Replace the M8? A Public Conversation

By Dr Andrew Hoolachan, Lecturer in Planning

In June the Challenges in Changing Cities IRT hosted a public conversation on the future of Glasgow’s M8 urban motorway.

Following COP26 in Glasgow, local citizens turned their attention to the city’s planning and transport issues, and questioned whether they met Glasgow's aspirations to be a leading sustainable city. ‘Replace the M8’ is a citizen-led campaign group set up by Peter Kelly on Twitter and quickly grew in influence. The group argued that while the M8 was indeed an important economic route in the west of Scotland, the costs of the M8 slicing through Glasgow are larger than the benefits. It was put forward that the M8 negatively impacts Glasgow’s image, tourism, land values, air quality, noise quality, pedestrian safety, accessibility and active travel. Furthermore, the existence of the M8 ensures that induced regional demand for private transport will discourage people from using public transport, and make it more likely that people in the wider city region will continue to use cars more frequently than they should in a climate emergency.

The M8 was of course planned, conceived and realised at a time when our thinking about what cities are, how people should live, and the natural environment were totally different. In 1945, radical ideas in planning and architecture from the international modernist movement, provided a bright new future of cities in the sky and individual liberation in private motorcars. Glasgow jumped on this new trend with enthusiasm. Urban planning was seen as a key pillar in building the affluence and prosperity of the post-war world and this trend caught on in cities across Europe and North America. Today, many of these same cities are also reclaiming their cities back from these legacies of modernism and so there is a precedent for Glasgow to follow. It can be done if there is political will, funding and a realistic vision.

The public conversation brought together panellists from across the city-region from a variety of backgrounds. The public voted on four options from keeping the M8, to capping it over, to a full-scale transformation, to repurposing the structure. Concerns were raised about where additional traffic would go, and it was noted that with some minor upgrades, traffic could be rerouted along the M74 – however, it is Scotland’s aim to reduce all car journeys in any case. The group has called for a feasibility study, influenced motions in Glasgow City Council on the issue, and has met with the Transport Minister.

Dr Andrew Hoolachan also used this problem in his teaching on the MSc in City Planning, with students producing a variety of creative responses to this local problem. The University of Glasgow is a civic university, engaged with local issues such as the "Replace the M8" campaign, and want to stay connected and involved with projects going on in the city.


Video of the discussion in June

Dr Andrew Hoolachan is a lecturer in planning. Urban Studies/SPS

First published: 4 August 2022