I welcome the opportunity to debate the regeneration of Royston and I welcome to the public gallery a number of representatives from the Royston community. I hope that my fellow members and people who have come through from Royston can join me in committee room 6 after the debate for refreshments; everyone would be most welcome.
I wanted the motion to be debated for two main reasons. First, I wanted the good work of the people and organisations in Royston to be recognised in what is a special year for many of them, as we will hear. Secondly, I wanted to draw to the Scottish Parliament’s attention the newly formed Royston strategy group, which is a community-led forum that wishes to see meaningful regeneration in an area where poverty has endured for too long. The Royston strategy group includes the Rosemount Development Trust, Royston Youth Action and local housing associations, to name but a few of its members, who also include me and my fellow MSP Patricia Ferguson.
I will briefly place regeneration in its historical context. Many still call Royston the Garngad. The area was renamed “Royston” in the 1940s; that was a marketing ploy as part of the Glasgow Corporation’s plans for housing action, which rolled out over subsequent decades and led to many in the 1950s moving away from Garngad to the new estates of the day.
In 1953, Mick McLaughlin wrote the poem “Farewell to Garngad”, in which he said:
“Oh Father dear and did you hear, new houses they have built
Some of them in Easterhouse and some in Castlemilk
Balornock and Barmulloch too, they’re building them like mad
And now they’re taking our friends away
From the dear old Garngad.”
That is a poetic description of some of the problems that have been faced over the years.
More recently, the situation has been much more positive. In the past few decades, hundreds of rented homes and owner-occupied houses have been renovated or built anew in the area. Although there is still work to do, housing in Royston has improved dramatically in recent years. The development plans of the likes of Blochairn Housing Association, Spire View Housing Association and Copperworks Housing Co-operative must take much of the credit for that.
Local housing directors such as Michael Carberry and Fiona Murphy have not only spearheaded several development projects but been a face of housing and regeneration in the area. Tenant representatives such as Joan Reuston and Charlie Lunn certainly ensure that regeneration is directly community led.
Improving housing is vital, but housing associations and others recognise that housing alone does not improve life chances. Because of concern about poverty and high unemployment rates, Royston residents created the Rosemount Development Trust in 1989. By 1993, the local Millburn centre had been refurbished and was ready for tenants to use. The goal was to reduce unemployment rates and aid the fight against poverty. Just six years later, the trust completed new premises at Rosemount workspace, which provided more jobs and opportunities.
Maureen Flynn represents what ambition and a desire to serve can do. She was raised in Royston and has been involved with Rosemount for 24 years. She directly benefited by finding employment via the organisation and she has supported many others to do likewise. She is now the organisation’s director and is doing a marvellous job of advancing its reach and accomplishing its worthwhile goals.
A variety of other excellent organisations are contributing significantly to regenerative efforts. I will list just a few—they include Royston Youth Action, Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre, Rosemount Lifelong Learning, the Flexicentre and local churches and schools.
I very much hope that I have painted a vibrant picture of Royston, which is a vibrant place, as I am increasingly finding out. However, there is also a much more challenging story. An estimated 26 per cent of the Royston population receives or depends completely on benefits. An estimated 24 per cent of the working-age population there are unemployed. Four of the five data zones that cover Royston are in the bottom 10 per cent in Scotland for educational attainment. Gaining skills and further educational achievements is critical.
The organisations that I have mentioned are aware of the scale of the problem and are busy putting into action approaches to deal with the challenges. I am sure that others will talk about this year’s inspireROYSTON programme, which is just one example of engagement with all in Royston to celebrate their community and their heritage and—more important—to look to the future.
What can the Royston strategy group, which I mentioned at the start, achieve? The first thing that it can do is listen to the community and find out what its priorities are. It is doing that. Some of the work is already under way with a community consultation that is being led by Community Links Scotland. It has spoken to many families about what they perceive to be local needs. The potential need for a new community facility for older people in the area is beginning to emerge. Some have mentioned the lack of shopping opportunities, particularly for fresh fruit and vegetables and particularly around the Roystonhill area. As that area’s name suggests, it is particularly difficult for older residents to get around it. The quality of transport links has also been raised.
We can do much to address those issues. The Royston strategy group has the good will of Glasgow City Council, and much can be achieved when Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government want to take action. There is a joint responsibility there. That is why I said that, whenever the Royston strategy group comes forward with proposals and recommendations, I hope that the local authority will consider them, back them and take action to achieve them. The Scottish Government must also do so, where there are opportunities to support that action.
There are good examples of that. For example, there was joint work to get more than £1 million for Maryhill burgh halls; there was joint action between the council and the Government to get more than £1 million for a new community centre in Cadder; and there was more than £1 million for a new watersports centre at Port Dundas. All those areas are in north Glasgow and all have issues that are similar to Royston’s issues. All the work involved partnership work between the city council and the Scottish Government.
The regeneration fund is one type of funding. That possible pot of cash is a £25 million Scottish Government fund across Scotland, and that is where Cadder Housing Association got its money from. Local authorities are asked to prioritise their bids in order of importance when bids go in. I would like to think that, in future years, when Glasgow City Council decides where it wishes the Scottish Government to prioritise, Royston will feature with the highest priority.
Any regeneration activity must be completely community led. It must be led not by the priorities of politicians but by the priorities of the local community. That is what the Royston strategy group hopes to achieve. The legacy from this special year can be deep and meaningful and can stretch for years to come.
If Mick McLaughlin had written his poem in the next few years rather than in 1953, I would have hoped that he might have called it “The Flourishing of Garngad” as opposed to “Farewell to Garngad”. A community that is strengthened by investment that is led by its own priorities will deliver, despite challenges. I have no illusions about that. Royston, or Garngad, is a vibrant community that needs help and assistance. I am sure that, with partnership working, we can all deliver.