‘They’ve just blown up my childhood!’ That was the emotional, spontaneous, reaction from Finlay McKay, one of the hundreds of people watching Red Road flats being demolished on Sunday 10 June in Glasgow.
Firefighter Finlay was born and brought up on the 25th floor of the Petershill Drive triple block. ‘Staying there was fantastic. I loved it. I’ve still got the pals I had then and living there made me the person I am today. But now, seeing the building come down so very, very quickly….I’m shocked.’ The 42-year-old had brought his daughter Cara (9) and her friends Connor (6) and Taylor (8) to see the GHA’s latest move in its massive re-generation plans. Since GHA was formed in 2003, Scotland’s largest social landlord has invested more than £1.1 billion in refurbishing, modernising and improving homes across the city.
Said Finlay: ‘I left in 1991. My Mum and Dad are dead, now. I’ve moved to my own house in Swinton and tell stories of growing up in the Red Road flats, but that’s the last physical link with ‘who you are’ – gone for me. I thought the building would come down in stages, so I’m shocked it happened so suddenly.’
The controlled explosion used around 275 kilos of explosive to bring down the triple block in seconds. The lower ten storeys of the steel-framed building will be demolished later using long reach machinery. The entire site will take months to clear. Steel will be re-cycled and the rubble crushed to make foundations for roads and buildings.
Around 2000 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes in the area, including residents of a care home, to allow the operation to be completed safely.
Said GHA Executive Director of Development and Regeneration, Alex McGuire: ‘The Red Road flats were popular in their day and are known around the world, but their time has come to an end. We’re pleased the demolition of the first of them went according to plan.’ The remaining seven multi-storey blocks will be demolished by 2017.
William Sinclair, Managing Director of demolition contractors Safedem, said: ‘The Red Road flats have presented a unique series of challenges ranging from the size of the buildings to the steel frame structure.We’re delighted to be involved in another successful demolition for GHA – our 17thwith them since 2005.’
MSP Patricia Ferguson also spent her childhood in a flat in a Red Road block. ‘My family left a room and kitchen in Maryhill to come to a fantastic flat on the 21st floor of a different block from the one demolished today,’ she said after watching the event. ‘The thing to remember is – that tenement with the room and kitchen – is still standing. It has been re-furbished and continues to provide good homes for people. But there is no doubt, the Red Road flats have come to the end of their time and it is right that they come down now.’
A BBC Newsnight film on living in the Red Road flats is due to be screened on Monday 11 June at 22.30.
Ruth Simpson, who had been a Glasgow City Councillor for Calton and a Labour Party member for more than 40 years, was standing as an Independent candidate in the 2012 city council elections.
She was one of the long-established Labour Councillors in Glasgow who was de-selected and not allowed to stand again. ‘I thought at the time the way things were done was not democratic,’ she said as she handed out flyers at polling stations for Ward 11- Hillhead where she was one of 13 candidates.
‘I read about my de-selection in the Herald. And my feedback form from my interview pre-dated the interview. My former Labour colleagues have all been good, it is just the Party machinery which is wrong. I thought about it and was tempted to go quietly into the night but after supporting the Party through the budget and listening to the debate in the Labour Group afterwards, I decided not to let things go. I felt the Party had left me.’
Not tempted to join any other party – ‘ I’ve been a Labour Party member since I chaired the Labour Club at University ‘ – she decided at the last possible minute to stand as an Independent candidate.
‘Hyndland people have been very nice and they know me,’ she said. Her family rallied round with her daughter and grandson among the team of supporters handing out leaflets to voters at local polling stations.
Environmental issues of bins, roads and clean streets were top of people’s lists on her campaign trail. Buses were also a big issue: ‘De-regulation is the only answer. But what is happening with the loss of routes is dreadful.’ Ruth also has strong views on education and how it has to be improved to enable young people to attain their true potential.
‘I thought going Independent would be like losing a limb. But it’s not been like that,’ she said cheerfully. ‘If I’m elected, my constituents know I’ll work hard for them all, as they can see from my track record. If I’m not elected – well – I’d have more time to spend with my grandsons.’
Glasgow remains in the grip of the worst cold snap in more than 30 years, with flurries of snow adding to ice dangers that arrived more than three weeks ago.
Temperatures across Scotland have dropped as low as -20 degrees Celsius while the Glasgow area – which is on the same latitude as Moscow in Russia – has seen measures as low as -9 degrees.
Forecasts for the Strathclyde area from the Met Office suggest the severe cold conditions will continue into late January.
‘The trend from Sunday (17) looks most likely to start cold although there is a signal for the weather turning less cold, especially in the west and southwest,’ the Met Office outlook said.
As snow turns to ice, schools have been hit hard, with many not opening or pupils and teachers struggling to get in through adverse conditions. While closures may delight Scottish children, it has also brought childcare headaches for many working parents.
At Glasgow City Council, crews at Land and Environmental Services are on duty 24 hours. More than 8,000 tonnes of salt were spread on roadways and paths in the space of 10 days.
Councillor David Meikle, who represents Pollokshields, commented: ‘Senior managers are confident that the level of resources being deployed to the winter maintenance service within the city is to a high standard in comparison to other local authorities.
‘Unfortunately, while the city centre is being treated to high standard, residential areas like Pollokshields, Shawlands and Strathbungo are not. I have made my views know to the directors of Land and Environmental Services.’
He warned: ‘Obviously, as a result of the extreme weather conditions, this has had a direct impact on refuse collection services due to restricted access or the presence of ice however resources are also being deployed to assist with this operation to ensure services are maintained.’
Meanwhile, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport has agreed a £435,000 contract with Balvac for waterproofing tunnels on the city’s Subway system.
The section between Kelvinbridge and Hillhead will be treated against ingress of water from the River Kelvin.
Last year, the line between Buchanan Street and St Enoch were successfully treated.