GLASGOW is certainly not flourishing as far as its diminishing architectural heritage is concerned (Glasgow‘s urban decay risks squandering 30 years of progress; August 6) but in one respect at least it steals a march on its east coast rival.
The Mitchell Library has had several extensions since it was built on its present site in 1911 – indeed by 1981 it was believed to be the largest local reference library in Europe. Contrast this approach with that of Edinburgh, the world’s first Unesco City of Literature, where the city council has been both neglecting and asset stripping its once-great Carnegie library, the Central Library, selling off adjacent buildings including the children’s and music annexes, and disposing of common good land long reserved for the library’s expansion for a Virgin hotel development on a hopelessly cramped site which will engulf the original 1890 A listed building in gloom. Some even suspect there are moves afoot to dispose of the Carnegie building altogether.
The Publisher’s Association recently announced that 2017 was a record-breaking year for UK book sales, but for Edinburgh the fact that books are now “downloadable” means that library assets can be pillaged and sold off to build yet another oversized hotel for his Old Town theme park. For good measure, a report from the council’s own environmental health officers that consent be refused because another high building on the Cowgate would only exacerbate the decline in air quality which already breaches WHO standards was studiously ignored.
Edinburgh gained its City of Literature status on the back of ambitious proposals to develop the library and its adjacent land as a “literary hub” – proposals which have since been junked, rather suggesting that Unesco’s award was gained on the basis of a false prospectus.
We should of course take pride in the fact that the world’s first City of Literature is Scottish, but given Edinburgh’s abysmal record and Glasgow’s manifest appreciation of the written word, could it possibly be that the wrong city was selected?