The season finale of Still Game’s much welcomed revival on Friday followed a plot familiar to anyone who has lived in Glasgow over the last decade, as the residents of Craiglang learned that the high rise flats which tower over their community were set to come tumbling down. Watching social housing get blown up has, after all, become a regular Sunday morning day-out in the city over the last few years.
“What do they call it? The regeneration of Craiglang,” said Eric, propping up the Clansman bar post-demolition. “Gets the place up and running.”
The spectre of Glasgow City Council and its cyclical approach to urban planning – tear it up and start again – had arrived in the city’s most famous fictional housing scheme. And although not strictly a new character – if a cameo a decade ago counts – the face of the council’s regeneration efforts? Step forward, hapless “local boy” Councillor McVitie, who we saw being shouted down at a community meeting as he offered some pensioners the “opportunity to start a new life”.
Councillor McVitie is not to be confused, of course, with [former Weekly Wanker] Councillor McAveety, who has been the leader of Glasgow City Council since ATF favourite Gordon Matheson stepped aside in August 2015, after he failed to become deputy leader of Scottish Labour. Perhaps because no one has a fucking clue who McAveety is or what he looks like, or possibly because the country was still reeling from the England defeat that had finished minutes earlier, no one seemed to say very much about it. So, just to refresh your memory, Exhibit A:
McAveety McVitie, the episode ends – spoiler alert – with Jackie Bird revealing that the demolitions have been postponed amid allegations of “massive property development fraud” with the councillor accused of taking bungs from demolition firms. Anything is possible in the realm of fiction, but surely such grubby behaviour would never befall the squeaky clean councillors of Glasgow City Chambers?!
Take, Calton councillor Yvonne Küçük, who remains suspended from Glasgow Labour amid an “embezzlement probe”, having left her dual role as “regeneration manager” at an east end community centre. Or there was Ronnie Saez, a party supporter and chief exec of a council regeneration quango, who walked away from his post with a £500k pay-off, blasted as “misconduct” by the charity regulator. Soon enough, Saez set up a new business with McAveety as a fellow director.
Or longtime Labour donor Lord Willie Haughey being given £17m for land needed for the M74 extension, despite an independent valuation putting it at £7.4 million. Or the stramash over the mooted £15m “radical redesign” of George Square that culminated in a minor facelift and – you guessed it – a police investigation. The list goes on, the networks that the Herald once called an “elaborate system of political patronage” still largely in place and proving, perhaps, that fact can still be stranger than fiction.
It’s strange, though, that GCC cronyism’s leap into popular culture – in fact, the most popular culture in Scotland – didn’t elicit more comment. But with the seventh series of Still Game having now finished, we don’t know if McVitie is set to become a regular character in Craiglang. His namesake’s fate looks more certain: polling stations open at 7.00am on Thursday 4 May. The clock is ticking.
Still Game S7E6 is on iPlayer until mid-December.