After science success, Glasgow looks to Royal Yacht

Glaswegians have waited a long time for the former Garden Festival site to be redeveloped. But as the £715 million West of Scotland Science Centre gets the go-ahead, locals are more interested in the Royal Yacht Britannia. Words: Stephen Naysmith

It is a sort of promised land. The south bank of the River Clyde in Glasgow has seen so many promises, the locals have grown wary.

Since the decline of shipbuilding on the river, the docks have lain empty, all the jobs gone. The I988 Garden Festival seemed to offer a new beginning. The whole idea of the moving festival was to regenerate urban areas and industrial wastelands. But like the Ebbw Vale festival before it, Glasgow's garden party offered short-term jobs and excitement for local people, then was packed up and put away.

At last, however, change is coming in the shape of the West of Scotland Science Centre which got the green light when the Millennium Commission approved a £35 million lottery bid.

The prOject encompasses a IOO-metre high millennium tower, lmax cinema and ’exploratorium’ and will create 100 new jobs and bring 620,000 visitors a year to Glasgow.

It is a flagship project for the Glasgow Development Agency (GDA). Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said: 'GDA has always believed that it had an obligation to the city and its people to create something on Pacific Quay,’ and added: ’the history of large and important projects is that they simply do not happen overnight.’

The core of the Science Centre complex will be the exploratorium with exhibits balancing ’serious’ and ’fun’ science. It will be highly interactive and the GDA promise an ’awe-inspiring display of leading edge technology.’ The tower Wlll form an additional gallery for the Centre, while also housing a viewmg cabin allowing exhibits to be linked With SlglllS across the City. Meanwhile a 350 seat lmax theatre will show films on scientific themes. While such Cinemas are relatively common in the US and Europe it will be only the third of its kind in the UK. Work will start on the centre in the spring, to be completed in autumn 2000.

In Kinning Park (the name is a bureaucratic imposnion - locals prefer The Plantation, the area’s

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The planned X-site science centre: celebrating Scottish innovation

traditional name) the announcement is welcome, if overdue.

’Govan is dead just now,’ said 64-year-old John Eagleson, who has lived in the area for 30 years. He has no doubt the plan will succeed in attracting the

'The history of large and important projects is that they simply do not happen overnight'

Stuart Gulliver, chief executive, Glasgow Development Agency

target 625,000 visitors. ’They will get that number of people, easy. Local people will go along too when the garden festival opened, it was amazing the number of local people who trooped into that.’

In fact, it is hard to believe there can be another city in Britain where the residents are as on-message as

Glaswegians. ’Visitors like coming here, it's a friendly city,’ said Robert Hendry, 43, who grew up in The Plantation, and watched as his parents joined the jobless caused by the decline of the docks. ’Everyone’s parents worked for the docks. I was a labourer in the dry dock myself. It's a shame to see it empty.’

He has watched as various plans have been mooted, but the idea of bringing the Royal Yacht Britannia to the dry dock in its retirement appeals the most. ’They’ve made all these promises about what they'll do with it. The Science Centre would be great for the area, but I would love to see Britannia here.’

John Eagleson agreed. He has watched, as work has vanished from the shipyards. ’I’d be proud if they brought Britannia here,’ he said. ’I am pleased to see the docklands being used for something sensible.’

The Britannia proposal is entirely independent of the Science Centre. The Clyde Heritage Trust (CHT) have put in a bid to Government ministers for the yacht to be berthed in Glasgow once it is decommissioned.

Geoffrey Jarvis, CHT vice-chairman, said: ’The Britannia would be a catalyst for regenerating twenty acres of derelict vandalised land which has no other potential use.’

The scheme would create 600 jobs, he claimed, with the yacht being used partly as a hotel and partly as a visitor attraction. ’We believe we will know whether we have been successful by the end of the yeac'

The Trust cite several reasons why they believe the Britainnia should come to the city. Firstly, she was built on the Clyde and is the last Clyde-built ’liner’ suitable for preservation. In addition, the A-listed Govan dry dock is perfectly placed to house her. A third reason given is the ’close proximity to other major visitor attractions', so the Trust is clearly hoping that the momentum of current developments on the south side of the Clyde give them a greater chance of success.

However, the Ministry of Defence has received seven bids from cities eager to house the retired yacht. They were unable to confirm that the decision would be taken in December, but the Royal Family will have no imput.

So who knows, ten years after the Garden Festival, Glasgow south of the Clyde could be set to welcome two major visitor attractions and the promises will finally be realised. Ibrox shopworker Irene Coulson is still wary. ’They have come up with so many plans, I'll only believe it when I can look at it,’ she said.

STRIKING A CHILD has, thankfully, become more and more unacceptable in these enlightened days. However, in the courts, the idea is taking a long time to sink in. West Yorkshire teacher Ian Blakely denied slapping a pupil and was cleared after an exhaustive trial lasting 30 minutes. But it wasn’t enough to emphasise that all he did was ’push the boy's head down'. The court had to be told that the ten-year-old was constantly disruptive, swearing and fighting. The message apparently being that the teacher hadn't behaved wrongly - but if he had done, he would have done us all a favour.

THE FINDINGS OF a report for the Scottish Office could remove the right of children to give evidence against alleged sex offenders via a video link, forcing them back into open court. Among the report’s

And finally. . . the spiiwron

conclusions was the belief that the witnesses were ‘less audible, less effective and less credible,’ when

Blair: laboured apology

g but the kids are alright

giving evidence on screen. Less audible? So it’s better to have a child go through the pain of appearing in court, coming face-to- face with their alleged tormentor just because a few technical difficulties cannot be resolved?

NOT THAT THE government is doing too much to help the youth of today. Under their plans to abolish the special rate of child benefit to lone parents, a cool £11 will be slashed from the weekly income of around 170,000 homes in Scotland alone. That £11 could go a long way to feeding the habit of all those young chaps addicted to nicotine because of their love of fast cars.

TALKING OF WHICH, according to the Cancer Research Campaign, twelve and thirteen-year-old blokes are more likely to know the names of Marlboro and Camel, two of the leading Formula One sponsors, and

twice as likely to take up smoking, itself. Still, at least Tony Blair apologised at the weekend. Not for the millions of speed-and-weed- hooked teenagers, mind, but allowing his slick PR to spin off the tracks.

BUT IT'S CLEAR that coherent and logical choices are being made by nippers across the country all the time. What about the thousands who refused to be brainwashed, hoodwinked and cajoled into the record stores of the nation to snap up the Spice Girls‘ second 'album'. And the jolly good taste they have shown in aiding the demise of Desperate bloody Dan. As DC Thomson managing editor David Donaldson noted 'children just aren't interested in cowboys any more and Dan can’t change his ways.’ Now bring me the head of Oor Wullie. (Brian Donaldson)

ZI Nov—4 Dec 1997 THE UST23