Motorway job claim questioned

Glasgow councillors say the extension of the M74 to the M8 will mean 12,000 jobs. But, even if they’re right, what will be the COSt? Words: Rachel Richardson

The Scottish executive. along with three local councils. has raided its coffers for enough millions to complete the extension of the M74 motorway. The £250m project has been dubbed the ‘missing link‘ and heralded by the leader of Glasgow City Council as ‘the most important physical regeneration project in Glasgow".

So far. so good. But the promised regeneration involves a huge amount of destruction. The plans for the extension of the M74 to the M8 involve digging up five miles of the south—east of Glasgow. knocking down a hundred business premises. three churches and two ‘A' listed buildings.

Ignoring the small matter of ripping up five miles of Glasgow. the project has been presented as both necessary and desirable. Indeed the Scottish transport minister. Sarah Boyack MSP. announced that ‘it will bring real opportunities for the economic regeneration of west central Scotland. encouraging investment and connecting communities'.

Various figures have been touted in the press concerning the levels of job creation that the project could produce; up to 25.000 was the figure reported in The Scotsman. while Councillor Eddie McAvoy argued that in Cambuslang alone. the link could create up to 6.000 new employment opportunities.

As well as the extra jobs. the executive is keen to point out the crucial benefits for industry and commerce. even anticipating a possible easing of congestion.

It all sounds wonderful. Even more

wondrous is that these fantastical predictions have no foundation. The executive announced the commission of consultants to study the transport needs of the M74 the same day as giving the project the green light. The link will merely ease the connection of traffic from the south coming via the M74 to the M8 and into Glasgow city centre. It will not. in the words of Sarah Boyack. ‘solve the chronic traffic congestion afflicting west central Scotland‘. Indeed. another road will surely only encourage more traffic and increase the congestion which chokes Glasgow city centre on a regular basis.

Colin Howden of Transform Scotland dismisses the words of Boyack as 'executive rhetoric‘. Other dissenting voices have been led by the Joint Action Against the M74 (JAAM74) and echoed by residents‘ associations and environmentalists. To date neither the executive nor local councils have consulted local residents about the proposals.

JAAM74 chairman. Donald Matheson. argues that the plan to extend the M74 has been pushed through by influential business leaders. who are unconcerned about the damage the project could cause to both the surrounding community and the environment.

The comedy antics of Fringe act Cyderdelic could be acted out for real if anti-road protests gather pace-

Matheson argues that the transport promises are not going to materialise in the way that the executive and council leaders believe it will. ‘There is no evidence at all that it would bring jobs to the area.‘ he told The List.

IAAM74 argues that the benefits to Glaswegians will be almost negligible if the promised jobs turn out to be spin. Mr Matheson points out that only 60% of people in Glasgow have access to a car. and therefore investment in an improved and sustainable public transportation would be a better way to spend the millions.

Even though the spending commitment is a huge step forward for the road lobby. difficult years lie ahead. Gaining planning permission will be the next hurdle. especially considering that residents hope to challenge any positive decision with legal action.

Even if the alternatives are not clear to those promoting road building. the argument is clear: the building of ugly roads on stilts do little for the economic or social prosperity of communities who have to live among them. And as for job creation. there will be at least a few positions available in the new Little Chef opening soon in the middle of the southside.

Gilded Balloon to 'keep gomg' As reported elsewhere, Gilded Balloon Ltd, one of the companies behind the Edinburgh Fringe’s comedy programme, has ceased trading wrth debts of around £25,000. But speaking to The List, artistic director Karen Koren insists that not only is the organisation’s Sister organisation Gilded Balloon Productions unaffected but also it Will be back with a possibly even bigger programme this August. Koren set up Gilded Balloon Ltd as a charitable organisation With a View to raising lottery money. The company decided to cease trading when it became apparent that lottery funding had diminished and was unlikely to be forthcoming in future. Koren's various enterprises include the loss making Edinburgh’s Garden Party (now

8 THE lIST l—lS Feb 2001

Karen Koren battles on

defunct) and Winter Wonderland, both in Princes Street Gardens. ’One reason I did badly last year was I’d lost the Palladium in Broughton Place and Gilded Balloon II in Old Fishmarket Close, so I had too many small venues,’ says Koren. ‘They cost the same to equip but there were fewer seats. The big players wouldn’t come because the rooms weren’t as good quality.’

That is expected to change this summer, however, when the Gilded Balloon moves into Teviot Row Union in place of last year’s International Clubs Festival. 'It’ll be the same srze or bigger,’ promises Koren about her programme which will also be operating out of Wilkie House on the Cowgate.

In the meantime she is ’making arrangements to satisfy the debts’ including money owed to performers from last year’s event. The line-up for

this summer wrll include the annual So You Think You're Funny competition and the much-loved Ross Noble. Currently working on a variety of plans to bring comedy to the capital, Koren has lost none of her spirit of enterprise. ’I’ll keep gomg,’ she promises.

Meanwhile, in an open letter to The List (page 127), Fringe director Paul Gudgin argues that the Gilded Balloon’s problems are neither as apocalyptic as they have been portrayed nor unique. 'What I hope the current debate brings into snarp focus IS the long-overdue need for investment in the infrastructure that supports the Fringe,’ he writes. 'Little of this wealth goes to the performers, programmers, venue managers and risk-takers of the Festival, which is why the problems faced by Gilded Balloon are not unique.’ (Mark Fisher)