Features

UK Spotlight: Glasgow

1 Mar 2024 by BusinessTraveller
Glasgow Science Centre on the River Clyde (Glasgow Life/Paul Watt Photography)

Cultural offerings and new business sectors are booming in the Scottish city.

For many outside of Glasgow, the city – Scotland’s most populous – might still evoke images of manufacturing and heavy industry. Once christened the “second city of empire”, Glasgow’s industry and economy thrived in the 19th century with factories making everything from soap and sugar to steel and cloth. Of particular note was its booming shipbuilding sector, which at one time produced a fifth of all the world’s ships and many of its most famous. The Cutty Sark; the world’s largest warship HMS Hood; and the royal family’s HMY Britannia all proudly bore the status of being “Clyde-built”, synonymous with high quality and expert shipbuilding.

Today, looking out over the imposing River Clyde from the city centre, a few signs of this industrious past remain: the iconic Finnieston Crane, once used to load locomotives and fit ships’ engines, looms over the water. At City of Glasgow College’s multimillion-pound Riverside campus, shipyard infrastructure has been repurposed to train maritime and engineering students. Beyond the city centre, a handful of shipyards remain in operation.

But Glasgow’s changing waterfront represents the evolution of the wider city, and visitors today are likely to find shops, offices, cultural offerings and media hubs in the areas surrounding old shipyards. According to VisitScotland’s business arm, Glasgow’s emerging sectors include software and digital technologies, creative and cultural sectors, and medical and life sciences.

And the city’s repositioning as a vibrant international centre at the forefront of new development is clear in its list of accolades: it hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014; was named the UK’s top cultural and creative city by the European Commission in 2019; hosted COP26 in 2021; and was European Capital of Sport in 2023.

“As Scotland’s economic and cultural powerhouse, Glasgow is home to the largest cultural offering, the largest sporting infrastructure and the largest retail centre in the UK outside London,” says council leader Susan Aitken, who describes Glasgow as “the only true metropolis north of Manchester”. “‘The ‘Glasgow Miracle’ – how cultural and creative industries revitalised our economy – is built on it being the hub of not only Scotland’s cultural life, but the leading UK city for culture,” says Aitken.

The Burrell Collection (Glasgow Life/Paul Watt Photography)

Arts and culture

Having reopened in spring 2022 following a £68 million renovation and a six-year closure, the southside’s Burrell Collection museum is arguably the jewel in Glasgow’s cultural crown. Situated inside 146-hectare Pollok Country Park, visitors can meander past Highland cows, walled gardens and the 1700s stately home Pollok House on their way to the museum.

Inside, they will find more than 9,000 objects from the collection of William Burrell, a Glaswegian shipping merchant and art collector. The museum was awarded the Art Fund’s Museum Of The Year in 2023 and has been credited with playing a key role in Glasgow’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Burrell Collection was one of the greatest gifts ever given to a city and the seed that helped Glasgow grow into the thriving cultural centre it is today,” says Eilish McGuinness, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which part-funded the renovations.

“The impact of investing in our heritage and culture cannot be underestimated. Not only does it boost the national economy, it benefits the local economy through tourism, education and skills and, like the Burrell, is a source of huge affection and pride for those that live there.”

Beyond the Burrell, culture-seekers don’t have to look far to find something to their tastes. As well as numerous galleries and museums, Glasgow is recognised as the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music and hosts around 150 live performances every week, plus events such as folk festival Celtic Connections, the Riverside Festival for electronic music and the Summer Sessions, which brings some of music’s biggest names to Bellahouston Park in the city’s south.

Pollok House (Glasgow Life/Paul Watt Photography)

Business and innovation

An impressive arts and culture offering isn’t the only string Glasgow has to its bow though, with an increasing number of global businesses setting up shop and expanding to the area. In 2023, banking and financial services were the third largest industries in the city.

Back at the river’s edge, in the traditionally dockland area of Tradeston, sits the 46,000 sqm Barclays Campus, opened by the banking giant in late 2021. Alongside workspaces, the campus includes community event spaces, a park area and room for social enterprises and small businesses to sell products, as well as a street food market.

Glasgow seemed an obvious choice for such a project; Barclays grew its workforce here by 90 per cent between 2018-2021, and links to Scottish universities and local start-ups help to develop a pipeline of work and business opportunities. A new 13-storey office building in the city centre, designed to house JP Morgan Chase’s technology operations, also points to the city’s positive business climate.

But Fortune 500 companies coexist in harmony with start-ups, local businesses and emerging sectors in Glasgow – in the first half of 2022, research by small business lender iwoca found that more than 20 businesses were created each day in the city.

And soon, the tech-focused among them will have a potential new home in Glasgow’s iconic Met Tower – famous on the skyline for its bright pink banner emblazoned with “People Make Glasgow”, the city’s tourism brand – which is being redeveloped into a hub for digital and tech businesses, due to open next year.

Situated within the City Innovation District, owners Bruntswood SciTech hope the tower can ultimately host tech businesses of all types and sizes and benefit from close links with neighbouring universities.

“Met Tower is the perfect location to build a new tech and digital cluster in Glasgow… it’s in the heart of the Glasgow City Innovation District, surrounded by two exceptional universities and the College, where future talent and some of the most exciting university spin-outs in Scotland and all of the UK can be found,” says Peter Crowther, former property director at Bruntswood SciTech.

“We know Glasgow is on its way to becoming a world-leading hub for tech and hope Met Tower can support in galvanising this momentum.”

Busy Glasgow Subway (Credit George Clerk/iStock)

Transport

Glasgow is home to an international airport boasting more than 20 airlines and hundreds of destinations worldwide. Glasgow airport also serves more Scottish destinations than any other airport, providing convenient links to the nation’s other cities as well as its remote island communities.

Back down on land, Glasgow is also well-served by rail infrastructure: its overground network is one of the densest outside of London, with almost 200 stations operating across the city. And its iconic subway – known affectionately as the Clockwork Orange because of its two circuits running clockwise and anti-clockwise, and its orange colour scheme – welcomed a new fleet of modernised trains in December 2023.

Also benefitting from recent modernisation is the celebrated Caledonian Sleeper service between London and Scotland, which counts Glasgow’s historic Central Station among its terminals. The Sleeper, which celebrated its 150th birthday in 2023, saw a £150 million relaunch in 2019 with the introduction of new trains designed to accommodate both business and leisure travellers, including features such as charging panels and train-wide wifi. But however you get to Glasgow, you’re sure to find plenty here once you arrive. A city in transition, Glasgow is looking to its future in culture, tech and digital, while retaining all the heart of its past.

New hotel openings

The Address Glasgow

Opened in December 2023, The Address Glasgow, from Irish-owned hotel group The Address Collective, is the city centre’s newest luxury hotel. It offers 95 beds, a wellness centre featuring a cold plunge pool and Himalayan rock salt sauna, plus a 70-seater restaurant boasting fresh Scottish produce and an impressive cocktail menu. theaddressglasgow.com

Crossbasket Castle

A few miles outside of Glasgow city, Crossbasket Castle offers a luxurious stay for visitors keen to experience Scotland’s countryside. Having opened in 2016, the castle is expected to relaunch this summer following a £15 million expansion that will see 40 new bedrooms and two five-bedroom eco-friendly lodges. crossbasketcastle.com

AC Hotel Glasgow

Located just moments from historic George Square, the AC Hotel Glasgow, by AC Marriott Hotels, opened its doors in November 2023. Inside are 245 rooms as well as a spacious restaurant and fitness centre. Rooms come with generous-sized desks and plentiful power outlets, and a boardroom-style meeting room is available for business travellers. marriott.com

Words: Eve Livingston

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The cover of the Business Traveller May 2024 edition
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