WE are all familiar with the old joke that when waiting for a bus, three come along at the same time – it happened in Brussels last week.

After years and hours spent online speaking to peer cities across the globe in the run up to COP26 and beyond, Glasgow joined a three-day event held in the heart of Europe: the Brussels Urban Summit (BUS). This brought together three global cities networks: Eurocities, Metropolis and the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative.

Three-hundred cities and more than 1000 politicians gathered with experts and representatives of civil society to exchange ideas and set the priorities for sustainable, affordable and liveable cities going forward.

The leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, was a keynote speaker on an OECD session discussing "Tackling inequalities and rebuilding the social contract in cities".

She outlined that while Glasgow is a city of ingrained social and economic inequalities, inherited from previous administrations, addressing the multiple and complex barriers to improving outcomes and life chances underpins much of the city’s policy agenda, most notably transforming the city economy and delivering inclusive growth.

Building on the success of securing EU URBACT project "ROOF" to address homelessness, Glasgow was able to evidence last winter that due to its progressive policies and innovative practices, it had the "lowest number of rough sleepers in Europe". At BUS, Glasgow’s homelessness staff shared their expertise in tailoring responses to people leaving custody and the ground-breaking new women's Community Custody Unit, the Lilias Centre in Maryhill.

Glasgow, alongside Vienna, was also a keynote speaker at the first meeting of the Eurocities Taskforce on Gender Equality. Glasgow’s commitment to gender equity, not just equality, in resolving the decade-long equal pay dispute under councillor Susan Aitken was applauded – as was our strategic plan commitment to “embed gender equality into council impact assessments, budgets, data-collecting and strategies, including, but not limited to, the new City Development Plan". As well as that, ensuring "approaches are intersectional and incorporate women’s lived experience”.

This will build on the work of former SNP councillor Anna Richardson, who had the post of city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, who ensured Maryhill Women’s Centre and other groups informed the development of the city’s Active Travel Strategy and wider transport plans, and build on previous dialogue with cities like Bilbao, Barcelona and Utrecht, who spoke at the award-winning Girls@COP26 initiative regarding "A Woman’s Place" and the need for feminist solutions to man-made problems.

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In line with Glasgow’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 5 to empower women and girls’ voices, members of the Taskforce agreed to follow Glasgow’s lead and collaborate to celebrate not only International Women’s Day but International Day of the Girl annually every October 11. Recognising the life-cycle of sexism and the structural inequalities that females face which begin from their early years, the Taskforce heard of some of the measures Glasgow has been using to address this through our Period Dignity & Equity work and menopause cafes.

Glasgow was also chosen by Eurocities as the featured city for best practice in January at the launch of the European Year of Mental Health 2023. Following my council motion in December 2017, Glasgow had committed to participating in the See Me In Work Programme as a first step in incorporating the principles of the Scotland-wide See Me campaign to embed council-wide service planning and delivery, combatting stigma against mental ill health. Pioneering work as a nurturing city by our Education Services alongside Corporate HR and Glasgow Life’s Live Well community referral programme led to the city being the guest of Queen Mathilde of Belgium at a mental health roundtable event during BUS.

BUS culminated with Glasgow speaking at the launch of the new Eurocities Lille "call to action for low carbon and more inclusive culture". Conceived at the last Eurocities Culture Forum in Lille, Glasgow has been working with peer cities to create a series of commitments under two pillars – “sustainability” and “inclusion in culture and through culture”.

Alongside representatives from the European Commission, I spoke of the importance of Glasgow’s year of European Capital of Culture in 1990 as an example of culture-led regeneration, using cultural events as a catalyst for image change, which led to a dramatic growth in leisure and business tourism and contributed to strengthening the city’s creative economy.

This will be commemorated in 2025 as part of our 850th celebrations of Glasgow being declared a city.

I also shared the synchronicity of Banksy’s Cut and Run exhibition, now on display in Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art, and the irreverent artistic expression of Glaswegians in crowning the Duke of Wellington statue, notably with an EU flag traffic cone on Brexit Day!

Glasgow was confirmed at BUS as the chair of the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum. To paraphrase the words of one of our greatest women, Scots and Europeans – our agenda is clear as a Scottish city.

Stop the world, hold the BUS, Glasgow and Scotland wants to get on.