The government of Glasgow: SNP administration opts for name change

The SNP formed a minority administration at Glasgow City Chambers in 2017, ending four decades of Labour rule. Picture: John Devlin
The SNP formed a minority administration at Glasgow City Chambers in 2017, ending four decades of Labour rule. Picture: John Devlin
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Older residents may recall a time when a local authority was known simply as the corporation or town council. But the ruling administration in Glasgow has chosen a new name for itself - City Government.

The SNP ended four decades of continuous Labour rule at the ornate City Chambers in George Square at last year’s local elections, pledging to offer a new vision for Scotland’s most populous council area.

Council leader Susan Aitken arrives at the City Chambers for the first full council since leading the SNP to power in May 2017. Picture: John Devlin

Council leader Susan Aitken arrives at the City Chambers for the first full council since leading the SNP to power in May 2017. Picture: John Devlin

While the name City Government refers only to the ruling group of councillors - Glasgow City Council remains the official name of the organisation as a whole - some have questioned whether such a title is appropriate, with one MSP suggesting it smacked of “delusions of grandeur”.

But council leader Susan Aitken insisted it reflected her team’s ambition to do more for the city than previous administrations.

“City Government is a term the political leadership of this authority has used both before and since the local government elections of 2017,” she told The Scotsman. “We use it because that’s precisely what we do.

“We publicly stated before the election that we wanted to be more than just an administration, that we would provide leadership and a vision for Glasgow. City Government reflects the importance of running Scotland’s biggest city and biggest authority within Scottish local government.

“And our decision this week to end years of litigation around equal pay, the first political leadership of any council to take control of this issue, should demonstrate what governing and being a City Government actually means.”

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Like all local authorities in recent years, Glasgow has been forced to make cut backs at a time of wider political austerity. A 20 month dispute with school janitors ended last year when staff secured a six per cent pay rise and a cut in hours to compensate for taking on newly extended roles.

Scottish Conservative Glasgow MSP Adam Tomkins said that administration names changes should not be a priority.

“Quite why the SNP thinks it has the naming rights over Scotland’s largest city is a mystery,” he said.

“Instead of stunts like this, the nationalist administration should be buckling down and working for the people of Glasgow. Voters in the city won’t take kindly to these delusions of grandeur.”

Frank McAveety, former Labour leader of the council, told one newspaper there had also been “a few laughs” among councillors over the SNP group referring to itself “as the SNP Cabinet”.

But within the City Chambers there are those happy to see the important work of local authorities being recognised.

“People will well remember back in 2007 Labour and others moaning about the Scottish Government changing the name from the Scottish Executive, with the expected accusations of being jumped-up, the ‘who do they think they are’ lines and claiming Scotland didn’t have a government,” a council source told The Scotsman.

“We’re hearing the very same things now and for some reason those calling for more powers for local government object to the use of the term ‘government’ despite the absolutely crucial role we play. Perhaps during their time at the helm Glasgow Labour were happy to just administer. People voted for change and the SNP’s job is to govern.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The authority still uses the title Glasgow City Council. City Government refers collectively to the political leadership of the council – much as the former leadership referred to itself as an administration.”

The leader of Edinburgh City Council, SNP councillor Adam McVey, said there were no plans for the capital to follow Glasgow in renaming the administration.

“We tend to avoid following Glasgow’s lead - we let them follow our lead on the big stuff,” he said.

“We have no plans to change the name of our administration.”

Asked what he thought about Glasgow’s move, he said: “Anything that helps people understand where decision-making lies and accountability lies is a good thing and if it does that, that’s good.”

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