an arresting spectacle but also a dramatic illustration of the city’s commitment to regeneration and improvement. “Pyrotechnics with a Purpose” would be one argument.
Many will welcome this as a bold and imaginative proposal. The flats have featured as part of Glasgow’s self-definition for half a century. But in recent years they have come to be seen as an eyesore and symbolic of social problems, including gang violence, vandalism and drink and drug abuse.
There are problems with focusing on this, and the organisers are taking on a considerable risk. One is that their demolition may be viewed with mixed emotions in the city and that it is inappropriate that the demolition should be used as a spectacle to a celebratory occasion. The flats, which drew their inspiration from tower blocks designed by the French architect Le Corbusier, were in their time a bold address to crippling problems of inner-city slums, disease and chronic poverty. They were a huge improvement on what went before and, for many years, residents were proud of what was widely viewed as pleasant, healthy and contemporary accommodation. Their passing will thus evoke sadness among some.
Arguably more serious is the objection to using the spectacle of a high-rise demolition as part of an international Games opening ceremony. Those viewing the scene outside of Scotland will ponder the relevance of the event and wonder why they are being shown blocks of flats being blown up. To many, the flats will not signify poverty and decay.
It may have the unintended effect on overseas viewers of highlighting the city’s social problems, indicating they are so deeply entrenched as to require resort to explosives. Puzzlement may well be the reaction.
The Games are intended to show international athletic prowess at its best and to showcase the nation. There is a growing body of opinion that too much emphasis is already put on opening ceremonies. Yes, they should be dramatic, but demolishing high-rise flats is not a feasible fireworks replacement for such a celebration. There is a fine line between being innovative, creative and bold – and just going too far.
Police must have more female appeal
In his letter to The Scotsman today, superintendent Alex Duncan, a former chair of the Scottish Women’s Development Forum, has raised important issues surrounding recruitment and the additional barriers faced by female officers seeking to rise through the ranks.
There are fears that promotion could force them to move, because the removal of mobility protection, which existed under the previous eight regional forces, means that those with childcare commitments face having to work in another part of the country.
Women form an important part of Scotland’s police force. They currently account for 28 per cent of the total – but just 20 per cent of promoted posts. Superintendent Duncan also says Police Scotland’s recruitment policy is “unfair and discriminatory”.
The mobility of police personnel in today’s unified force is important for two reasons. First, it enables the force to recruit the most appropriate and qualified candidate from across the entire force. This labour mobility is vital in all effective and efficient organisations. Second, the opportunity to work in different areas and in different areas of expertise and specialism is central to the development of a rounded and multi-skilled police officer.
But carers – largely women – should not be disadvantaged. Incentives and mitigation payments can be put in place to mitigate if not remove altogether effective barriers against those with caring responsibilities.
Police Scotland is in its early stages. It should be capable of adapting to circumstances and it is not too late for senior officers to do what they can to ensure the force is not left worse off by failing to appeal to many women.