Like many things that are supposed to be good about Glasgow, I never understood the appeal of Sauchiehall Street.
Kevin McKenna has written about the street’s importance to Glasgow, in a piece that drips with nostalgia, but with a pragmatic view to the future.
A walk along these streets was once called “up Sauchie, doon Buckie and alang Argyle”.
I certainly identify with that, although visiting from the east we would always make that trip in reverse. Many times I visited Glasgow with my family as a child, and we would go alang Argyle and up Buckie. But we seldom made it round that corner to Sauchie.
Whenever I have gone along it, it has felt desolate and badly maintained. In recent years, many of the larger retail units have been vacated by fallen businesses. Further along, the focus switches from retail to nightlife — but it is a hodgepodge as arty student bars vie for attention with garish nightclubs. Striking art deco and art nouveau architecture mingles with ten-a-penny tenements built beforehand, and thoughtless utilitarian boxes built afterward. The whole place lacks cohesion.
Beyond its everyday decline, which in fairness can be seen in any town centre in the country, recent tragic events have turned the situation into a borderline emergency. The area has seen three major fires within a year. Most recently, we have seen the near-complete destruction of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, which many regarded as Scotland’s most important piece of architecture.
With a large area surrounding the remains of the Mackintosh building still cordoned off almost one month on, many businesses in Sauchiehall Street are now on their knees.
The Sauchiehall Street slide could almost be a metaphor for the entire city of Glasgow. For a long time, Sauchiehall Street has felt in need of a plan B. I fear that, like many decisions in Glasgow, the need to take action for the future is blinded by the memory of past glory.
Recent developments almost beg the authorities to rethink the area. But can you imagine them having the guts to do it?